I HAVE been inclined to pass over the growing rumours of sinister in-fighting within the SNP as Unionist-press exaggeration of relatively minor antagonisms, not likely to damage the unmistakeable groundswell of support for the independence movement.

But when knowledgeable, experienced and pro-independence commentators like Ruth Wishart and Kevin McKenna start expressing pointed criticism of the state of the party and ominous forebodings for its future, there is clearly something to worry about.

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A visionary passage in Hugh MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle springs to mind. “I saw a rose come loupin’ oot/Frae a camsteerie plant”, it begins, and relates in breathless, exultant verses how the thistle flower grew and burgeoned, filling the world – and then shrivelled down to nothing. “The thistle like a rocket soared/and cam doon like the stick.” MacDiarmid was thinking of the General Strike of 1926; but smaller-scale versions of the same course of events have been seen many times since. For Heaven’s sake, SNP, don’t put us at risk of it happening again.

Derrick McClure