THE first step to winning is to know what we want.

For us, it is ­independence. Scotland should have the same sovereignty now ­enjoyed by Canada, Australia, ­Ireland, and other countries which were once part of the British Empire.

Yet, as this column has long argued, “mere independence” is not enough. Sudan achieved independence from the British Empire, but its national development has been marred by a ­succession of dictatorships, coups and civil wars.

Burma (Myanmar) is also independent, and has suffered the same sorry story.

The independence that counts is that of a stable, liberal-democratic, constitutional, Scottish state. The whole point of ­independence is that Scotland is ill served by the British state, and will be better governed by a Scottish state.

Compared with the British state that it ­replaces, the new Scottish state must ­therefore be more democratic, more ­responsive to ­public needs, less hidebound and less ­corrupt, and ­better able to serve the common good of the ­people of Scotland, the constitutional foundations of the Scottish state – how rights are protected, how democracy works, how ­governing institutions are designed – are ­integral to the case for independence.

Independence and constitutional democracy rest upon the same foundation: Sovereignty of the people. This principle has been claimed and asserted many times in Scottish history, but has yet to be given practical effect in the form of a proper written constitution.

The second step to winning is to know what we are up against

The situation has ­completely changed since 2014. Then, thanks to the ­Edinburgh Agreement, we had a clear, agreed, lawful referendum, the results of which would be accepted: We had an open door to independence, even if 55% were too fearty to walk through it. Now, with strident British nationalism against us, we face a locked door. It is no longer possible to walk through. We have to batter it down.

Thus the nature of the independence ­campaign we need now bears little resemblance to that run in 2014. In fact, it is no longer a campaign, it is a struggle. As well as persuading Scottish voters, we must also outflank a regime which, by denying a referendum, has declared itself to be the foe of Scottish democracy. This is much more difficult task.

We shall have to be more thorough. On ­every technical issue – pensions, currency, the ­military, embassies and consulates, passports, driving licences, relations with the European Union – we need a comprehensive and robust transition plan from devolution to statehood.

At the same time, we must be much bolder. We can no longer afford Sturgeon’s “slowly, gradually, cautiously” approach. In eight years, despite the enormity of a Brexit imposed upon us without our consent, that approach resulted only in a small incremental increase in support for independence.

We need to go on the offensive. For too long, the Union has been accepted as the status quo, and independence has had to justify itself. But independence is normal. Being in the UK is too risky, too dangerous, too uncertain, and too bleak. We need to inject a sense of urgency. We have to get out. Now. Run, don’t walk.

Above all, we can no longer go cap-in-hand asking nicely for a Section 30 order.

If we want to make the moral claim to Scottish popular ­sovereignty into a constitutional reality, we have to act as if it were already real. Instead of asking for permission, we need to take the ­initiative into our own hands.

So what is the solution?

There is only one: An electoral alliance of pro-independence parties, agreeing to put up one joint candidate per constituency, under a “United for Independence” banner, at the next Westminster election.

The SNP’s stock has been damaged by recent scandals. Our opponents will try to use this to undermine independence. We must not let them. A United for Independence alliance keeps the focus on the one issue at stake.

If United for Independence wins a majority of the seats, we claim that as a mandate for independence – as good a mandate as a referendum.

The United for Independence MPs then meet, together with such members of the ­Scottish ­Parliament as choose to join them, as a ­Constituent Assembly.

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They draft, in accordance with certain baselines agreed in advance, a constitution that meets the aspirations of Scotland. Then we have a mandate, and we have a constitution ready to go on the appointed day.

That does not mean UDI. That would be too costly, in terms of international recognition and the European integration we need to reignite our economy. It would scare the timid, who have to be brought gently along.

It does, however, mean taking the initiative pushing the British state to the point at which accepting Scotland’s right to independence – almost as a fait accompli – ­becomes the only tenable course of action. They must accept it, however reluctantly, in the end.

Another star guest joins us on the TNT show. Tune in at 7pm on Wednesday on IndyLive