AT what point does diversity become division? And when does pointing out perceived divisions only serve to compound any problems that might exist?

In responding to a stooshie that erupted over independence stalls at the Prestwick Promenade celebrations at the end of last month, former National editor Richard Walker wrote for this paper highlighting the importance of deploying a range of different # Yes campaigning tactics: marches, stalls, leafleting and more.

While hundreds of Yessers marched for independence down the road in Ayr, he and some SNP colleagues manned the Prestwick SNP stall. Next to them was the Yes Prestwick stall, also hoping to persuade some of those passing by of the benefits of independence or, as Richard wrote, even just to plant a seed that might grow into a future Yes vote.

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Some might say that three different campaigning activities for independence happening within a two-mile radius was evidence of strength, of how normal it has become for conversations about self-determination to be taking place in Scotland’s cities and towns, not just in the run-up to elections or referendums but at any time when the sun might be shining and people might be out and about and open to a quick blether.

Others, such as All Under One Banner (AUOB) organiser Neil Mackay, view things differently. He argued in yesterday’s letters pages that the timing of the SNP Prestwick stall was reflective of a “pattern of blatant avoidance” of marches by the “SNP party machine”. He did not weigh in on the motives of Yes Prestwick, with whom Richard reported good-natured banter on the day.

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Mackay wrote that “unless events are organised and controlled by the hierarchy then the party officially does not participate and does not encourage attendance”, but it’s unclear what exactly he means by “the party” here. It would be surprising indeed if none of the 2000 or so people who marched in Ayr were SNP members or office-bearers. Yes supporters local to Ayr probably do not need to be encouraged by the SNP to attend when AUOB comes to town, assuming they are physically able and temperamentally inclined to do so.

The National: Lorna Slater and Patrick HarvieMackay says the group prides itself on aiming for a broad range of speakers at the rallies that follow the marches, but that very breadth has seen the Scottish Greens decline invitations to speak – including one sent in May inviting either Patrick Harvie or Lorna Slater to attend and demanding to know who from the party would come in their place should either government minister decline “due to other commitments”.

The Greens’ stated position is that they will not share a platform with “those who do not share our vision of a progressive and tolerant Scotland” but it’s unclear edxactly how much alignment is required. Indeed, do the SNP share the Greens’ vision of a progressive and tolerant Scotland? Broadly, perhaps, but if their visions were identical there would be no need for two separate parties.

In today’s digitally connected world there is considerable pressure to align yourself with those whose values you share and distance yourself from those with whom you disagree – and this goes far beyond party politics. “X must condemn” is just as likely to be demanded of a brand that once worked with a now-disgraced celebrity as to a politician who accidentally shook hands with a murderer or posed for a selfie with a bigot. By contrast, "#IStandWithX" is used to signal a wave of digital support to the maligned, attacked or cancelled – often before the full facts of a given situation are known.

Increasingly, the decision not to condemn something or someone is unfairly interpreted as an expression of approval, and accordingly the decision not to promote something or someone is seen as disapproval or even attack. The decision of the SNP not to rally its troops for All Under One Banner could have many practical explanations, not least that a subsequent low turnout (whether due to weather, scheduling or any other factors) would be seized upon by the Unionist media as evidence of waning enthusiasm for independence (or indeed waning enthusiasm for acting in accordance with SNP endorsements).

The National: An AOUB marchAn AOUB march

Mackay regards it as “divisive and counter-productive” for the SNP to support the Believe in Scotland march on September 2 because this endorses an independent Scotland in the EU, and not every Yes supporter wants an independent Scotland to be in the EU, but we should hardly be surprised to see the SNP supporting Scotland’s place in Europe. Those who are pro-Yes and anti-EU do, after all, have plenty of other events they can attend: the many All Under One Banner ones.

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Previous letters to The National from a number of readers have highlighted what they considered to be divisive elements on marches that make them feel uncomfortable and risk alienating soft No voters. Mackay emphasises that his team do not go round with clipboards checking marchers’ views, but such methods are not required when there are loud chants of “Tory! Tory! Tory!, Out! Out! Out!”

Ultimately, one man’s inclusive event may be another’s divisive demonstration. The stamping of feet is unlikely to lead to political endorsement, but in any case, do All Under One Banner really need the formal SNP seal of approval? They seem to be managing just fine without it.