IT’S always a mistake to confuse social media with real life, but it sometimes offers a useful guide to paranoia levels. A small example: the other week when one of those kneejerk US drone strikes was launched to avenge the Taliban’s success, I posted a tweet positing the thought that revenge was rarely the route to political success.

Cue a posse of Alex Salmond ­groupies lambasting me for daring to criticise their glorious leader. Confused? I most ­certainly was! Took me a while, but ­eventually I ­gathered they assumed I was tweeting about Alex’s decision to take legal action over a new book about the Salmond/Sturgeon split. A sensible woman would have laughed this off – but, fatally, I explained the reason for my original tweet.

Shouldn’t have bothered. The original Albanite complainers merely took to their keyboards to tell me they knew what I was REALLY thinking. How dare I ­suppose they didn’t. A trivial illustration, but ­fairly emblematic of the ability of people in ­sections of the independence movement to give tunnel vision a bad name.

It’s not confined to one party of course. There is a camp within the SNP who ­believe the First Minister is but a step away from sainthood (below), and another who consider her the great procrastinator.

Splits find work for idle hands.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

Meanwhile those of us who are ­motivated solely by the battle for independence rather than seeking a political god to worship, can only despair at a form of self harm which gives regular succour to Unionist ­opponents.

It is one of our conceits that we ­independenistas are “civic” nationalists; folk who have no truck with the kind of populist ­rabble rousing of a Trump or a ­Victor Orban. We’re better than that. Well, up to a point.

Yet if we really want this wee country of ours to emerge as an outward facing ­internationalist state ready and willing to take a up a role in the world commensurate with our size and clout, then we need to raise our gaze beyond our own navels.

It is entirely possible to be four square behind the push for indy and still have the head space available to mourn for those drowned in New York, burned out in ­California, bombed out in Syria, or ­stranded in Afghanistan.

Noting the departure of Angela Merkel and elections in Germany and Canada doesn’t make you a slacker as a Yes ­campaigner. It merely means you don’t view absolutely every world event through the narrow prism of Scottish politics.

Holding on to our ­internationalist ­credentials is important as the ­overlapping conferences of Alba and the SNP loom ever closer. Important too to ­remember that nobody will be listening and ­analysing what’s said more acutely than those determined to prevent ­Scotland ­finally shaking off her shackles.

Self-discipline is crucial. I’m well aware in recent years it’s party discipline which has held sway at the SNP conferences. It’s especially easy when you’re ­involuntarily online rather than meeting at a ­conference with fringe benefits to manipulate the agenda to favour anodyne motions rather than accept any which might cause alarm in the stables.

There’s early signs that more fresh air has been allowed to blow through the ­subjects for debate this year and the proof of that pudding will be evident both ­within the conference and an analysis of the programme for government. Nobody will be happier than this voter if we finally get a date for pressing the start button on serious campaigning.

Yet conversely, at the Alba talkfest, it’s important to have the hotter heads grasp that not everything can happen ­tomorrow morning. For instance, the idea that you can get rid of Trident on day one of ­independence is for the feathered friends. I’m old enough to have been on Polaris protests, so I need no lessons on the need to free us from the contemporary nuclear horrors on our doorstep.

The National: A test firing at sea of a Trident nuclear missile

But old enough too to realise that ­something as immensely complex as ­Trident removal, in which the USA and many other nations have more than a passing interest, is not something you accomplish with a stroke of the pen. We don’t just need Scotland to be nuclear free – although we very much do – we need to be seen as a serious, grown up nation.

They say folks get more small c ­conservative as they get older. I’m ­disputing that big time. I feel more bolshie, more ­impatient than ever. Yet what ­experience does bring is not a ­passion for retaining the status quo, but the ­knowledge that building something that lasts, that our grandchildren can ­enjoy and take pride in, takes solid ­foundations.

It’s why so many people in pressure and research groups keep banging on about the need to do the homework now, to ­discuss and debate and finally agree on the myriad questions which will be asked of us when we persuade our fellow citizens that the benefits of independence far outweigh the prospect of sticking with team Johnson in all its unlovliness.

EVERY week brings fresh evidence of how dangerous it would be to plight our troth to a UK cabinet which stumbles from incompetence to incoherence with a pit stop at denial. That the mess of the Afghan evacuation was occasioned by American foreign policy is undeniable. Yet we had 18 months warning of a US pullout, if not of its final suddenness.

The Foreign Secretary’s own ­departmental intelligence warned of the instability of the Afghan government and the vulnerability of Kabul in July. The military cancelled all leave the same month.

Yet here was the hapless Raab jetting off to his luxury Cretan holiday in August, ­either oblivious to the imminent danger or disinclined to lose his break.

I’m guessing few of his constituents had the opportunity to go abroad for a spot of R&R this year, and none of them, so far as we can tell, had responsibility for ­overseeing international relations and ­foreign aid. But Mr Raab, whose select committee appearance this week was an object lesson in obfuscation, is ­emblematic of UK cabinet exceptionalism.

The National: Dominic Raab

Men and women who have convinced themselves that the rules are for the ­little people. So they cheerfully break the ­ministerial code at every turn, ­using ­personal rather than official emails to ­cover their tracks. Then, bizarrely, all manage to have some kind of accident with their mobiles which prevents them being held to account.

LAST week too we found out from a former UK health minister that there might have been £1.2 billion spent on PPE equipment which was too substandard to use. Not even to mention the contracts dished out to pals with no noticeable track record in the field.

Several times this year the English High Courts have confirmed that not just the departmental codes but the law of the land was broken. And not the slightest ­smidgin of remorse from an administration brought up to believe they’re too ­special to be hamstrung by the ­regulations.

Meanwhile, back at our own ranch, the Tories bleat that the polis haven’t felt the First Minister’s collar because she had a wee hurl on an electric scooter. On a real road forbye. The scandal of it all!

Ah yes, the Scottish Tories. Those ­denizens of Holyrood who have ­apparently taken a vow of silence when the PM and Co behave very badly indeed, but scour the horizon for sticks with which to beat the government at home. They are the ­opposition and they are there to oppose. Of course they are. Yet a little self reflection wouldn’t go amiss.

Scottish voters too will be hit and hit hard when a Tory chancellor claws back the measly £20 added to a pathetically inadequate universal credit. But from Mr Ross and co the silence deafens.