THIS weekend the Scottish National Party meets in solemn conclave in Dundee to discuss the future of the independence movement. The words “Rubicon”, “date with destiny”, “moment of truth” etc. all come to mind. With polls now predicting Labour winning a majority of seats in Scotland at the coming General Election, reality stares the SNP in the face, in the Caird Hall.

Unfortunately, as we all know, this Saturday’s convention has been downgraded to a mere talking shop. Yet, only seven months ago, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rejection of Holyrood’s right unilaterally to hold a second referendum, then first minister Nicola Sturgeon confidently retaliated by saying she would convene a party gathering where members would be allowed to vote on future strategy for the independence cause. That summit was earmarked for March 19.

Alas Sturgeon was not to stick around to present that putative gathering with new options, or indeed to listen to what the SNP members had to say.

Let’s not delve too deeply into why Nicola quit. Suffice it to say she abandoned ship on February 15 without bequeathing the party or the movement an alternative strategy. And without ensuring an obvious successor as SNP leader.

The March 19 event was duly postponed. It will now convene on Saturday, unfortunately timed to upstage the AUOB march in Stirling. The new leader, Humza Yousaf, will make a set speech but few believe he has the charisma or chutzpah to galvanise the movement or lead a crusade to overthrow British rule.

As for the convention itself, steam will be let off but not much else will transpire. A series of worthy MPs (most facing political oblivion next year) and anonymous MSPs will make speeches.

There will be exhortations to patience, whatever that means. The SNP rank and file must be the most patient activist movement in history, having swallowed the line for the last nine years that there was actually going to be a second referendum.

The truth is that Nicola wished the Dundee event on the party then decamped and it was not possible for Humza to actually cancel the whole affair without looking silly or frightened or clueless – or possibly all three.

So the charade has gone on.

A few licensed dissenters – Angus MacNeil, Tim Rideout – will be allowed to say what they always say. Mhairi Black will make a rousing denunciation of Boris to predictably thunderous applause. Mike Russell – last of the Big Beasts - will make a statesmanlike speech uniting the party for at least as long as it takes to applaud him. Then members will disappear off home to contemplate the fact the party still has no independence strategy.

Except it has… and it is the wrong one. At core, the SNP leadership still believes in something called “civic nationalism” and this is the problem. Civic nationalism started out as something quite positive.

It based the demand for independence on greater local autonomy rather than on ethnicity or hostility to England.

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In essence it was a democratic creed that matched Scottish political and cultural susceptibilities.

Historically, Scottish civic nationalism grew out of the Home Rule movement of the early 20th century. It was propelled towards outright independence by the systemic refusal of Westminster to allow any moves towards Home

Rule except grudgingly and at a glacial pace.

So far, so good. But in the hands of the SNP leadership in recent times civic nationalism has been transformed into a monster – and in the process neutered the movement. The root and branch of genuine civic nationalism is the sovereignty of the people – the Scottish people. The constitutional essence of an independent Scotland – why we want independence in the first place – is to give power to the ordinary citizen, not to Westminster or indeed Scottish elites. But this democratic essence has been forgotten by SNP leaders on every single front.

Was power returned by Holyrood to local councils over the past 16 years? No, anything but. Institution after institution was centralised under Holyrood ministerial control – often incompetent control. Was decision-making inside the party retained by the SNP rank and file? No, the very opposite occurred as power was ruthlessly centralised. And look how that ended.

And what strategy was pursued to pressure Westminster into offering a second referendum, while the membership kicked their heels? Above all, the SNP and the Scottish Government attempted to put international pressure on UK institutions by prostrating an independent Scotland before every conceivable globalist institution.

That includes unthinking and absolute support for the EU regardless of Scottish interests (e.g. on agriculture and fishing). It includes offering blind obedience to Nato to the point of eroding the party’s traditional anti-nuclear weapons stance.

Thus civic nationalism became a bastardised civic “internationalism” that downgrades the sovereignty of the Scottish people to a secondary consideration. Note: I’m not saying for a moment that Scotland does not have international obligations and I think Scotland would be a better global citizen than the UK.

BUT neither do I think it is in the gift of the SNP leadership to decide Scotland’s international obligations without consulting the people nor do I think our interests in Scotland should be surrendered to the EU, Nato or the UN, simply in order to win international approval for a referendum.

Being in EFTA has its advantages and armed neutrality might offer more room for influence in a multi-polar world. I understand many in our movement are proud internationalists, but to progress independence we need to stress the paramountcy of the sovereignty of the Scottish people – and mean it.

Those who tell you that we can only have independence if the rest of the world first sanctions it, and that the EU, US and England will only do that if indy Scotland bows to their view of the global order, are woefully wrong. Independence is only possible if the Scottish people desire it on their own terms. Only after that we can negotiate with the world.

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The debate at Saturday’s convention will revolve around how to get a mandate for independence. But the context of the various options will remain the same: how to win Westminster and international approval of our right to self-determination. I suggest the opposite is true: first convince the Scottish people they have the sovereign right to take their independence regardless of anyone else.

If the Scottish people vote in the majority for pro-indy parties then the next step is to make the writ of the Westminster government unworkable north of the Border, reform the welfare system to eliminate the need for food banks, regardless of Treasury spending rules, use SEPA to harass privateering energy companies till they behave, create a public sector savings bank to give savers and small businesses a better deal than the City boys, appoint civil servants and civic board members who support Scottish sovereignty, and refuse to co-operate with interfering Whitehall departments.

Above all, act as if Scotland is sovereign because only when we have the guts to show we are serious about self-determination will the rest of the world take notice. That can start in Dundee at the weekend if ordinary SNP members are prepared to take control of the party.