DURING the course of a conversation I had with a journalist this week, it was suggested to me that the members of a particular political party were, as the journalist put it, a little eccentric.

I laughed in response – not because I thought that this suggestion about the party in question was true, but because the same might be said of the members of any political party in the UK right now.

Membership of a political party is a minority activity in the 21st century. Jeremy Corbyn did his best to change that, with some success. So, too, did Nicola Sturgeon for a while.

Keir Starmer has done his utmost to reverse that trend.

There are, now, maybe only around 800,000 in the UK as a whole who are members of political parties. That means that less than one or two per cent of the UK population might be politically engaged now, having allowed for the existence of children.

There are reasons for this. The first, most glaringly obvious one, is that there is almost no advantage to being involved in a political party now.

The chance of having any influence over what any party does as an ordinary member, particularly in the case of the three largest parties represented at Westminster until the recent General Election was called, is very low.

The leadership of all three of those parties have been unanimous in their approach to the decisions made by their party conferences, and have ignored them whenever it suits them to do so. The SNP is, of course, included.

Secondly, particularly in England, there is little reason for anyone of conviction to support our leading political parties.

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The conviction of the Tories is so decidedly unattractive that I suspect it takes a particular kind of person with a decidedly thick skin to want to join. In the case of Labour, its traditional support has been alienated by its leadership. Is there anything identifiably liberal about the LibDems?

And, when the SNP’s leadership persistently ignores its members’ demand that it create a plan for independence with an immediate Scottish currency, what proposition has it got to offer those members?

Third, to be a party member requires that a person be willing to give up much of their own political autonomy to defend the policies of the party that they have joined. Why would any politically aware person be willing to do that when they get little or no say over that policy?

Fourth, given that politicians, at least at a UK level, seem to talk about political choices that almost never seem to relate to the real lives of people, why get involved in this alien world?

Delegates pictured at the SNP's annual conference in 2023 

If you think all that seems depressing, I would respond by suggesting that this reflects the opinions I am hearing from all over the UK, including Scotland. I struggle to find people who want to engage with the process of politics, and most especially during an election campaign, that worries me.

I have three questions to ask in that case.

First, can democracy survive this indifference?

Second, are we inevitably heading for more extreme politics as a result of that indifference, as those from the far-right seek to fill the vacuum that has been created by political indifference?

Third, how can the independence cause cut through this political indifference when the demand for Scotland to be a country in its own right is so profoundly political?

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I do not know the answers to these questions, but that they can reasonably be asked does in itself worry me. Very obviously, in a Scottish context the last question is particularly important.

The current election campaign can, from almost all parties’ perspectives be described as dull, uninspiring, lifeless and alienating. The prospect of a Labour government with a massive majority is troubling when that party appears to be entirely devoid of ambition.

So, in that case the question to ask, even now, is what happens next? Surely, we cannot go on like this?

How, then, can politics change so that being involved in it ceases to be an extraordinary activity only undertaken by those who feel willing to be ostracised by society for doing so? How can it become, instead, something with which people wish to be engaged?

That debate needs to start on July 5, because the one thing that is certain in this election is that whoever is in Downing Street on that date will not have the best interests of Scotland at heart, or anywhere near the top of their action plans.