Painted on

Of course, the SNP's manifesto hasn't been published. It may not even have been written yet. But there are abundant clues as to its probable content in various statements from Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Russell and others. We also now have the draft Referendum Bill, which provides conclusive evidence of the SNP leadership's thinking on the constitutional issue.

Necessary! But not sufficient!

Yes activists - including SNP members - didn't remove Nicola Sturgeon from her role as the de facto leader of the independence movement. She never showed any sign of wanting that role other than for the purposes of helping win elections. She never gave the slightest indication of wanting to pursue Scotland's cause. She allowed that cause to languish for nearly seven years giving rise to the frustration among Yes activists which is now becoming anger.

Facing reality

In terms of the claim that we don't need the SNP It need only be pointed out that there simply is no other credible candidate for the role of political arm of the independence movement. And not the remotest possibility of developing an alternative before the 'last chance' of the Holyrood election. The reality of real world politics is that we are stuck with the SNP whether we like it or not and regardless of whether the party is fit for our purpose.

Historic events

My hope is that Now Scotland will use the opportunity of its 6 March assembly to debate and vote on resolutions relating to the constitutional issue. I think it would do Scotland a great service if it were organised as a kind of mock party conference. I would like to see it staging the debates that should be taking place at the SNP's conference.

A better plan

My fear is that the National Assembly will end up being a stage-managed affair in which the SNP leadership's approach to the constitutional issue - labeled Plan A - is set against the so-called Plan B proposed by Angus Brendan MacNeil MP and Councillor Chris McEleny, to the exclusion of any other arguments.

Second best

Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances. We absolutely must proceed on the basis that restoring Scotland's independence is a matter of the utmost urgency; and that the coming election is our last chance to do it. We cannot afford to get it wrong. We cannot afford to settle for second best.

The limits of oppression

One of democracy's imperfections is its fragility combined with its appearance of robustness and resilience. Those whose direct personal experience is confined to a broadly democratic society do not easily imagine anything other. The corollary being a tendency to take democracy for granted. If only they realised how tenuous is our grip on the freedoms we assume to be ours by dint of nature, they would fear for those freedoms.