NEXT weekend, the Socialists for Independence group will host a modest get-together in Glasgow to ponder the direction for the indy movement in the light of recent events.

SFI is a group of sensible left-wingers dedicated, among other things, to building bridges between radical independence activists and socialists who might not prioritise – or even agree with – the struggle for self-determination. Put another way, how do we combine the fight for national freedom with the fight for economic justice?

More concretely, there are three main questions facing the entire indy movement at the moment, which the SFI conference seeks to address. First, has the independence question been kicked into the long grass for the next decade (or more), given the rejection of indyref2 by the Supreme Court, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer?

Second, if so, what do we do next? Should the radial wing of the indy movement refocus for now on social and economic campaigns, to improve the lot of ordinary Scots, perhaps in conjunction with elements in the Labour Party?

And third, does the crisis in the SNP afford the chance to build a new leadership for the indy movement outside of the party?

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These are not questions that can be answered instantly or easily. But we can at least start the ball rolling. Begin with where independence sits on the political agenda.

Certainly, the prospect of a second independence referendum seems far away. But that is not the same thing as saying the independence question has disappeared or shrunk in importance. For instance, the latest (post-SNP crisis) YouGov poll shows 61% of folk aged 16-24 and 56% of those aged 25-49, still support independence. Conclusion: independence has demography and time on its side. And Keir Starmer please note – support for independence in Glasgow is still running at 57%, the highest of any urban area.

Of course, in the absence of meaningful progress, indy supporters may grow apathetic. This is what the Unionist camp is hoping for. But events are unlikely to relegate the constitutional question to the political back drawer forever.

There is a little thing called Northern Ireland to consider. The essence of the Good Friday Agreement is that it created an

all-island economy in Ireland and with it the transition – eventually but peacefully – to de facto re-unification between north and south. At some point this economic unification, plus demographic change (there’s already a Catholic majority in the North) will lead to a border poll and de jure unification.

Brexit and DUP intransigence have complicated this elegant solution to the Irish Question but either the Good Friday process works itself out in time or the DUP provoke a crisis, which can only lead to the acceleration of demands for a fresh border poll.

If anything, President Biden’s visit to Ireland has re-inforced American support for re-unification happening earlier rather than later. The latest Annual Life and Times survey by Queen’s University Belfast, published on Friday, revealed that a majority of voters think there will be unity with the next two decades.

A whopping 63% say this development has been accelerated by Brexit (which was opposed by voters in the North of Ireland).

Where Northern Ireland goes, Scotland will follow. It will be politically impossible for Westminster to grant a border poll in the North and continue to refuse one in Scotland. The administrative and economic re-organisation of the UK entailed by Irish re-unification will provide the context for a re-assessment of Scotland’s place in the Union. No, the independence question is not going away.

But there is bound to be a hiatus of sorts. How should the movement respond pro tem? One suggestion from folk inside Socialists for Independence – including former MSP Frances Curran – is to build support for a new “right to decide” movement.

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THIS would bring adherents of independence together with those who respect the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine their own form of government, yet who remain sceptical of separation.

In practice, such a campaign could bring together nationalists and Labour Party members. It would build a political dialogue (which is good for the health of democracy) and carve out space for progressive forces on both sides of the constitutional divide to co-operate on campaigns over, say, the cost of living.

Question: How could we get beyond “right to decide” platitudes towards actual joint action? How do you remove the ingrained enmities and suspicions that result from our adversarial politics?

How would a “right to decide” campaign manifest itself in a manner that mobilised popular support, especially among the young? I suspect we are faced less with the task of creating an organisation or a campaign but more with the need to initiate specific, confidence-building measures across the nationalist-Labour divide.

This could all be pie in the sky, of course. Starmer’s Labour is probably too wedded to winning power at Westminster to co-operate with nationalist politicians or groups, even if it helps defeat Tory austerity policies. And Scottish Labour is unlikely to rock the boat.

This might change if Labour loses next year’s Westminster election or if it wins fewer SNP seats than the bookies are currently forecasting. Such an electoral setback would undermine Starmer and force Labour to the left. That might create grounds for a new, united Scottish resistance.

But creating a broader, anti-Tory alliance requires at least a modicum of agreement on policies between all progressive parties.

I have previously suggested the revival of calls for giving Holyrood complete control over all taxation, borrowing and public spending in Scotland, with the Scottish Government paying into the UK kitty for joint services. That would give financial teeth to any calls for more devolved powers.

Similarly, devolving to Holyrood control over employment law would provide Scotland with the ability to protect workers from future Tory assaults.

Yet when all is said and done, those of us who support Scottish independence do so because we believe it is the only way to permanently escape Tory rule from Westminster. We cannot give up on the fight to win self-determination, even if the road suddenly looks a bit longer.

Personally, I think the focus on securing Westminster approval of a second referendum was always a dead end. No nation ever won its freedom by merely begging for it. Ultimately, we may need to initiate something more robust in the way of civil disobedience to get the attention of Westminster. But I doubt there is yet the popular support for such a strategy.

Which means the Socialists for Independence search for a united front between all progressive forces, to fight for immediate social and economic demands, is perhaps the best way to build confidence and protect Scotland.

But the indy movement still needs to lead the fight for those immediate reforms – in the streets, on the picket lines, in the local communities.

We cannot leave it to either the SNP, who are in crisis, or Starmer’s Labour Party, which vacillates on everything.

The indy movement must create a new, accountable, democratic leadership that represents the rank and file. That is the fastest route to achieving our common goal of a Tory-free, people’s Scotland.