IN March 2007 I attended a march and rally in support of Scottish independence at Holyrood.

The Independence First event was a rag-tag affair and drew a crowd of less than 1000 folk, but was a colourful day out nonetheless.

As it happens I was there on a date: we shared a few cans of McEwans Export under the eaves of the Parliament, talked about how depressed we were about the implosion of the SSP, and wondered when Dick Gaughan was coming on.

Elsewhere, the acceptable bounds of political reality seemed to suggest that life under Scottish Labour’s third-rate managerialism was inevitable in post-devolution Scotland.

But still, I was 20. It was a bright early spring day and that small, scattered, gathering was just big enough to feel that an idea that was good, true and hopeful was being kept alive.

In the ensuing 15 years, neither independence nor the relationship I’d hope might emerge from that date were realised.

However, the idea that equivalent rallies, like those organised by All Under One Banner, would see numbers approaching six figures only 12 years later seemed impossible.

But then again almost every event that occurred from May 2007 onwards was carried forward at a pace and with an intensity that seemed unreal.

The now largely forgotten Independence First campaign is referenced in a new book, co-authored by the late Neil Davidson, James Foley and Ben Wray, Scotland After Britain: The Two Souls of Scottish Independence.

The division at the heart of this book is centred on the two remarkable and unlooked for developments that have changed the face of contemporary Scotland.

On the one hand there is the transformation of the SNP from a fragile opposition in 2003 to the hegemonic party of government it is today. On the other, there is the emergence of the grassroots working class Yes movement; the largest Scotland had ever seen.

These two poles of Scottish independence, the authors argue, have provided cover for each other’s weaknesses for too long: successful social movements need an autonomous wing that sits outside of formal political power structures.

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Scotland After Britain makes a compelling case that Scotland has to choose which of these two forces is to predominate in the next push for independence.

Will it be the leadership and its powerful allies in the corporate world, or the mass-movement itself that shapes a new Scottish state? The avoidance of such awkward questions accounts for the gridlock that now dominates much of Scottish politics.

The Yes movement emerged late, fast and unlooked for, coming closer to breaking up the British state than anyone in power (including many at the top of the SNP) thought possible.

However, partly informed by the equally unlooked for success of very different populist forces, such as those behind Brexit and Trump, the SNP has since felt a strong imperative to distance itself from mass mobilisation efforts within the wider Yes camp.

Increasingly, the leadership wants to be seen as at home in the company of various corporate and international elites, rather than at home on the streets.

Many would contend that this is simply realpolitik inevitably displacing the naiveté of well-meaning inhabitants of the big-tent politics of Yes.

Somebody, somewhere, at some point, has to make the tough decisions that will inform the opening positions that frame Scottish statehood. We can all muster a basic level of gratitude that this will not follow the pattern of mendacious boosterism and naked self-interest that has been elevated in the course of Brexit.

But that doesn’t mean that all democratic decision making about the nature of a new Scottish state has to wait until after independence day.

Since the SNP entered government, its leaders have been at pains to emphasise competence and statesmanship: much of their role has been to normalise the SNP as a stable party of government and project this on to the case for independence.

But in Davidson, Foley and Wray’s account: the pursuit of such “moral autonomy” is a path that will ultimately lead to fiscal austerity and political demobilisation.

Aspects of this process are already being borne out: the emergence of the Salmond-Sturgeon faultline and a neoliberal economic prospectus for independence premised on Sterlingisation suggest that the SNP’s capacity to court elites whilst also channelling the passions of a popular movement are starting to become untenable.

Scotland After Britain calls for a new revival of the grassroots Yes movement that is powerful and autonomous on its own terms.

But the real strength of this book is the way in which it returns the independence question to its one sure point of consensus and radical possibility: the sovereignty of the Scottish people.

Popular sovereignty challenges more than just the British establishment. It demands a level of commitment through a politics of popular mobilisation, redistribution of power and wealth and a fully democratic definition of citizenship.

Those of us who support Scottish independence might wish for a clear set of answers to carry forward next time; but there will never be a definitive post-mortem on 2014.

Casting around for ideas to keep engagement alive, I recall a discussion in the winter of 2014 on how a post-Yes movement might begin crowdsourcing a Scottish constitution.

Like many ideas thrown out by those attempting to process loss, it was not thought-out. But the response that emerged around the circle of pints fills me with a lingering despair to this day: “We don’t have the authority to do that.”

In that moment, I began to wonder if the past years had simply been a dream: all of the mass-mobilisations, the political self-education, the reclaiming of public space, had all simply evaporated now that we no longer had permission.

AS the constitutional debate heats up again over the course of the coming year, Scotland After Britain is a timely intervention from three authors involved in setting up the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in 2012.

The Yes movement is becoming split from the SNP

It was RIC, along with certain local Yes groups, which helped refocus the 2014 campaign towards the most deprived areas of Scotland through their mass-canvasing drives: targeting those who would eventually turn out in the greatest numbers to vote Yes.

But there is limited evidence that anything meaningful has been done to recognise the debt that SNP owes to those with the least in society, who cried the loudest for change.

Indeed, over the course of those 15 years since that Independence First rally, Scotland is still a country of deep class-based inequalities: overseeing exam results that penalised working class pupils during the pandemic, failing to reform the enormous middle-class tax dodge that is the Council Tax, and shirking responsibility for the absence of a promised green jobs revolution.

When does this end? The impending cost of living crisis may be poised to embed further working class destitution, and with it alienation from the political process.

Voters may well be aware of the limits of devolved government, but will the SNP leadership take to the streets as they did against the last equivalent assault on Scotland’s working class communities during the Poll Tax?

It seems doubtful, yet their memories should be long enough to understand that such power, built from the ground up, can topple even the most powerful of regimes.