ELON Musk’s takeover of Twitter has sparked a slew of reports suggesting the terminal decline of the platform – which could have major implications for the indy debate going forward.

The platform has historically played a key role in connecting Yes groups and brought unofficial bloggers into the fold of the wider movement, becoming a key battleground for the constitutional debate in the process.

One of those people who has been at the forefront of how Twitter has been used in the indy debate is Ross Colquhoun, an SNP strategist who has been key to the party’s digital campaigning.

Speaking with The National, Colquhoun said the platform is a “vital channel for the Yes movement”, describing it as the world’s largest “online town hall” which has “given voice to many people from disenfranchised and minority groups that otherwise would not be heard”.

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He went on to say that the platform's power was particularly evident in the lead-up to the 2014 indyref campaign when the support for Yes roughly doubled in size.

He gave the example of the #YesBecause event which encouraged people to explain why they were voting Yes, with the hashtag trending across the globe and reaching more than 10,000,000 people worldwide with 101,238 tweets. Colquhoun said Twitter moments like this exposed the “unfettered reality” of the Yes movement.

It's this dynamism and instant feedback from different groups the platform offers that has made it so useful, according to Colquhoun.

He said: “You tend to find that the type of people that use Twitter come from all kinds of backgrounds and that's healthy because it means people who have power and influence can share key messages about independence and get real-time feedback."

And with a spate of reports suggesting the decline of the platform, Colquhoun accepts that there are “legitimate criticisms” around social media and its impact on the world but adds that we “should not underestimate the impact of losing Twitter”.

He continued: “It would mean less plurality of opinion in the media landscape and less disenfranchised and minority voices being heard. For the independence movement, this would mean one less open channel to get our positive message and vision out there.”

One figure known for his conspicuous presence on the site is Perth MP Pete Wishart.

Wishart appreciates that historically the platform helped challenge assumptions about what the Yes movement is about, saying it “helped us get from the lowly 20s to the 45% we eventually got to” – adding that it was a “revolution” for those who had not enjoyed favourable coverage in the mainstream press.

The National: Perth MP Pete WishartPerth MP Pete Wishart (Image: Colin Mearns)

However, Wishart is keen to stress that Twitter is “not the same place in 2022 as it was in 2013/2014” and now sees the platform as a “means to an end”.

He said: “There’s negativity, despondency and people who want to spread depression. There are lots of very strong opinions which are not that helpful and a lot of hateful activity. If you look at Yes Twitter just now, it’s a mess - a total and utter mess.

“There is no one voice that speaks together, it’s a place that you would venture very carefully just now. I’m not entirely sure that it’s too helpful as we look forward to the next referendum and winning the case for independence.”

Wishart went on to say that his Twitter experience was “no longer an enjoyable one” but that it was something he “had to do” because it is still a means to communicate to a large audience.

In the wake of Musk’s takeover, Wishart says that politicians are just "looking to see how it plays out” and noted there are “warning signs” over Musk's rhetoric on prioritising free speech.

He added: “If this is the end of Twitter then it’s a real shame because it’s been immensely positive for us in the past … but there won’t be all that many people shedding a whole load of tears that this is a platform probably in its terminal years.”

The perspective that a shift away from Twitter could be an opportunity rather than an all-out loss is shared by prominent figures in the grassroots of the Yes movement.

The National: A previous AUOB rallyA previous AUOB rally

The organiser of All Under One Banner, Neil MacKay, has been responsible for Yes marches across the country and believes that the movement needs to focus more on tangible action rather than online debate.

He said: “There are a lot of Yes supporters for whom their campaigning is Twitter, that’s where their efforts go. It’s important to remember that shouldn’t necessarily be the focus of our energies – we need to get mobilised in the physical world, in the real world.

He added: “If we could take even just a tenth of our energy spent online and get it into the independence campaign on the streets, that would be phenomenal.”