TWO questions have recently been put by a number of your correspondents and contributors that are intimately related. Why, when the SNP have troubles, are Labour still second best in the opinion polls? And why are the SNP still in pole position with all the difficulties and bad headlines?

The answer to the first question is simple. Labour are a Blairite Unionist party. Until they move away from Blairite politics back to something resembling a mass party of the working class, and until they embrace independence, not enough Scots will ever vote for them to make them the force they once were again.

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However, the second question is the more interesting one. The answer to that is also obvious surely, but worth restating, because in an honest appraisal of that question lies the real strategic answer to that which motivates all Yes supporters – how, concretely, can independence be won?

Most recent polls show the SNP at about 38%, with Labour somewhere in the mid-twenties. This is down for the SNP since their high watermark of 2015, and even on polls of a few years back. It would be enough for the SNP, as Scotland’s largest perceived indy party, to win a majority of seats, though perhaps fewer seats than some are suggesting because of Unionists voting for the candidate most likely to beat the SNP in certain areas.

Yet support for independence is now regularly polling 8-12% points above what the SNP polls on its own – usually either just short of the 50% mark or just over it, when don’t-knows are excluded. It is clear that while almost every independence supporter voted for the SNP back in 2015, there is now a statistically and electorally significant layer of independence voters whose support for indy is not diminished, but who are no longer attracted to vote SNP.

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The Salmond stitch-up, front-loading EU membership into the SNP’s independence “offer”, procurement and infrastructure problems such as the ferries and the A9, gender ideology, and the gap between service delivery in reality and what is proclaimed to be the case by machine politicians – in the NHS, education and elsewhere – have all taken their toll.

However, because of loyalty to the idea of independence and the SNP’s long history as the major party of independence, many voters who want independence are still sticking with them for now, though they may not be happy with this or that policy position or particularly inspired by a lacklustre leadership.

The biggest problem arises with the current position being promulgated by that leadership: that winning a majority of seats at the next General Election alone would be or could be a mandate for independence. The SNP could win a majority of seats with just 38% of votes cast. No-one, absolutely no-one, outside the tone-deaf SNP leadership considers 38% of the vote to be a mandate for independence. It’s a road to nowhere that leaves the Blairite and Tory Westminster politicians chortling up their collective sleeve.

If a proper referendum continues to be blocked, and a Westminster or Holyrood General Election is to be used to secure an undeniable mandate, then that mandate has to win a majority of the popular vote for pro-independence parties as well as a majority of seats.

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That’s where the Scotland United for Independence idea comes into its own (I’ve previously referred to this as the Max the Yes concept in your letters pages). A single pro-independence candidate in each constituency for the General Election, negotiated and agreed by all the independence parties (SNP, Greens, Alba, SSP, ISP etc), to stand purely on the issue of independence, and under a Scotland United for Independence ticket, would mobilise ALL available pro-indy votes and could win both a big majority of seats and more than 50% of the popular vote.

Divisive issues, such as the EU, gender ideology and juryless trials, would be set aside in order to maximise every percentage point of independence unity. Normal party politics could resume ONCE independence has been secured, and major issues (such as the EU, or monarchy vs republic) could be put to the free and newly independent sovereign Scottish people in referenda at that time.

We would all need to set aside party tribalism in the meantime, of course. The SNP would remain the biggest independence party and it would be SNP members contesting the majority of seats under a Scotland United ticket, with a minority of seats being contested by Alba, Green members, prominent Yes activists etc under the same Scotland United ticket.

But if we cannot set aside tribalism and party politics EVEN ONCE to put cause before party and secure independence for Scotland, perhaps we are not worthy of the free and independent nation we all desire to see?

Whatever your readers' party politics, we hope they will consider this option – the Max the Yes/Scotland United option – as a potentially checkmating move that would put the opponents of independence on the back foot and UNITE all pro-indy forces once again as we were united in 2014, only this time with the numbers to win.

Steve Arnott