NEXT week, it will be  a year since Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignation as first minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP.

Let me be crystal clear. I don’t believe in kicking people when they are down, and I thought Alister Jack’s nasty comments at the Covid inquiry were mean, petty and beneath the dignity of a government minister.

So, much as it is well known that Nicola and I had our differences and did not get on, this column is not really about her.  It’s about the future. The past is the past. We need to look at what the SNP need to do now for the good of the party and the independence movement. And in so far as we look back at all it should be to learn from our mistakes.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Humane refugee policy is needed after Rwanda Bill

On Monday, The National  carried an insightful piece from  my colleague Douglas Chapman MP drawing a comparison between the problems faced by the  self-determination movements in Scotland and Catalonia.

His article referenced a talk by Clara Ponsati on the failings of the Catalan nationalist leadership who, she said, in the aftermath of the 2017 referendum lacked strategy  and conviction.

When I heard her deliver this  talk in Parliament, I was blown away by the parallels with the strategic failures of the SNP leadership in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, and the failure to capitalise on the opportunities which arose after the Brexit vote shook the UK political landscape. 

One of the main reasons for those strategic failures was the refusal to listen to advice from anyone outwith a very tight circle or to allow proper debate and discussion about the options available to  the party.  Some of that same insularity and decision-making by a very small group has been highlighted during the Covid inquiry.

The result of this is that the history of the SNP since the Brexit referendum has been a history of missed opportunities and a failure in focus. If half the energy that has been put into identity politics and silencing dissent had been put into our independence strategy, then Scotland would probably be an independent country by now.

Anyone who doesn’t think we need some sober reflection is in denial. If the failure to make progress towards independence does not worry you, if the SNP’s slide in  the polls does not worry you, then surely the fact that the party is at the centre of three criminal investigations should do.  For there to be just one would be bad enough, that there are three is extraordinary.  

Then there is the independent review into WhatsApp messages retention policy and the investigation by the information commissioner into information retention policy. 

The National: File photo dated 04/06/15 of Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, who will chair the Scottish steel taskforce which aims to rescue the country's last two major steelworks, as they meet for the first time today. PRESS ASSOCIATION

And only yesterday Fergus Ewing (above) raised the issue of the crucial redactions to the Hamilton report on whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by failing to properly record meetings and phone calls with Alex Salmond. While  she was cleared by this report, large portions of it were redacted in a  way that its independent author found unacceptable.

Three of Scotland’s most senior judges recently ruled that ministers had tried to construct a “technical barrier” to “defeat the objective of open and transparent government.” And yet the public still don’t know what is underneath the acres of black marker applied to the report and whose activities are being protected from ever reaching cleansing sunlight. 

In my opinion it would be in the interests of the party and the independence movement for the current leadership of the SNP  to put a bit of clear blue water between themselves and the  previous leadership.

You will note that I have used the plural. This problem clearly goes beyond Sturgeon and relates to a style of governing that held power tightly in a small clique in which unelected and unaccountable advisors were more influential than elected politicians.

When I heard the evidence about Kate Forbes being shut out of “Gold Command”, I was reminded of the way that Ian Blackford ran the Westminster group, relying on a “boys club” (which ultimately turned on him) and cutting people like myself and Philippa Whitford out of any discussions about strategy during the Brexit crisis despite  our proven track records of expertise in this area, our membership of the relevant parliamentary committees and our valuable cross-party contacts.

When I heard about Humza being chewed out at Cabinet for daring to show initiative, I was reminded of the treatment meted out to members elected to NEC on a manifesto to improve the governance and transparency of the party, when all they were doing was asking the very questions they were elected to ask.

I was also reminded of how Blackford would turn on anyone in the Westminster group who dared to challenge his slavish adherence to the party line from Edinburgh and to suggest we needed to do more than simply repeat the mantra that “Scotland will not be taken out of the EU against our will.”

READ MORE: We may not need indyref2 - Westminster is imploding by itself

This style of leadership needs to be a thing of the past. We need a more collegiate approach. We need to be open to ideas. And we need to make sure that unelected advisors with no hinterland beyond politics are never again allowed to rule the roost.

There is hope. The polls are holding up. Voters may be disillusioned with the SNP, but  there is very little enthusiasm for Labour.  People know that having SNP MPs at Westminster means Scotland’s voice will be heard in a way that doesn’t happen with Labour MPs. They also know that it takes SNP MPs to give voice to issues that matter to the people of Scotland, like for example, the need for a ceasefire in Gaza.

However, our candidates and activists face being hobbled on the doorsteps unless the party’s new leadership draws a line between the problems created on Nicola’s watch and the programme and vision of our party for the future.

Kate Forbes may have lost  the leadership election, just, but  no-one now can seriously think that she was wrong when she said that “continuity won’t cut it".