THE first major Scottish independence event I attended was the march and rally in Edinburgh on September 22, 2012. Approximately 5000 independistas from Scotland, Catalunya, Flanders, Veneto, Corsica and beyond marched from the Meadows to rally at Princes Street Gardens. The headline speakers were Alex Salmond, Margo MacDonald and Dennis Canavan, with Dougie MacLean leading the assembled chorus in a rendition of his anthemic Caledonia.

It was a tremendous way to kick off two years of campaigning, with each of the speakers presenting their distinct vision of what independence could deliver for Scotland.

But it was the little-known Allan Grogan of the nascent Labour for Independence group’s speech that I was most excited by. It spoke directly to the left-wing values many in Scotland hold but which were discarded by Blair’s conservatisation of the Labour Party.

With that came the sweeping realisation that independence would usher in a Scottish political renaissance where such values would no longer be the purview of any London leader – we’d set the dial ourselves.

Reflecting on that day reminds me of the vigour of the campaign ahead when Scotland exploded with passion, ideas and political ambition for our country. And whether it involved Labour for Indy, the SSP, SNP, Greens or no party affiliation, any disagreement on policy in debate at Yes meetings – in cafes, bars and the workplace – was amicably wrapped up with a shared understanding that anything beyond the proposition for independence would be sorted out following free and fair Scottish elections.

READ MORE: Chain of Freedom Scotland organisers call for supporters to register

That ability to debate passionately and amicably was the unifying strength of the movement. After all, one-size-fits-all was the political world we were trying to escape.

While I have missed Allan’s voice on the political scene in recent years, it’s hard to imagine his distinctive perspective finding the same welcome it received in 2012.

As a movement , we seem to find ourselves up a cul-de-sac where disagreement and debate on policy is routinely shouted down – and that noise is emanating from all sides. Surely as a movement we can do better than this?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of robust political challenge. However, slogans and insults do not constitute political dialogue and in the current political climate we urgently need to consider mediation and reconciliation or independence may well be out of reach for the foreseeable future. Is that something you are prepared to accept? I’m certainly not.

The good news is that despite the headline-grabbing assertions that the movement is irrevocably split, the reality is that this is just not true. Admittedly there are challenges in certain quarters but this is not replicated at grassroots level.

Take my recent podcast appearance with Naz and Cammy for Dunfermline’s Yes in the City Hub (available on its YouTube). One an SNP councillor, the other a staffer for an SNP MP, both are without question focused on independence for Scotland. We had a great chat, and it brought back to me – and other SNP pals doing the filming – the energy and commitment of 2014.

The National: All Under One Banner (AUOB) emergency march in Glasgow. The marchers set off from George Square to Glasgow Green urging Boris Johnson to resign amid the 'partygate' saga

What that interview demonstrated is that as a movement we can work together, we can unite around independence, and subordinate or divisive policies can be put to one side until after independence.

No-one has all the answers, the voice of a critical friend has value, and disagreeing on policy is not only normal, it is essential to democracy.

This principle was set out eloquently in last week’s LGB Alliance tribunal judgment which said: “The fundamental rationale of the democratic process upon which our society is founded is that when competing views, opinions and policies are publicly debated and exposed to public scrutiny, the good will over time drive out the bad and the true will prevail over the false.

“Only when differing views are expressed, contradicted, answered and debated will the legislature be able to obtain the fullest picture of the views held by those it represents.”

These words need to resonate throughout the political sphere as an antidote to the polarisation that is now so commonplace at home and abroad. Anyone involved in 2014 will no doubt be able to apply the words above to the campaign we pursued back then.

READ MORE: BBC suspends staff member after explicit photo claims about presenter

Refusing to co-operate, speak or engage is the enemy of independence, while freely expressing differing views and priorities is the engine room of better policy, fresh ideas and progress to statehood. Coming together as a broad-church movement has always been a necessary condition of winning independence. Any narrowing of the campaign reduces its appeal and the evidence of that is becoming all too clear.

No independence supporter should have been pleased to see the East Kilbride West by-election result. The SNP being relegated to third place risks delivering Scotland into the hands of a right-wing Starmer government – pro-Brexit, anti-immigration, pro-neoliberal economics and pro-NHS privatisation – that will be a disaster for our people and the plundering of our resources will only intensify.

I can only pray the First Minister takes a sobering view of this result and doesn’t dismiss it as a blip. However much he may want to believe that’s all it is, it’s increasingly clear the SNP won’t deliver independence alone. If we are to galvanise and build on the 52% support for independence and resist a Starmer incursion then a #ScotlandUnited ticket is the only viable option.

But a #ScotlandUnited win at a General Election is only the first step. What we then do with it is even more important. At present my Scotland (Self-Determination) Bill is the only game in town that seeks to address the UK Supreme Court own-goal. It’s not a fanciful idea either – it is now backed up by Professor Robert McCorquodale’s expert international legal opinion.

Today I’m writing to the Prime Minister to challenge him directly on the people of Scotland’s right to self-determination. His reply will be instructive for the path ahead for everyone in the Yes movement.