TODAY, whilst some people talk in the Caird Hall in Dundee and others march in Stirling, I shall be celebrating Ewen and Amy’s wedding in the fine surroundings of the Strathpeffer Pavilion.

There aren’t many key occasions on the independence journey that I have missed since I joined the party in 1974 and the two independence-focused gatherings today are, in their own way, very important to the national normality that Scotland so desperately needs.

Of course, some will emphasise what separates these events but in fact I believe there is something which could – and should – bring us together despite the unhelpful rhetoric.

In that regard, while SNP members are not exempt from criticism given some of their online barbs, I did notice that when it was speculated that I might attend the All Under One Banner (AUOB) march to Bannockburn to speak on behalf of the party of which I am president – and I have walked to Bannockburn many times in the last 30 or more years – a couple of AUOB-supporting tweeters claimed that trotting out this confused SNP supporting old age pensioner at such an event would be an insult to the cause. Old – well maybe. But not yet confused.

I had similar abuse at the Arbroath AUOB event in April 2022, including a suggestion that people should be encouraged to turn their backs on me when I spoke. Of course that didn’t happen and the marchers – primarily it has to be said SNP members – were good enthusiastic company.

Nonetheless, let me use the privilege of age and the fact of absence to offer a few words of advice to both events.

For Stirling the message is simple – include don’t exclude. Not just those from the SNP with whom you are entitled to disagree but not disparage, but also those who may not share your enthusiasm for demonstrative politics.

Waving saltires won’t on its own bring many opponents to the independence cause but a willingness to engage and persuade will, in the end, convert independence-floating voters – and there are more of them than pollsters think.

Marching in commemoration is an established and positive thing but facts on the doorstep are always going to be more influential than feet on the roadway when it comes to the bread and butter of political campaigning.

Getting back to basic old-fashioned persuasion would also be a message for the SNP event in Dundee.

Covid prevented the party from holding face-to-face gatherings but that mustn’t be the new norm. Today’s event is a welcome chance for members to talk to each other and to hear our impressive new leader but we need to go further.

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One of the early wins from the work of the Governance and Transparency Review Group has been to secure a first meeting of the restored National Council (as voted for by National Conference) which will take place towards the end of August as well as a commitment to a regular timetable of National Councils thereafter.

That will increase accountability and restore more regular contact between members and those they elect to run the party.

But that is all internal. We are nothing if we aren’t out in the world winning new support and re-enforcing what already exists.

Social media is a bubble and should be treated as an adjunct to – not a substitute for – in-person campaigning.

Consequently, the summer of independence needs to be a summer on the streets – not just waving but also talking, particularly about the difference independence will make to people’s lives and futures.

The Tories at Westminster backed by Labour and the Lib Dems, have deliberately diverted the debate on independence into the cul de sac of process. By stoking anti-democratic “can’t be done” negativity (lapped up by much of the client media) they have succeeded in turning the discussion away from the clear and tangible benefits of independence.

Yet Brexit has delivered a series of disasters for Scotland that should illustrate beyond doubt that being tied to the UK is a recipe for continued and accelerated Scottish decline.

In the introduction to her biography Winnie Ewing – who will be sadly missed by so many of us – quoted Tom Nairn when he wrote that “far from being terribly risky, irresponsible and juvenile to move to getting out of the Union bed, it may be dangerous, even childish, to hang around in it”.

That is more true than ever yet just at the time when the Union is exposed as being utterly worn out. The UK Government, unable to justify the state we are in, has instead changed the focus. Now all it will talk about is how change is impossible and indeed absolutely forbidden.

Too many good people have been taken in by such nonsense and become trapped in a quagmire of negativity and recrimination.

Of course we need a road map, but we also need a prospectus and guidebook for where we are going, to enthuse our fellow Scots not about the journey, but about the destination.

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That is what should unite us, though not in a single vision of a better Scotland. The movement has matured and there are now a range of visions, though none of them – none at all – can be achieved without the willing and informed choice of independence.

Dependency and decline, with the continuing erosion of even the devolved Parliament, is all that lies ahead without it.

That fact is what should bridge the 44 miles between Stirling and Dundee today. We don’t have to like each other, but without unity in the campaign, we wont deliver independence. It is as simple as that.

As conflict always ends in compromise the best outcomes from today would not be ringing declarations of rightness and plans for more of the same.

Instead, there should be a commitment to try and work positively to inspire Scotland with the transformational message of independence.

Westminster has always loved to divide and rule. We shouldn’t let it.