FIVE months ago today, Nicola announced her bombshell resignation talking as she did so about the opportunity for a political renewal which – she hoped – might help shift entrenched views.

Alas, those views – particularly within the Yes movement – have only become more entrenched since February.

I am by nature a political optimist. I believe that Scotland will become independent because it is the way to fulfil the potential and promise of all who live here. Parnell was right – no man can stop the march of a nation.

But it is absolutely clear that the only vehicle which – at present at least – can lead that difficult process is the SNP, the largest political party in Scotland, by far.

I am not ashamed of the party that I know so well. I have been a member for almost 50 years and I will not willingly see it damaged by anyone for that would inevitably damage the prospects for independence too.

Consequently, I utterly disagree with Angus Brendan MacNeil’s analysis and actions this past week.

Attacking your fellow party members, holding a gun to their head about some action that you want the entire membership to take no matter their own views and parading contempt for your colleagues as a “clueless” leadership will not bring us an inch nearer independence.

Instead, it gives our enemies – the word is far from inappropriate these days – a perfect opportunity to pile on the venomous attacks, quoting McNeil with glee and that is just what they have done.

Given the times we are in, it will in fact give Labour seats at Westminster whilst letting the Tories off the hook at Holyrood.

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As SNP president I receive letters and emails from SNP members who are dissatisfied with the party at present. How could they not be?

I myself am heartsick at some of the things I have seen and heard in the last few months – but nothing is improved by walking away from a problem.

The old “I am not leaving the party, the party has left me” excuse doesn’t wash if you have spent your life working for independence and seen the significant progress that has been made.

When the independence going gets tough the right – indeed the only – response from a lifelong nationalist in the party for independence is to do more, work more and, if needed, change more.

The disastrous Labour split in the early 80s and the emergence of the SDP – encouraged by a media that loves anything which will re-enforce the British establishment – kept the Tories in power for 18 years. Now the Tories are mired in an ideological schism that will take them out of government for a long while.

The laws of politics governing Scotland are no different.

The SNP isn’t going to re-emerge instantly purified by the actions of Angus Brendan. Nor is Alba going to replace the SNP as the choice of many Scots.

Instead, our divisions will be used by the media to drive us all further down and with us the cause of self-determination.

This self-satisfied but ultimately self-harming tendency can be seen in another spat that was taking place this week.

The people of Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Alba however has a policy of immediate EFTA [European Free Trade Association] membership with some possibility of EU membership thereafter

That is their business. I disagree not least because it utilises the same fatalistic “times have changed” argument that can be heard from Labour. There has also never been a moment at which there is so much potential for European support if, in return, Scotland keeps faith with the European ideal as exemplified, problems and all, in the EU.

But a civilised social media discussion of this matter quickly deteriorated.

The SNP had “failed Scotland”. We could be in EFTA in three weeks following a plebiscite election. Membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would have been automatic and then, finally, came the conspiracy theory, the stab in the back moment: those who didn’t support the “second vote Alba” ploy back in 2021 – which would apparently have produced independence – were as a result guilty of “treachery”.

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A word actually used in a tweet by someone who has been a guest in my own house.

Enough is enough. There is in fact a lot of common ground on methods of taking forward engagement with the EEA, routes to EU membership and referenda.

But that isn’t the issue.

What was actually being exhibited was simply the age-old desire to offload frustration and anger onto a whipping boy. In other words to find someone to blame.

Disputes of this kind, if they are not to fester forever, need leadership and compromise to resolve.

I would sit down tomorrow with others if they were also, having looked into this abyss, prepared to find a way forward that respected difference and sought to develop a new collaborative and positive Yes movement.

That can’t happen at the point of a gun no matter who is holding it.

Nor can it take place if those of us in the party – new leader or lifelong members – who are working for independence are being constantly disparaged and our actions denounced as – that word again – treachery.

Before the 2007 Holyrood election the SNP leadership, including Alex Salmond, recognised that a positive message and a unified party were the prerequisites to success.

That truism changed the party from one of perpetual opposition to one that could – in government – deliver an independence referendum.

The UK Government has got tougher since then. It has successfully implemented a hard-line policy that has forced the movement to talk about the process of gaining independence rather than about the promise independence holds for the lives and prospects of every citizen in Scotland.

In so doing it has deliberately sought to divert the blame for the current constitutional log jam from itself and onto the SNP Scottish Government.

Those who want independence should oppose that not encourage it.