THE momentum is back with the campaign for independence. The focus is now on a referendum before the end of 2023. Initiatives such as Believe in Scotland’s Day of Action this weekend are sprouting up. Attention is being directed to a new case being put together for indy which takes into account Brexit and the desperate need for a recovery which doesn’t seek to rebuild what has failed us for decades.

There are even signs that the SNP, and in particular its new president Michael Russell, is taking seriously the idea of connecting with the wider Yes movement, concentrating on new ideas to convince soft No voters to cross the line rather than repeat the same old slogans.

Even the splits which have riven the movement look to be on their way to healing, even if some friction remains.

To some extent the creation of Alba has helped in this. It has stripped the SNP of many of those most critical of the party’s leadership, most suspicious of its commitment to independence and most agitated by progressive policies including mostly importantly the issue of gender self-identification problems.

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On those issues Alba saw potential for growing a strong membership and achieving a limited success in last May’s Scottish election. It was disappointed on both counts. The vast majority of the SNP’s significant membership remain committed to the party. Most are more convinced of the merits of a softly, softly approach while Covid numbers continue to rise rather than marching through the streets quite yet. Most are comfortable that trans rights can be embraced with no real threat to women’s rights.

The SNP remains the vehicle through which activists believe Scotland will achieve its independence and recognise that the argument has moved significantly on from 2014 and that it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work on a new prospectus for independence which reflects the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Primary among them is Brexit, a self-inflicted wound for the UK which has thrown up more and more serious problems than even the most vocal pessimist could have predicted. Empty shelves in supermarkets and in shops are just the latest and most visual sign that the Brexit disaster has some way to unfold as Christmas approaches.

So the Yes movement has much to feel optimistic about as we emerge from the pandemic, more united than has it been, facing a more realistic prospect of indyref2 than it has for years, joined by new recruits and armed with more and better arguments.

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The same cannot be said for the pro-Union side we face. Anas Sarwar (above) and Keir Starmer have not yet recognised that many of their party members actually support independence, or at least believe circumstances have changed so significantly since 2014 that we are entitled to a second vote.

But they are not stupid enough to risk the backlash from uniting on the same platform as the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, from publicly espousing the same values that are pushing desperate families further into poverty with universal credit cuts while embracing cronyism and greed.

But when the former Better Together partners go looking in their bag of tricks looking for new arguments to counter reinvigorated Yes campaigners they will find only ashes and cobwebs. The truth is they have nothing.

When the first independence referendum was announced I was editor of the Sunday Herald and I find it instructive to look back on how the pro-Union side’s tactics developed back then. Their first was to resist joining the debate at all, refusing invitations to join public debates, rarely agreeing to write articles outlining their point of view. The Sunday Herald offered them a platform to attempt to put the positive case for the Union …. Not because we agreed with them but because it would move the discussion on to the different, better country independence could help us build. They refused.

Better Together pretty soon ditched any pretence of pitching any positive case for the United Kingdom against the Yes campaign. Instead it spread a relentless stream of dire warnings and predictions so desperate that a member of the team itself dubbed it Project Fear.

And the tattered remains of Project Fear are all that they have left in their armoury … except that most of those dire predictions have been discredited.

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Warnings that independence would threaten our pensions? The UK has the worst pension in the developed world (copyright Believe in Scotland billboard campaign). And Boris Johnson has already announced his intention to make it even worse by suspending the triple lock on pensions.

We can’t use the pound? Well, yes, we can. It’s our currency too. But we’re not crazy enough to want to use it forever, thanks very much. So we’d use it until we can reasonably transition to our own currency. The pro-Union side will no doubt argue against that too. The truth is that there is no possible solution Unionists believe acceptable because they don’t want you to believe independence is possible.

They told us Scotland doesn’t have the resources to survive on its own feet. What about all those renewable resources: wind power, hydro power. All those exports Brexit has decimated but independence could restore? Tourism? Whisky? Do all those independent countries about the same size as Scotland have resources remotely close to those we are lucky enough to possess? Would any of them give up their independence?

They told us that Scotland has such a huge deficit that independence would bring financial ruination. Such claims are based on the annual Gers figures which show only the financial situation in a Scotland that it part of the United Kingdom. In fact the Gers figures show why Scotland would be better of as an independent country.

The Yes movement has spent years compiling evidence to rebut the claims made by the pro-Union side since 2014. It has adapted its arguments and given careful consideration into the case which will best present the merits of independence.

What was once described as Better Together has not done any of this. It has arrogantly relied on the arguments it believed that won the day in 2014 and is preparing to give them another airing. Project Fear is out of ammunition. The reinvigorated Yes case is just starting.