THE NATIONAL’s front page splash last week about Nicola Sturgeon holding a summit with the leaders of the Scottish Independence Campaign was an important development. A few of us have wondered why this hasn’t happened long before now. The unexpected loss of 21 seats at a General Election tends to sharpen your focus; you become a little less choosy about who you seek advice from.

This news was followed up a few days later by a splash in The National’s sister title, The Sunday Herald, suggesting that the SNP are seeking to adopt a more radical and left-wing agenda to combat the emergence of an authentic agenda within the UK Labour Party (even though the branch office in Scotland does not yet appear to have been appraised of this development). It won’t have escaped many that the two news stories are not unconnected.

The SNP, who have been the main drivers of the independence campaign, now have less than four years to save the dream for our generation and probably for our children’s. The party’s dismal General Election campaign means that the second independence referendum will not now occur before the next Holyrood election. Anything less than the return of a majority of Yes-supporting MSPs takes the prospect of another referendum off the table for a long time.

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Effectively then, the start of the second campaign for independence starts now in earnest. And if that campaign is going to be ultimately successful then the Independence Convention must be involved. If I had my way they would be at the centre of the action directing strategy.

The immediate response to The National’s story tells us a lot about what has happened to the independence movement in the course of the last two years. Following the return of 56 SNP MPs at Westminster in 2015 even Conservative commentators accepted that Scottish independence was now inevitable. The same people have spent the summer rejoicing that the Union has been saved from the Nationalist threat. The UK may be heading for an economic apocalypse over the Tories chaotic approach to Brexit but, hey; who cares: the sweaties have finally been put in their place.

Nothing of the sort has happened, of course. Ruth Davidson played the West of Scotland tribal card in working class communities to take votes from Scottish Labour whose late conversion to the cause of ultra-Unionism simply didn’t look right. That Scottish Labour were saved from complete oblivion was only thanks to the Corbyn effect, just a few months after Scottish Labour had sent threatening letters to MSPs who backed him in his leadership campaign. Once the constitutional issue is settled once and for all the Scottish Tories will return to their traditional role in Scotland of hauding the jaickets.

Curiously, the SNP Government’s spin machine, the same one that had malfunctioned so badly during the General Election campaign, swung into action when they discovered that The National was planning to run with the story about their summit with the Independence convention. “We are part of the convention so there’s regular contact,” was all they would say.

Well, actually; there have been no meetings of any import between the SNP and the wider Yes movement. The arrogance of the party since the rise of the 56, you see, has deluded them into thinking that they don’t need to treat with outside agencies, especially those who may possess people who do not confess to the one true faith. They are above all that. And besides, they can’t seem to handle the prospect of Ruth Davidson responding to any such meetings with cries of “No nasty and divisive referendums”, which is precisely how the Scottish Tories did respond to The National’s story. The SNP, it seems, are far more comfortable leaking stories to Unionist titles as little bribes to ensure balanced coverage. It’s how a party in opposition functions; not the party of government in Scotland for the last 10 years.

The SNP really needs to get a grip and to remind itself of three things: they are still the ones who ought to be calling the shots; they should not be allowing Ruth Davidson to dictate when and where they can use the word ‘independence’ and they should know who their friends are, even if they are speaking uncomfortable truths to them.

I don’t know what the leaders of the Scottish Independence Convention have been doing recently. I do know they should have been demanding a meeting with the SNP long before now. When they do eventually have their summit with Nicola Sturgeon and her retinue of advisers I hope they don’t spend too much time being deferential. Instead, this is what they ought to be telling the First Minister.

1. Without the Convention, the independence campaign is a non-starter.

2. The SNP have to hand over their funds and then take a back seat.

3. Bring back Kevin Pringle from his sabbatical helping Sir Angus Grossart play with his train set.

4. No more talk of being members of the single market; it has to be full membership.

5. Don’t apologise for getting down and dirty. The Unionist establishment has been deploying dirty tactics for centuries with great success.

6. Any anyway, no one will give you any credit for being all nice and cuddly.

7. Start taking a few more risks. You’ve spent the last three years talking big and doing nothing.

8. Let’s have a serious and radical agenda backed up by action; not ineffectual window-dressing such as gender neutral toilets in schools; no fags for lags in Scottish jails and tail docking.

9. For the first time in your existence do something meaningful to address the cancer of unearned privilege in Scottish society.

10. You could start with low-hanging fruit such as ending the charitable status of fee-paying schools.

11. For too many of your advisers independence has become a lucrative career option and not a cause. Get rid of them.

12. Only three terms should dominate your strategy: Brexit; Austerity and the DUP.

Finally, read Michael Fry in yesterday’s National. Fry’s one of the cuddly ones but he thinks that inequality isn’t a bad thing and fairness is a concept for the fairies. This is what you’re up against.