WELL, that’s the leadership campaign off on a rocky road. If it carries on like this, then SNP members will be in for a bumpy ride and the mainstream media will have a bun feast.

The problem thus far is clear. Two of the candidates have allowed themselves to be defined by the rat pack either by their personal beliefs or by their position on gender recognition reform, and the problems are very obvious.

Both were understandably anxious on Monday to get out of the traps and launch their election pitches.

However, both would have been far better drawing a breath and preparing themselves for the examination ahead. If there are any auld heids in their respective camps, now is the moment to draw the candidates aside.

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I have no candidate in this contest but I am a citizen of Scotland and an independence campaigner. I want to have a first minister who can do two things – run the country wisely and well, and deliver independence for our nation.

And therefore I want to see an SNP leadership campaign dominated by each candidate’s proposals to do these things. The key to unlocking the door to this happy future is an independence convention.

That has two enormous merits. First, it promotes a vehicle to restore some unity across the national movement. Second, it gives the SNP government the time to get on with running the shop.

In terms of unity, this is more than a matter of getting respective political parties to campaign together, although that would be no bad thing.

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Also to be considered is the range of multifarious organisations that sprung up after the glorious Yes summer of 2014.

Some of these are think tanks, the most celebrated of which is Common Weal; some are specific campaigns like Pensioners for Independence, and some of them are grassroots demonstrators like All Under One Banner. All feel excluded – intentionally or otherwise – from the high command of the independence campaign which the SNP have sucked into itself since 2014.

The SNP would always dominate, as indeed they did in 2014, but to give the party exclusive hegemony over the Yes campaign means that every major bump on the governmental road risks derailing the independence movement.

The second advantage follows from the first: if the promotion of the campaign for freedom moves to an independence convention, then the SNP government can concentrate on running the devolved Parliament.

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I was recently debating independence at the Oxford University Union. Our team managed a 31% Yes vote which, at the intellectual heart of the English establishment, isnae bad.

I was struck by the student speakers who spoke against our motion – young middle-class Scots in the main, bedecked in their real or assumed clan tartans for the special occasion.

These bright, young prosperous Scots’ arguments against were by and large not about the impossibility of independence, but on the shortcomings of the Scottish Government.

Some of these were imagined, but many on health, education, ferries and drugs were only too real.

Yes, of course, they were largely from privileged backgrounds, but any revolution which does not carry the middle classes is heading for the sand. We’d need to face that, while in 2014, the performance of the SNP government was one of our greatest assets. Things are much different now regarding the reputation of the SNP/Green coalition on policy delivery. Some people in the SNP have taken to blaming the Greens for many of the current policy problems and performance.

Meanwhile, the Greens are drawing red lines all over the place. All of which misses the point.

There needs to be a renewed focus on the day-to-day business of governance, while the convention carries forward the independence torch. That strikes me as a first-class proposal and a real contribution to freedom’s road.

Above all, it stakes out the ground which should dominate.

This leadership contest: Ignore the agenda of the Unionist media, then get off the rocky road of personal belief or morality and on to the high ground of how to achieve national independence.