ODDLY, you might think, the First Minister of Scotland and the former First Minister of Scotland appeared briefly on the same page over the last week or so.

In his speech to the Alba conference, its leader, former First Minister Alex ­Salmond, re-iterated the urgency of getting the ­independence campaign firmly back on the road.

Meanwhile on the Cultural Coven ­podcast, the current FM was ­suggesting that the greatest threat to Scotland’s ­potential was the nation failing to become independent; failing to get out from under the influence of Westminster.

So far, so unremarkable. However, as we all know, there is rather more which ­divides those two parties than unites them; a highly unfortunate state of affairs given that both claim to be utterly committed to the indy cause.

For those of us similarly “utterly ­committed”, yet detached from either party, this is a thoroughly dispiriting state of affairs. Not least in a landscape which is already overpopulated by politicians and commentators whose principal ­raison d’etre these days seems to be to attack ­independence and all its works.

With all the blood which has flowed ­under the bridge during the sundry ­courtroom and committee battles, it’s not a popular view to suggest that it’s long past time the claymores were put back in the attic. Yet without the wholehearted ­enthusiasm of the Yes movement in all its many guises, the mountain top of independence may yet prove an impossibly steep climb.

When you look at the impoverished ­quality of the Westminster cabinet, I would still argue that Scotland has had the good fortune to have attracted two ­extraordinary leaders in recent years. Or to observe

that we have also had the ill fortune to have a ringside seat at one of the most ­spectacular of political fallings out of that duopoly.

In his swashbuckling pomp, Salmond was a charismatic speaker who could charm the voters into the booths. And also, let it be said, a man whose sometimes overweening confidence repelled those who didn’t share his vision.

It took a wily operator to get a British Prime Minister to agree to a referendum on Scottish independence under ground rules which guaranteed its legitimacy. Those who would airbrush him out of indy ­history would do well to remember that.

As for his very public downfall, it’s ­difficult to come to a fully informed ­verdict. Like most journalists, I know the cast list involved, and I’ve read the many and varied accounts of the trial, the ­committee hearings and the aftermath.

None of which persuades me that there was a formal conspiracy to bring him down, nor that the former first minister could be seriously regarded as a serial sexual predator. Other views are all too readily available. And also qualify as ­conjecture.

His deputy and successor brought ­different qualities to the table. A woman good at politics in a very different way. A woman who revelled in the detail of it all which made and continues to make her such a startling contrast to the self-obsessed shambles currently posing as a Prime Minister.

The book written by two political journalists which chronicles the breakup of one of the longest-lasting political combinations and friendships makes the point that even at the moment when she was digesting the court’s full acquittal of ­Salmond, she was capable of switching into immediate anti-Covid battle mode.

In the months and years which ­followed, her abilities as a ­communicator came to the fore in her daily updates, though you suspect some of the other ­spokespeople flanking her onstage ­sometimes felt ­surplus to her requirements.

It rather plays into the suspicion that she is not particularly inclined to ­delegation, or to shed control of the ­minutiae of ­policies across the board.

Undoubtedly though, it was the ­pandemic which laid the groundwork for the frustration and hostility which a­nimates Alba, some of whose members managed to convince themselves that it was not her legendary caution which ­delayed another referendum campaign, but a lack of enthusiasm for the core cause.

For what it’s worth I don’t buy that theory for a second. And given the ­comprehensive and relentless hostility of most of the media coverage, I don’t doubt that she is wary of saying anything at all which gives aid and comfort to the ­Unionists.

Where I share the frustration of the wider Yes movement is the lack of urgency in keeping the indy customers satisfied; in convincing people that a new campaign is underway in any serious form.

A sure-fire way to lose activists is to ­deploy every new domestic or world event as a reason for delay. As my Yorkshire friends say: “There’s aye summat, and if it’s not summat, it’s summat else.”

Personally, I don’t believe we needed to wait for the Brexit bourach to play out, before making a move back then. Not least given the enthusiasm for Remain in the Scottish polling, the highly predictable threat to so much of the Scottish economy, and the manner in which we were excluded from any part of the negotiating machinery.

However that ship has now sailed and as the First Minister has just observed in the podcast, the greatest threat to our future is not taking control of it. Many people in her party will tell you that it’s too risky. That voters will be irritated by a campaign launched in the middle of a cost of living crisis. That the last thing they want is more uncertainty.

The answer to which is surely that this particular cost-of-living crisis can only be resolved by getting out of ­Westminster’s malign clutches. Energy-rich Scotland is being held in a fatal embrace. Migrant welcoming Scotland is being tarred with a very brutal Home Office brush. ­Welfare conscious Scotland is ­impotently ­watching the poor get poorer with ­restricted abilities to help.

The other mantra offered up by the ­reluctant warriors is that we can’t risk ­losing a bid for independence. That it could set the cause back forever and a day. To which I’d respond that there is nothing very much to love about our ­current condition.

Plus “don’t let’s fight for our independence in case we lose” doesn’t quite qualify as a stirring battle cry to the electorate. We are mired at a spot in the polling which seems to me to serve as a much more optimistic springboard than we had the last time around.

It's generally agreed on all sides that there is probably a minority of switherers left who could be wooed into either camp. While the other side has long been out a-wooing, we seem to have been overly reluctant suitors.

On every Unionist side there are ­people out day and daily with blogs, ­media ­attacks, selling yet more promises of jam tomorrow, whilst we in the Yes camp seem nervous about raising our voice.

Worse still, we’re losing good people who may not have thrown in the towel ­because of this inactivity, but who are ­certainly no longer up for joining the ­debate, chapping on doors, engaging with the undecided.

The Scottish Government is losing ­others by not seeming to put ­independence front and centre; perceived as ­becoming ­preoccupied by internal navel-gazing and issues unlikely to be animating the ­electorate at large.

The Scottish Government suffers both from the weariness of long service and the lack of an opposition with sufficient depth of talent.

Yet it’s not “wheesht for Indy” to ­observe that so long as people from any quarter indulge in vitriolic attacks on those with whom they allegedly share the end goal, that goal will never get nearer.

There are many lessons to be learned from political encounters in the past.

An immutable one is that divided ­causes are lost causes.