THE official launch of the second independence campaign yesterday really ought to have been more upbeat than the first one, which took place on May 25, 2012. Certainly, there was a sense of euphoria back then, but much of this was fuelled by the fact that it was happening at all.

When the confetti and bunting had been cleared away, the enormity of the task began to dawn: how do you secure victory from a starting point of around 27% in the polls?

That the Yes crusade narrowed such a huge gap to such an extent while the full fury of the British establishment rose up to meet it was a modern-day political wonder. Not since the Act of Union was signed in 1707 had the hegemony of the United Kingdom been so jeopardised.

In essence, the Yes offering in 2014 could have been easily dismantled, given that there was no clear strategy on currency and no Plan B if George Osborne simply denied an independent Scotland the services of the Bank of England. It was a more rudimentary campaign that didn’t require the need to devise a legal justification. And soon it was being swept along by the largest and most natural exercise in popular, civic engagement the modern UK had ever witnessed.

Admittedly, the Yes campaign in 2012/14 was assisted by an extraordinarily incompetent and clownish Better Together operation whose adolescent Project Fear approach backfired spectacularly. Offsetting this though, was that 10 years ago the Tory administration was in its infancy and had not yet been revealed as the extreme, hard-right, Brexit-obsessed, migrant-hating, corruption-fuelled operation that it was to become. Compared with the Pennywise character currently inhabiting 10 Downing Street, David Cameron seemed entirely reasonable.

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Cameron and the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling, were both forced to admit during the campaign that of course an independent Scotland could be successful in determining its own affairs. They simply deemed the pain of getting to such a stage to be unbearable and not worth the effort. Hence the exaggerated and untruthful claims of Better Together eagerly conveyed by those papers owned by the Oxford drinking club associates of the UK cabinet and senior civil service.

In so many areas, yesterday’s “launch” of the second independence campaign should have had much more going for it than in 2012. Only a handful of percentage points may be required to produce a Yes vote this time around, rather than the 20-plus needed 10 years ago. And this time too, the opponents of independence will be led by palpably the most amoral and corrupt prime minister in living memory.

That Nicola Sturgeon’s campaign launch occurred as the first refugee flights to Rwanda were about to take off seemed to encapsulate a moral chasm that exists between Westminster and Holyrood.

And yet, yesterday’s campaign launch had little of the optimism that feted that first campaign launch. It was almost downbeat and sullen in a way that made you wonder if it was only happening under duress. When Nicola Sturgeon had finished speaking, there were more questions than answers.

Absolutely no one is asking why other small countries have been successful as independent entities. This case was made in 2014 and – as previously noted – accepted by the leaders of Better Together.

The more pressing concerns from within the wider Yes movement are to do with the engineering and machinery that must be fired up before we can even think about a referendum.

The First Minister has all but accepted that Boris Johnson (if he’s still around) will refuse a Section 30 order, so where’s the legal strategy that might give Yes activists a reason to start campaigning in earnest? If Joanna Cherry hadn’t been cast aside by the Westminster group leadership in an orchestrated campaign, we might have been more optimistic that such legal groundwork had been laid.

Will the promised white papers to come reconcile the apparent dissonance between sterlingisation and seeking membership of the European Union? And given what has unfolded during the Northern Ireland protocol stand-off, an independent Scotland’s future border arrangements with England should command an entire white waper of their own.

But the real impetus for a second referendum campaign will never be captured by a white paper. This is the enthusiasm and willingness of a large group of activists who exist outside the SNP party apparatus. The 2014 referendum occurred after a series of SNP national conferences that channelled the optimism and hope which came to characterise the campaign to come. It was the work of an army of unpaid volunteers giving up their time to organise local events which won many uncertain hearts and minds in 2014.

Almost three years have elapsed since the last proper party conference, during which every other UK party has held an in-person event. In this period, much of the goodwill and sense of kinship has evaporated as the SNP leadership have given free rein to some of its most malevolent online devotees to intimidate feminists who are seeking to protect sex-based rights in the gender debate.

The most uplifting event I witnessed during the 2014 campaign was organised by a group of working-class women in Govan, who had all encountered profound challenges in their lives related to addiction, violence and poverty.

As it begins to dawn on them that their womanhood is being eroded by the slew of misogyny from middle-class gender performance artists that have prevailed in the SNP, they may be less than willing to campaign on behalf of Yes.

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Meanwhile, the adolescent attacks on Alba by party professionals at Westminster and Holyrood have appalled many grassroots supporters. And the reactionary baiting of the entire trade union movement by ministers and – most absurdly – the SNP leader of Glasgow City Council has irreparably damaged the party’s relationship with a sector whose campaigning in 2014 was also vital for the Yes cause.

This has occurred at a time when a small coterie of right-wing military fetishists seem to have gained control of all policy-making related to defence and foreign affairs. The party leadership seem not to have acknowledged the potential consequences of this when it comes to persuading Yes supporters to pound the streets campaigning for an optimistic Yes vote.

Since 2014, many of those unpaid volunteers who campaigned most fiercely for an independent Scotland have felt marginalised by party professionals whose commitment to independence seems less intense than a desire to advance their gilded careers.

If the party can’t get these grassroots campaigners back onside, then no number of manicured white papers will plug the gap.