I STARTED this week looking forward to what I hoped and believed would be an impressive show of unity at tomorrow’s independence march and rally. I’m ending it worn down by a stream of negativity leaving me questioning what unity actually means, if it’s achievable and if is it even desirable.

Let me state at the outset that I believe the Yes movement has the potential to win Scotland its independence through democratic means. It was born in the heady days of 2014 and remains in relatively good health. However, our task will not be easy to achieve.

The forces ranged against us are powerful and only rarely honourable. Their tactics are often underhand and we need to counter them with articulate arguments and something resembling commitment to a common cause.

But we are well past the time when we can assume that everyone who supports independence is “on the same side”. Increasingly I find it difficult to recognise the country that some aspects of the independence movement seem determined to create.

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I don’t for a second believe every Yes voter has to agree on every one of the myriad opportunities independence would open up. There is room for a range of opinions, even if those differing opinions are held passionately. This is not a plea to “wheesht for indy” to disguise some fundamental differences in approaches and ambitions, but I think it’s important to recognise which ideals unite us.

If nothing else we can surely agree that the British state does not function in an efficient, fair and moral way and does not serve the best interests of Scotland or those who live here. The most exciting aspect of independence is the chance to make our own decisions about our future and that of our country.

If we’ve taken all the most important decisions before we have even achieved independence that seems to me to undermine the whole point of it.

Nevertheless, if we seek to persuade a majority of those living in Scotland to support independence, it behoved us to give them at least some idea of what that independent country would look like. In our attempt to do that we will encounter disagreements and we must deal with these with mutual respect and understanding. We should share a desire to work together to gain the chance to create the kind of country the majority of Scots would want to live in.

However, this week has left me convinced there are some differences that have emerged that are simply too profound to sustain a shared approach.

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Which brings me to a tweet – or whatever it’s called under the platform’s new regime – posted by Wings over Scotland earlier this week: a picture of a group of young SNP activists accompanied by a snide and frankly nasty caption.

The below-the-line comments revealed a shocking level of antipathy towards a generation that has generally welcomed the prospect of independence. If there is a reason why the cause of independence is served by attempting to drive them away I’m afraid I can’t grasp it.

Not only do I profoundly disagree with the views expressed in the post, but I simply cannot stand side by side with anyone who would feel such a post to be reasonable. I have no problem with robust debate and certainly no wish to outlaw stringent criticism of the government of the day whether I agree with it or not. But I cannot believe there is a place for cruel criticism of the way a person looks or their age.

Social media is drowning under a wave of negativity from Wings and others that serves no purpose other than to debilitate a debate that should enrich and energise those taking part.

It certainly moves the campaign for independence forward by not an inch.

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There is barely anything independence-related that escapes the withering eyes of Wings and co. The SNP are derided for a long list of “crimes” ranging from failing to advance the case for independence to actively undermining it because elected members have become too comfortable with the status quo.

Humza Yousaf has barely settled into his role as First Minister before being dismissed as ineffectual. The continuing investigation into the SNP finances has been seized on as proof of wrongdoing without a shred of evidence being presented.

Supporters of gender reform have been labelled “woke”, apparently the worst criticism opponents can dream up. Gay politicians have been criticised and mocked in terms that I’ve found repugnant.

Tomorrow’s rally and march have come under fire too. Those who previously criticised senior SNP figures for not taking part in marches have now criticised the presence of Yousaf and Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn among the speakers as somehow too establishment.

AND there was more evidence of a generation gap when typecast rally hosts were announced. Kelly Given and Alistair Heather were – shock horror – both under 30. You could be forgiven for thinking their suggestion they represented a “changing of the guard” was tantamount to supporting euthanasia given the nature of some of the comments on social media.

The National: Alistair Heather and Kelly Given are set to host Saturday's independence rally in EdinburghAlistair Heather and Kelly Given are set to host Saturday's independence rally in Edinburgh (Image: NQ)

Wings argued that the young demographic was exactly the opposite of the one the Yes movement needed to target. The young, he said, were already on board – it was the older generation it needed to target.

Too much criticism of the young – and particularly the trans young – from sections of indy support reminds me of my parents’ aghast reaction at the length of Mick Jagger’s hair and their apoplectic comments at the sight of David Bowie singing Starman on Top of the Pops.

Anyone who believed that the gender fluidity embraced by Bowie, Marc Bolan and early Roxy Music in the early 1970s permanently changed public reaction must be sorely disappointed today.

I’m increasingly bewildered why so many of those who lived through those heady days of popular culture are so eager to revive the reactionary attitudes we believed were dead and buried.

The dispiriting tone of too many social media posts is particularly off-putting and alienating at a time when we really should be looking at what we could be doing to advance the urgent case for independence.

Impatience is driving a disillusionment with the SNP at the very time we should be preparing to inject new energy into the independence campaign. While it is true the SNP’s tactics have not yet won us independence, it remains the only political party capable of doing so. There is no evidence to suggest any other pro-indy party will supplant them in terms of popularity any time soon.

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Personally, I hold no truck with the idea the Yes side should field just one candidate per seat in the next General Election. I can foresee no circumstances in which another pro-independence party would have a better chance than the SNP of winning ANY Westminster seat next year.

Even its critics would admit that the SNP did everything in its power to advance the case for a second independence referendum, the “gold standard” for making such a decision. Westminster’s refusal to ignore the undeniable democratic demand and give the go-ahead in the way David Cameron did can be used against it.

Support for independence remains around 50%, sometimes slightly higher, sometimes slightly lower. Now is the time for new ideas, new energy and new tactics. We should surely be looking at ways of pushing that support up rather than sniping from the sidelines.

Our opponents are far from taking their feet off the gas. This very week brought evidence of how they will twist any evidence to serve their aim of undermining the Scottish government in the public eye.

Whether it’s by manipulating graphics to make the rise in deaths through alcohol seem much higher than it actually was. Or playing down the role of Westminster in keeping the Scottish economy flatlining. There is never any news which cannot be used by the politicians of the Union to diminish Scots’ faith in ourselves.

In 2014, we were told our oil had virtually run out and it would be madness to base the economy of an independent Scotland on those resources. Now our oil is apparently so valuable that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak intends to use it to drive the UK’s economic recovery.

In truth, “lies, damn lies and statistics’’ will always be used to either convince us that we are either too stupid to stand on our own feet or too successful as part of the union to even consider leaving it.

Just yesterday Labour peer George Foulkes vowed to intensify his so-called campaign to stop the Scottish Government spending money on the key plank of its manifesto which propelled it into power.

Now more than ever we need positive moves to counter our opponents’ tricks. We need public shows of support and smart ideas to make a renewed case for independence. Endless moans about so-called failings can only have the opposite effect, and who needs that?