GIVEN the political chaos impacting the leading pro-Yes political party at the moment, the question I seem to be getting asked the most is: “How on earth do we get to Yes from here?”

Humza Yousaf may have inherited a major headache along with the SNP leadership but if he sorts out the SNP’s governance issues, re-constitutes an empowered NEC, and gets real on independence-related policy creation, then he will be in a stronger position to deliver independence than Nicola Sturgeon had been since her disastrous decision to play down the independence message in the face of the 2017 snap General Election.

It’s fair to say that SNP support has fallen – not a lot under the circumstances, but still a fair amount – but independence support still seems hard-wired to around 48%. This shows a healthy degree of separation between SNP and independence support that must be depressing for some mainstream Unionist media commentators.

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So why does the road to independence go through Westminster? Well, we simply cannot ignore the political reality. You may like the idea of an early Holyrood election, but the SNP are in no fit state to win one.

Tactically, there are a plethora of reasons to reject the Holyrood election route – here are just a few.

Firstly, although it’s technically possible (through rewriting Holyrood standing orders), there is no easy way to collapse the Scottish Government and cause an election. It’s messy and there are mechanisms at Westminster’s disposal that they can use to block it.

Secondly, the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood was not competent on the constitution and therefore any Holyrood mandate would have no more legal weight than previous Holyrood referendum mandates that were already ignored.

The National: A Scottish independence supporter outside the UK Supreme Court in London, following the decision by Supreme Court judges that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold a second independence referendum. Picture date: Wednesday November 23,

Thirdly, we are in the middle of a cost of living and NHS crisis. A summer of potential strike action looms and collapsing the Scottish Parliament would not just be an abdication of responsibility – it would be political suicide.

Fourthly, Holyrood has an electoral system designed to stop majorities and Westminster has one designed to create majorities – if the future of your nation depends on delivering a majority, which electoral system would you choose?

Fifthly, it’s easier to get people to vote SNP tactically in a Westminster election because Holyrood is for governing Scotland (so the SNP can’t run a single-issue campaign), and Westminster is for opposing the UK Government. Westminster is the protest-vote parliament – it works for single-issue mandates and the SNP can also run on the UK Government’s record.

And finally, Labour are going to win the next General Election (probably October). Though this may seem like a good thing, the Tories have too much money to campaign with, England has moved too far to the right, and it results in New Labour mark two looking about as appealing as a wet blanket on a cold night. Labour will win but it won’t be a huge majority – if the SNP want to have any hope of delivering independence any time soon, they need to stop that incoming Labour juggernaut at the Border. The only way to do that is to run on a full independence mandate.

The National: Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer during a tour of production facilities of the fuel cell manufacturer, Ceres Power, in Surrey. Picture date: Monday March 13, 2023..

Roughly one in three Labour voters in Scotland support independence. If the General Election is about independence, they will vote SNP but if it’s not, then why wouldn’t they vote Labour?

Current polls are useless and will remain so till the SNP sort themselves out. However, a 2016-person poll Believe in Scotland conducted in February 2023 shows that if the SNP do not seek independence at the General Election, then Labour may take between 10 and a dozen SNP seats. Though indy won’t be as dead as the Unionist press will crow, it will be severely wounded for sure.

However, if the SNP call for an independence mandate then Labour may steal one or two seats – but an SNP majority of votes and seats would be within reach.

By default, the Supreme Court has ruled that Westminster is competent on the constitution. Therefore, a majority in a General Election gained on an independence mandate carries potential legal weight and when it is inevitably challenged, Unionist MPs may regret their unanimous confirmation of the Claim of Right.

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It’s also true that 16 and 17-year-olds and EU citizens won’t be allowed to vote in the General Election. However, our poll found Yes at 48% even when young people and Europeans were removed. The original poll rounded up to 48% rather than down, so losing that cohort costs less than 1%. All you need is a video camera and some young people or settled EU citizens claiming their vote has been stolen and you gain many more votes than you lose.

Most importantly, if it’s a single-issue election then the SNP must get the mandate right. It’s not about a Section 30 – Westminster shot that horse. It’s not about beginning negotiations – as Westminster can just refuse. And it’s certainly not about declaring immediate independence – as that does not and will not garner majority support any time soon.

Instead, the SNP should run the mandate on the idea that if they gain a majority of seats and votes, they will start the process of Scotland becoming an independent nation. That mandate would prove that independence is the settled will of the Scottish people – and it signals a roadmap to delivering it.

That mandate allows for the offer of negotiations. If refused, the Scottish Government also has a mandate to join with civic Scotland create a new Constitutional Congress to plan for independence and also to reach out to the international community to seek support for the process. This will help begin early negotiations on entry to the EU, NATO, the UN, etc.

The SNP could then withdraw their Westminster MPs for a week each month to take the Congress on a tour around Scotland. They can pass resolutions demonstrating how much better an indy Scotland will be. Then, when Holyrood tries to pass those bills and is blocked by Westminster, the negative impacts and cost of remaining in the UK will become crystal clear to everyone and all the preparations for independence will have been completed. Hundreds of thousands will then willingly take to the streets, and independence will be an irresistible force.

Because the more Westminster says no to what Scotland wants, the more the Scottish people will shout Yes in reply.

We need an independence mandate at the next General Election to change the power balance and we go from there. It’s not a contentious plan. After all, it’s pretty similar to how devolution was delivered.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the chief executive of Business for Scotland and the founder of the grassroots independence campaign Believe in Scotland