SNP MSPs will sit in solemn conclave on Wednesday – attendance is compulsory – to judge one of their number for alleged indiscipline. I have no doubt this individual will be found guilty – this judicial process is merely a rubber stamp.

I doubt if the MSPs will wear the traditional black cap that denotes a death sentence. I suspect many of them will find this charade a trifle embarrassing. Possibly the malefactor will be given a light ticking off. Perhaps a few day’s “suspension” from the Holyrood group. Which rather poses the question: why bother?

The criminal mastermind involved is, of course, Fergus Ewing, the veteran member for Inverness and surrounds since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.

Fergus was there on that first day to hear his mother Winnie open the proceedings. He has been a fixture ever since, serving as a junior minister under Alex Salmond and then as Nicola Sturgeon’s rural economy secretary.

More importantly, Fergus Stewart Ewing has been a staunch supporter of Scottish independence since his university days. Many of his judges on Wednesday were not even born when he was chapping on doors arguing the case for Scottish self-determination.

Fergus was on hand to wish me a warm welcome when I quit Blairite Labour for the SNP back in 1996. He was alarmingly forthright even then. He told me that a lot of SNP members – not that there were a lot back then – disliked him because he was “right wing”. Which he was and is, though we need to qualify what that means.

Fergus is an old-fashioned Scottish lawyer like his mum. He has old-fashioned middle-class values. Not to put too fine a point on it, Fergus is a conservative with a small “c”. That means he reveres Scottish institutions and the Scottish way of life, by the way, not that he is a Tory populist monster working implicitly for the City of London. There’s a big difference.

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Fergus and I have disagreed on many things over the years. I still think he was wrong to vote against same-sex marriage. But I’ve had arguments with Fergus in SNP meetings and still gone to the pub with him afterwards.

There is a reason for that. We are both committed to the same political goal – freeing the Scottish people from London rule and creating a democratic Scottish state dedicated to their welfare.

When you have an overriding political goal, you can afford tactical differences. Fergus Ewing and I will be on the opposite side of many economic and cultural debates after independence. He is for a small state, I am a socialist. But we are old enough and wise enough to understand that those differences are moot until we actually gain independence.

Alas, that understanding does not extend to many in the SNP Holyrood leadership. Increasingly since 2016, the SNP government has abandoned the project of trying to unite the majority of the nation around pragmatic, problem-solving measures that build confidence in Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs better than London.

Instead, we have shifted to government by headline focused on ill-thought-out wheezes that sound efficacious in theory but actually attack local Scottish interests in an unnecessary manner – especially small businesses. Or which run so far ahead of local public opinion as to isolate the SNP and thus threaten our ability to build a coalition for independence.

Fergus Ewing stands in the political dock because he has called out this dangerous loss of focus. In the Holyrood chamber, he famously and theatrically tore up a copy of the SNP government’s own consultation document on regulating fishing in inshore waters.

This proposal – in the crude, dictatorial way it was presented – had evoked the enmity of the entire Scottish fishing industry. What was a pro-indy government doing picking an unnecessary fight with a core national community at the moment we were trying to win support for a second referendum? Fergus was correct to be incandescent.

The consultation document was political grandstanding at best, and a deliberate provocation at worst. And of course, it has been scrapped, like so much else of the SNP government’s recent legislative programme.

The ostensible grounds for disciplining Fergus on Wednesday are that he voted for a Tory motion of no confidence in Lorna Slater (below), the Green Minister for “the Circular Economy”, over her mindbogglingly incompetent handling of the bottle return scheme. Note: I certainly don’t oppose measures to encourage recycling. I doubt if Fergus does.

The National: Lorna Slater spoke at the Edinburgh Yes rally

The point was the unnecessary speed, bureaucracy and cost to small businesses. Ms Slater has called the scheme back in for changes. But why not get it correct in the first place? That’s her job. That’s why she gets to ride in those ministerial limos.

The underlying problem here is that measure after measure promoted by the current SNP-Green parliamentary alliance has been perceived – whether correctly or not – as attacking the Scottish small business sector.

Fergus Ewing is the embodiment of that sector. His rebellions are not publicity-seeking stunts. His political career is past its zenith, which is why he has nothing to lose. Fergus is sticking up for small businesses, which is exactly what the SNP used to do.

The very fact Humza Yousaf has to talk about “resetting” the Scottish Government’s relationship with the business community should be ringing alarm bells inside the SNP. No country ever won its independence without mobilising its small business community in support. Rather than punishing Fergus, SNP MSPs might ponder why he is right and they are very wrong.

Once again it is necessary to remind the elected members of the SNP that they are not a typical, parliamentary party. They are a revolutionary insurgency which aims to break free of domination by London.

It was the purest accident that David Cameron agreed to the 2014 indy referendum and only then because he never for a second thought he would come close to losing it. Which explains why there will never be an indyref2. The route to independence will come only through an elected Scottish government commanding enough popular support in the country to impose self-determination despite the opposition of Westminster – as was the case in Ireland after the 1918 election.

Such a strategy demands a united, pro-independence front that transcends short-term ideological differences within the movement. Otherwise we will lose and go on losing forever.

Fergus Ewing is a serial rebel. But then so was the late, great Margo MacDonald. Margo was disciplined repeatedly by both Alex Salmond and John Swinney. She was expelled from the party in 2003 after deciding to stand as an independent – but only after being ranked far down the SNP regional list in a deliberate and cowardly bid to bump her from Holyrood.

The electors triumphantly returned Margo in her own right. The current SNP leadership might ponder that historical lesson.

Rather than ostracise Fergus Ewing and expel Angus Brendan MacNeil, the SNP needs to remember what it is for and who it represents. For demanding independence is an act of rebellion against the British state.

You can’t be a party of rebellion without at the same time being a party of rebels.