TOO many independence discussions – inside and outside the SNP – are circular, pretending that progress is being made or demanding decisive action, when neither of the sort is happening or imminent.

This has sadly been the reality since 2014. A road to nowhere where a host of SNP leaders tell people what they want to hear and many believe them, while at the margins, some demand that radical steps are taken to disrupt the status quo.

This is a stuck record where nearly everyone knows their place and purpose but forgets about the voters and wider goal.

Underpinning all the rhetoric – soft and hard – is a sense of powerlessness from the inside track and outside it. And a profound absence of leadership and any idea of building a strategy – including from those responsible for such things.

READ MORE: What should the SNP's 'independence convention' look like?

In this void it is not accidental that talk of process fills the air. The Sturgeon and post-Sturgeon eras have seen continual evoking of an indyref as soon as possible, a de facto referendum, a general election mandate, and from the more radical elements, SNP withdrawal from Westminster, a Unilateral Declaration of Independence and even involving some international organisations – as if Scotland were Sudan!

Process politics on its own is a dead end. It ignores the need to do the hard stuff in politics – that is, presenting a viable offer and set of priorities that connect to the majority of voters.

And as for the radical suggestions, some are born of frustration, the wider lack of leadership and a need to be heard and understood; but some are born out of a malevolent, conspiracy theory part of independence which has festered and been encouraged in the past decade.

The SNP’s special independence convention on June 24 will not change anything. It will, in the words of the SNP NEC, be “solely focused on how Scotland is able to hold a legally binding independence referendum”.

This seems to be in keeping with the tradition of the SNP going through the motions and trying to give the impression of work and progress, but increasingly fooling a smaller, narrower constituency.

One SNP member told me last week, pre-announcement, that “the SNP are nowhere, listless and directionless” and checking back in with them after the convention announcement, they confirmed to me that they still thought the same.

There is, though, one positive takeaway from the above. Despite the “listless and directionless” SNP post-2014, independence is still very live. But to get itself into a winning place, the Yes movement needs to get smart, and not be fooled by the SNP pretence or hot heads demanding the Nationalists morph into a Scottish equivalent of Sinn Fein by not recognising Westminster.

Here are eight steps on the journey to a strategy for independence that I would recommend.

First, finally have a post-mortem on why Yes lost in 2014. It would be a decade late, but better late than never. This matters because not having a post-mortem has led to all sorts of bad politics.

For example, we knew from polling in 2014 that “The Vow” did not win the indyref because the vast majority of voters did not believe it – even more critically, swing voters were also cynical about it.

Not having a proper post-mortem allows all kinds of griping to gather at the margins.

At the weekend, Alex Salmond claimed that No “conned” their way to victory.

He has been saying that since 2014, but the point is without a post-mortem this delusion has more traction and adherents. This is what happens in a vacuum without strong and coherent leadership.

Being on the losing side is never comfortable, but it does offer a chance for renewal through becoming aware of your own shortcomings and acting upon them.

The SNP and Yes movement have deliberately done none of the above which has held back the potential for growth, learning and a better independence politics. And this allows people like Salmond and other critics to continue hitting that sour note.

Second, develop a better multi-track politics of focusing on government, everyday issues concerning voters, and independence. This multi-tracking has to not invoke such clichés as “concentrating on the day job” but if it wants to succeed should not highlight independence every day with every single breath.

There are different ways to progress an issue and sometimes banging the same drum is not effective. One thoughtful anti-indy campaigner from 2014 has observed that “independence not taking a break from 2014 was in retrospect a big mistake. It has prevented independence from reappraising itself and finding a different political vision.”

Third, independence at present is an abstract, not fully fleshed-out offer.

This means it exists as a principle which is good enough for part of the base, but is in no condition for building a convincing majority. There is no current independence offer, prospectus or prospect of one in the here and now.

There has been no serious work by the SNP or Scottish Government righting this – underlined by the unclear remit of the supposed Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn who was left at the weekend defending the party’s independence convention as “democracy in action” when it is clearly not.

Rather it is the SNP continuing the pretence that they are the movement and progressing towards their ultimate goal. One SNPer told me this “makes the party look dismissive and arrogant and not entirely honest”.

Fourth, how independence is represented has to involve a conversation beyond the SNP and the civil service. If independence is genuinely about self-government, it cannot be just presented from on high, as it was with the 2013 White Paper, like the Ten Commandments.

This raises questions about how this is undertaken, via what forums, and how the balance between independence needing the SNP, but being about more than the SNP, is squared.

Fifth, an observation about co-operation and unity. Unity for all the forces of independence sounds good in theory but is more difficult in practice.

A co-operation formally of SNP, Greens and Alba is a complete non-starter.

Why? Because it would detract from and repulse many voters, including those who still need to be won over to independence. Indy’s whole rationale has to focus on being open to those who have to be won over, not the fringes and margins with all the baggage that Salmond brings.

Sixth, that co-operation and focus on those who need to be convinced requires a different kind of unity.

The idea of an indy convention, constantly being proposed by Salmond and Alba, is just a campaigning point against the SNP.

Rather, if the idea is to hold water at all, it must be open to the Labour and Liberal Democrat voters who support independence, and having a more generous, pluralist conversation about the future of Scotland.

A Constitutional Convention, drawing on the lessons and successes of the 1980s and 1990s versions which produced a plan for the Parliament, is a better option.

Seventh, the nature of the argument about the Union versus independence needs some reflection. Many independence supporters do not understand or want to understand the rationale for the case for the Union, reducing it to wanting to keep Scotland as a property in the Union – the “why won’t they let us go?” argument.

People do not have to agree with the Union case, but one of the most central shifts to aid independence is understanding that argument. Putting yourself in the shoes of others is good for independence, political debate and democracy.

And understanding the Union case means that the independence cause can develop better arguments to defeat it and win over those sceptics still unconvinced.

Finally, the language of how we describe the state of Scotland has to do justice to the change this country needs, building capacity and confidence in people, while being honest and recognising the inadequacies of present politics – including from the SNP.

Using Armageddon language, such as talking about Scottish politics experiencing a “perma-death”, helps no-one and only strengthens that sense of powerlessness too prevalent since 2014.

Everything that everyone does should encourage and nurture the fact that we have a collective voice and power if we choose to express it and be aided by political parties and their leaderships – which we are currently not.

We need to find the language, actions and strategy to give that form. There is a Scotland of the future to be created. The SNP need to change and the rest of us need to step up. And count me in for creating that first step: A proper post-mortem.

The first steps in change are always the most difficult and independence needs them if it is to have a genuine strategy.