IT’S no secret that things have been somewhat challenging for the SNP of late.

The appointment of a new chief executive comes at a crucial juncture – and it seems Murray Foote might just be the solution to its problems. Though the renowned engineer of “The Vow” that undoubtedly cost us votes when it was splashed across the front page in the days leading up to the referendum might seem an odd choice to some, he is exactly the person to lead the party into its next chapter.

Foote represents an entire category of voters that are crucial to the next referendum – someone who was committed to the Union in 2014 but who, in the years since, has cemented their support for Scottish independence.

Whilst his support seems now set in stone as he takes on the top job at SNP HQ, many of those, like him, are still unsure about the prospect of an independent future.

READ MORE: Former Daily Record editor Murray Foote named new SNP chief executive

His personal experience of being on the opposite side of the fence, and as a professional time-served strategist, provides the kind of fresh vision that both the party is crying out for, and the undecideds don’t yet know they need.

He has a tough job on his hands. With some of the party’s top politicians hanging up their hats at the next election, a police investigation still looming, an obvious disconnect between key figureheads and an increasingly impatient membership that are hungrier than ever for movement on independence, it seems he has his work cut out for him.

The SNP has become a political machine like no other across the country, enjoying an utter electoral dominance and popularity almost unheard of in politics that even now, in the face of significant adversity, is not waning nearly as much as its opposition would hope. The jury remains out on whether that is testament to the genuine popularity of the SNP among the Scottish electorate, or just the sheer hopelessness of its opponents.

That being said, a changing-of-the-guard has been a long time coming for the party. Doing as we have always done and listening to those we have always listened to will not secure us a victory when the next opportunity to grasp our independence arises. And if the SNP want to continue to be at the forefront of that fight, a change in tack is necessary. Despite so much success, and some movement towards support for independence, support hasn’t increased nearly as much as an avid supporter like me might have expected.

Despite years of abysmal leadership in Westminster – a mishandled pandemic, a cost of living crisis strangling communities, a disastrous Brexit we didn’t vote for and successive Tory prime ministers that Scotland had no say in electing – we still seem to be teetering on the prospect that we could actually lose it for a second time. When we should be storming the polls.

READ MOREWho is Murray Foote?

They’ve handed us victory on a plate just by demonstrating what the UK does best – failing Scotland and its people – but we have not done nearly enough to make the most of that opportunity. Though some of this can be accounted for by the fact that instability naturally drives people to crave stability and cling to whatever representation of that they can find (even a sinking union of nations) – it is an indictment of our campaign and leadership of late. We should be winning this thing by a country mile, not anxiously flip-flopping between both sides of that 50% point.

As a movement, we haven’t been the most receptive to the concerns of the other side in years gone by. Understandably, the loss of the referendum was sore, and there was such a sense of betrayal and dishonesty that naturally the two sides struggled to find common ground in the aftermath. But nine years on, the case for our independence more obvious than ever before, we have got to move forward from that loss. Taking the lessons with us, as well as those we failed to convince.

At a time when Labour remain committed to their vicious dislike of the SNP – a tunnel-visioned perspective that has seen them jump excitedly into bed with the Tories in recent years – the independence movement is splintering into different directions, the need for bridge-building and a blurring of harsh political divide is required.

There is independence support to be found across the political landscape, even among the most Unionist of parties and we need to reach them if we want to win. Which is why Murray Foote is the right choice for the job.

Between an impressive start to Humza Yousaf’s premiership, and a new leadership team at SNP HQ there are exciting days ahead for the party. And for independence, as we move further into a space where independence becomes less about the SNP and its leaders, and more about what it actually means and could look like for the people of Scotland.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf ‘delighted’ to have Murray Foote as SNP chief executive

The party has an opportunity now to reinvigorate its support – beginning with a shake up of its policy base at its upcoming conference in Aberdeen.

Independence, at its core, is about Scotland having the best possible chance at being a fairer and more prosperous nation. It’s about ensuring that the people who live here are empowered to influence the governance of their own country.

And while it’s not about any one party or leader, the SNP have been the focal point of independence for too long. The hyper-scrutiny of its leadership team has detracted from the message itself. And its position as front-and-centre of independence has proven problematic for changing minds on the constitutional question.

The independence movement needs to re-focus on presenting an unshakeable and hopeful vision to the people of Scotland. That vision looks different for some of us – same side of the constitutional coin or not – but if the electorate are to choose independence by majority, then the majority of the country needs to find their needs and hopes encapsulated in the different visions for Scotland that each of us have. And we need to get on with presenting them.

It’s time to stop talking about leadership elections, past leaders, future leaders, internal politics, the bureaucracy of how we will secure a referendum and just do what we do best. Campaign with our heart and soul.

Once we get that right, the support will be sure to follow.