I’M looking back at the events of recent days with a mixed range of emotions: disappointment, disillusionment, confusion and even some anger. But most of all I’m simply bewildered.

I think I’m like a lot of National readers and a lot of SNP members. It was during the two or three years before the referendum in 2014 that I finally came to the firm view that independence offered the best future for Scotland. There was not a hope that Westminster would ever act in our best interests. The arithmetic just didn’t stack up. The chances of seeing a government we actually voted for had shrunk to virtually nothing before our eyes.

I don’t believe Scotland is the best country in the world. I don’t believe the people who happen to live north of the Border are intrinsically more moral, more just or simply “better” than those anywhere else. I don’t hate people who live in England and I don’t loathe those who voted No.

For decades the old adage that most Scots workers had more in common with Liverpool or Manchester or London than with rich Scots who owned huge Highland estates (although, of course, most such estates are not owned by Scots) seemed the strongest argument against independence. But ultimately it would be senseless to submit forever to a system of government which condemned us all to the injustices of the British state rather than seize the opportunity to create something better – and in doing so provide a sense of hope that change was possible.

Putting Scotland’s future in the hands of those who lived here was the only possible way to protect our own interests and values. After all, independence is not unusual. It’s the norm for most countries.

Those were heady days as the referendum grew closer. Scotland was gripped by political passion and it seemed like everywhere you went the debate raged. It was electric and a sense of community bound people from all walks of life together as the chance to build a better country came tantalisingly close.

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Even when the result of the vote came in – on the grimmest and greyest of days – we gave into despair only momentarily. We knew as the streets seemed cloaked in disappointment, we knew from the absence of joy even from the winning side, that Scotland would want to have its say again at some point in the future. We knew then, as we listened to David Cameron spell out his intention to embrace English Votes for English Laws, that the Union was coming to the end of its time.

Of course we couldn’t know then the fiasco that lay ahead. We couldn’t know we would be dragged out of Europe against our will and fed a litany of lies about the “golden days” which lay ahead. We couldn’t know of the border chaos which would threaten some of our most successful industries, or of the threat of food shortages, or of the rise of an English nationalism which would spread xenophobia and bitterness. But we know now.

Now opinion poll after opinion poll shows that most Scots want to be asked the big question again. And most Scots would say Yes. Yes we want a change. Yes we want better. And now, when we are closer than we have ever been to gaining the independence we have wanted for years – worked to make a reality for years – now we fill the chambers of social media with bile and hate and all of it directed at each other.

I’m not going to even pretend to understand why. Why are personality and policy clashes being played out in public by people who share what is supposed to be the most important goal of their lives. Why do people who have worked tirelessly for years for independence unleash long and public blogs excoriating the SNP leadership when the only possible result is a weakening of support for independence? Why choose now … months before the most important election since devolution when all the signs are that public support is growing – why choose this minute to provoke arguments over topics that are so deeply divisive they can’t possibly resolved in a matter of months, probably not at all, by public arguments, and never on Twitter.

ALREADY I hear the attacks starting on any suggestion we should “wheesht for indy” as if holding your own counsel is indicative of a lack of backbone or moral compass. Honestly, if the alternative is to turn our backs on the best chance of rebuilding a country based on the progressive values we claim to believe in, if the alternative is to remain in a union where we will never be respected and where equality and justice will never be the foundation for our society, if the alternative is tearing ourselves apart in public rather than seeking to build bridges in private … why not shut up for independence? Honestly, it’s a small and temporary price to pay.

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I’m not going to take sides in the various arguments tearing former allies apart. Not because I don’t have views or deeply held beliefs or passions that will guide my actions when we finally have a chance to create the Scotland we believe is possible. I’m not going to spout my mouth off now because it will serve no purpose other than add more fuel to the fire. It will bring not one of my ambitions closer to reality.

I’d say to every one of those people currently taking pot shots at those who have changed from allies to enemies, close your eyes and remember those referendum days. Remember how it felt to join in common cause with others prepared to risk all for change. Remember how it felt to see that change slip from our grasp and take heart from the growing demand even from those who voted No in 2014 to have our say again. Remember you have a responsibility to lead a movement which transcends bitter rivalries and campaigns for vengeance, no matter how justified and all-consuming you believe them to be.

Of course those involved in the independence campaign will have other issues close to their hearts … and so they should. Independence is not an end in itself. But it is only by gaining independence that we can begin the hard work of arguing, negotiating and prioritising all the changes we want to make. But there’s nothing to be gained by insisting all battle lines have to be drawn now.

It might sound hopelessly naïve to suggest that we need to work out a way to travel this final stretch of our campaign together. I’d rather be naïve than watch those who have placed their trust and dreams in independence only to have it snatched away because we couldn’t find the courage to put their interests before internal feuds.