IF Boris Johnson’s disgraceful appearance before the Commons Privileges Committee this week did nothing else it threw into stark relief why Scotland’s need for independence is more urgent than ever.

The former Tory prime minister was jaw-droppingly evasive during questioning about parties that were not parties, social distancing rules that he insisted were followed only to admit they were ignored and a litany of assurances that were revealed to be false.

This was a prime minister who partied with colleagues while the rest of the country suffered through lockdown and denied everything when found out. A prime minister without a shred of moral authority, still insisting that if he had indeed misled parliament then he had done so by accident. It was a pathetic display of everything that stinks about Westminster rule.

The contrast with Nicola Sturgeon could not have been more obvious. While Johnson did everything possible to circumvent the restrictions the Scottish First Minister addressed the nation day after day as the pandemic raged, keeping it informed, explaining the rules and taking action against those in government who broke them.

But if the case for independence has rarely been stronger and the First Minister’s performance looking even more admirable than it had at the time, north of the Border the backlash grew.

When voting ends on Monday it’s already pretty clear it will not bring the curtains down on the bitterness thrown up by the SNP leadership contest. Yet somehow a way ahead must be found.

The election has seen extraordinary disagreements among the candidates, angry attacks on party officials and distasteful gloating at the “fall of the house of Murrell”, even from independence supporters. So deep are the wounds inflicted it will take a significant time to heal them, and even then scars will remain.

The response to Peter Murrell’s resignation as the SNP’s chief executive has been surprisingly vitriolic from some sections of the party given the role he played in transforming it into an invincible election-winning machine.

Reading commentators and critics since the weekend such is the hyperbole that you could be forgiven for thinking that Sturgeon and her husband had presided over an evil empire which had enslaved a nation.

That’s not to minimise the mistakes that have been made nor to underplay the serious work which will have to be done to address them by whoever emerges next week as the party leader.

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The most serious of those errors include the dissemination through official SNP communication channels of misinformation about the party’s membership numbers.

SNP media chief Murray Foote last month denied a newspaper story that 30,000 people had left the party.

When the subsequent release of official membership figures confirmed the drop Foote resigned, swiftly followed by the SNP’s chief executive.

The party said Foote had acted in good faith. It’s not clear exactly who gave him the wrong information but as chief executive Murrell took responsibility.

This matters because the media has to be able to believe information supplied by the party of government.

A complete breakdown of trust between the media, the party, and the Scottish Government can only be a bad thing.

The whole sorry mess also seemed to confirm suspicions about a culture of secrecy emerging at the very top of the party.

However, it’s entirely it’s possible to condemn that breach of trust while at the same time refusing to buy into the hyperbolic hogwash in much of what has been written about the departure of the First Minister and her husband.

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It came as no surprise that the SNP’s political opponents had a field day. That, after all, is their job.

There has, however, been something unsettling about aspects of the very personal criticism coming from some independence supporters.

There is a need for some sense of perspective. The farce over the party’s membership numbers – and it WAS a farce – mainly revolved around the issue of trust.

It’s more difficult to build a case around the impact it may have had on the voting itself, although some have tried to do so. Two of the three leadership candidates – indeed the two with any realistic chance of winning – have declared themselves happy with the voting process and its integrity.

Yet still the waves of increasingly bitter attacks from those still thirsting for revenge over the treatment of Alex Salmond or furious over imagined problems with gender recognition reforms.

At some point, all those taking to social media to vent their unhappiness at the fact that Nicola Sturgeon has not taken Scotland to independence will have to consider what the next step should be.

She is standing down as First Minister. Murrell has accepted responsibility for the membership mistake and has resigned. A new first minister and a new chief executive will take the reins.

READ MORE: Text break-up? Why Sturgeon won't meet King to formally quit as FM

Those truly invested in creating an independent Scotland will have to look forward rather than back. How can the Yes movement best pursue the outcome we want? That seems to me to involve the SNP.

It is surely in the independence movement’s best interests that it has a refreshed and rejuvenated SNP in government at Holyrood and taking part – rather than continue to berate the party for past mistakes we should instead focus on what needs to be done in the future.

So what does the new SNP leader and new first minister needs to do? Here are some suggestions:

1: To delegate more power from the very small number of people at the top of the party.

It is generally recognised that a problem with the Sturgeon era was that the majority of the power was in the hands of too few people.

Her inner circle of trusted confidantes was tiny. That meant the pool of expertise available to draw upon was too restricted.

The new first minister must put the best people in the top jobs and trust them to do the job properly rather than micro-manage. Not only will this empower cabinet ministers to do their jobs it will unleash new energy, nurture talent, and encourage collective responsibility and greater transparency.

2: Put the campaign for independence at the heart of government.

Independence can help solve so many of the problems facing Scotland today. It’s essential that we prioritise converting more people to the cause. The higher number of people supporting independence in polls towards the end of last year shows that people can be converted. The case needs to be articulated in a convincing way.

There should be a minister for independence in the cabinet. It should be a high-profile and key position, ensuring that the promotion of independence remains centre stage. It needs to be a single portfolio minister with no additional responsibilities and nothing to deflect their attention. The key aims of the job will be to promote the ideals of an independent Scotland and devise new and innovative ways of winning hearts and minds.

The creation of the new post will take away the pressure on the new first minister to be the person responsible for growing independence support AND for running the country. The combination of demands is simply too big for any one person to tackle. Something has to give.

3: To establish meaningful links with the wider movement.

It would have been forgivable to conclude during the past few years that the SNP has not been particularly focused on different elements of the Yes movement.

That has been a waste of resources which could have been usefully employed in winning over soft

no voters. It is time to recognise the true campaigning power of organisations such as Believe in Scotland, Business for Scotland, the National Yes Network and Women for independence.

That would mean forging new and better communication channels with those organisations and fostering genuine collaborations.

Those are three of my ideas … you will have your own. Let’s hear them and discuss them positively in the pages of The National. This is not the time to sit back passively sniping from the sidelines.

The difficult and sometimes depressing events of the past few weeks have presented an opportunity for renewal as well as reflection.

Whether we take that opportunity is up to us.