AT last, we can stop bickering over whether or not the SNP is truly committed to holding a second independence referendum before the end of 2023 and actually get stuck into the nuts and bolts of campaigning.

But as instructive as this week’s events were about the opening tactics in the new move towards independence, they were even more revealing about the arguments which will be deployed by those who want us to remain tied to a rancid, corrupt UK government with not a scrap of moral authority. While the Yes side is looking to put forward a refreshed and re-energised argument which takes account of major developments since 2014, No campaigners have remained stuck in the same rut since the run-up to the first independence referendum.

From 2012 until 2014, Scotland was transformed by a political engagement rarely if ever seen before. The opportunity to reimagine what our country was capable of captured the public imagination. Everywhere political debate raged, mostly – but unfortunately not exclusively – in a well-behaved and civilised manner.

The result is a country with an astonishing level of political awareness and a keen sense of its own cultural and political identity. That should be a cause of celebration, but not for those political commentators who resent “ordinary people’’ having their say, and nor for Union supporters, furious that Scots have not simply gone back in their boxes and settled for a subservient role in a Union which ignores their aspirations.

Let’s remember that many prominent pro-Union campaigners do not view the first indyref as a joyful explosion of debate and engagement. They prefer to depict it as riven by division and bitterness. Eight years on, they still consider those who dared to imagine a different future as troublemakers. As a result, their response to Nicola Sturgeon’s and Patrick Harvie’s launch of the indyref2 campaign ignores the major political developments of the past few years and relies on the same tired tropes of 2014.

Douglas Ross, who still describes himself as the Tory leader in Scotland despite being ignored by Downing Street, says he will refuse to take part in any referendum he considers “illegal’’, which he seems to define as being unsupported by a Westminster-approved Section 30 agreement.

This is not a new tactic. Even when David Cameron agreed to the Section 30 order for the first independence referendum, Union supporters initially turned their backs on the challenge. They were no more enthusiastic about a debate around independence than they are now. They wanted it to go away and were reluctant to become involved because they believed that would simply encourage the wider population to become engaged.

The Better Together campaign only really clicked into gear when it became obvious that the Yes campaign was attracting more supporters. Even then it preferred to concentrate on the negative aspects of independence – hence the in-house pet name Project Fear – rather than even attempt to articulate any positive case for the Union.

That remains the case today.

The first in a series of independence documents promised by the SNP and the Greens this week looked at the performances of ten independent countries of a similar size to Scotland, all of which were deemed to have outperformed the UK.

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The obvious question posed by the document was: if these countries can use the powers of independence to thrive and do better than the UK, why couldn’t Scotland?

It’s significant that no pro-Union representative has addressed that question or put forward any explanation of why the UK is doing so badly compared to the independent countries named.

Instead the thrust of their arguments rehash the arguments – and in particular the most discredited arguments – of 2014.

And so we were treated once again to warnings that Scotland was just not capable of running its own affairs in the way that other countries are. Scottish Labour repeated old – and false – claims that Scotland already has the powers to emulate the actions of those 10 countries without any acknowledgement that full control of ALL the economic levers is needed to fully achieve a fairer, more fulfilling, more sustainable and more successful economy.

The UK has not only failed to move any closer to creating this but has given no indication it has the slightest intention of taking any steps to do so. If anything, it seems determined to move in the opposite direction.

The sense of deja vu only increased watching the Jeremy Vine show, when a hostile panel challenged my fellow National columnist Pat Kane to answer a host of questions dredged up from 2014. Ann Widdecombe delivered what she obviously considered to be a killer blow when she asked what currency – sigh – an independent Scotland would use. Really? Is this the best you have?

We'll use sterling until we can launch our own currency. Will our pensions be safe? Yes, although it’s hardly enough to simply continue to pay what is the worst pension in the developed world. An independent Scotland can do better. Will we sink under a mountain of debt? No. That notion can be traced to Gers figures that are not designed to give anything like an indication of how an independent Scotland would perform.

And so the old questions will continue. Questions that have been asked and answered literally thousands of times. The truth is, there are no answers that those opposed to independence will accept. Their aim is not to cast light on the subject but to keep it shrouded in darkness.

Contrast this with the case for independence, which has widened, strengthened and grown more urgent since that heartbreaking day in September 2014, when the opportunity for a better future seemed to have slipped from our grasp.

Brexit has been forced through against our wishes and has proved a bigger disaster than even its harshest critics predicted. Exports, and particularly Scottish exports, have crashed. The British government is now on the verge of tearing up the Northern Ireland protocol which Boris Johnson signed in 2019 – in flagrant breach of international law.

The Prime Minister has been fined, along with the chancellor and his wife, for breaching the Covid restrictions he himself imposed, yet has refused to bow to demands from within his own party that he resign. He has now lost two ethics advisers and is planning to rewrite the ethical rulebook before appointing his third.

The Conservative government has watched the cost of living crisis overwhelm families without lifting a finger to help until forced by political pressure to introduce emergency measures, albeit totally inadequate ones.

As Scottish communities have rallied to protect immigrants threatened with arrest by the UK Home Office, the Tories ramped up their inhuman treatment of those seeking a new life in the UK by fighting through the courts to deport them to Rwanda.

It’s impossible to imagine an independent Scotland doing anything other than thriving: free from this incompetent, useless and morally bankrupt collection of numpties. Yet Westminster seeks to deny us the right to even vote on the escape route.

Instead Johnson, Ross and the rest concentrate on arcane arguments over how to define a mandate rather than bow to democratic principles. Let’s be crystal clear. At the last Scottish election, Scottish voters returned a majority of pro-independence MSPs belonging to two parties, which both had a clear and unequivocal commitment to indyref2 in their manifestos. Holding that referendum is now a democratic necessity. There is no other description of attempts to thwart that necessity than an affront to democracy.

It is simply unacceptable for a party so consistently rejected by Scottish voters to tell Scots what they did and did not vote for and to change the rules of parliamentary democracy by insisting on a one-party majority in an electoral system designed to make such a result almost impossible.

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Yet supporters of this party and this malfunctioning Union have the cheek to describe those who seek a better future as divisive and abusive.

What’s really divisive is heaping abuse on anyone who dares to speak out at the Tories’ cynical undermining of democratic principles.

My partner’s daughter was one of a group of secondary school pupils interviewed by STV on Wednesday about their views on independence and a second referendum. She said she believed Westminster’s refusal to acknowledge Scotland’s support at the ballot box for indyref2 flew in the face of democracy.

She woke up the following morning to a bunch of abusive messages on social media from Union supporters, calling her stupid and naive and even brainwashed by her school (despite the fact that other students at the same school gave a range of different views).

So far, I can find not a single prominent pro-Union spokesman taking to social media to denounce downright nasty criticism by their supporters of a 17-year-old, politically engaged young woman who had simply given her views on the biggest question facing her country.

These supporters of the Union are so unable to formulate a positive case for it that they cannot stand to see even a single school pupil speak out to challenge it.

But challenge it we will and we will not be silenced.