ALL eyes will be on Edinburgh this Saturday for a Believe in Scotland rally that’s billed as the first big test of Humza Yousaf’s leadership.

Of course, the first real hurdle was the Dundee Indy Convention in June. But since he louped that barrier well enough – interruptions and all – it seemingly didn’t count.

Right enough, Saturday’s event is more public and the first time the new leader has attended a Yes rather than a completely “safe” SNP event.

So, his performance definitely counts. But so does the turnout.

Pre-Covid Yes rallies and marches hit the 100,000 to 200,000 mark, yet failed to get more than a couple of seconds of TV coverage.

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Of course, if this weekend’s rally fails to pull the crowds, there will be TV cameras aplenty proclaiming that Yousaf has failed in his main mission – to excite the weary foot soldiers on his own side.

There will be newspaper editorials and long comment pieces suggesting the end is nigh for Yousaf and thus for independence, despite conceding grudgingly that support for the latter remains puzzling high. And that’s the point.

That’s why I’ll be there on Saturday and urge every other independence supporter to do the same.

The National: First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf holds a 'Yes' sign with SNP activists during campaigning in Pollok, Glasgow to share his vision with voters of an independent Scotland. Picture date: Saturday June 3, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS

The SNP and their leader are now polling lower than the actual cause of independence.

It’s an electoral problem in the making, agreed, but it’s also an opportunity for a real reset in the wider Yes movement.

For the first time, the party tail is not wagging the indy dug. So that means turnout for this rally will not just reflect on Yousaf – it’ll reflect on the whole Yes movement and our enthusiasm for independence.

It’ll tell Scots and a watching world whether the solid 50% support for independence is now a stolid 50% – settled in its desire to create a new state but unable to overcome the weariness, disappointment, let-downs and sideways swipes that inevitably beset a becalmed ship of state and a restless crew.

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Are we now a determined 50% that’s also too disillusioned to reinvest hope and belief? A set of people defying the odds of political gravity with faithful support for a difficult destination but also too knackered to actually go out and reach it?

Which will it be?

Scotland’s 50% support for independence is only a form of political currency if it’s used.

It gathers no interest sitting in the bank, waiting for a better time, a different leader, another constellation of pro-indy parties at Holyrood or a giant pink eraser that removes the hurts and disappointments of recent years, including the impossible to predict Covid lockdown and its long aftermath.

So, this weekend really does matter – for all of us, not just for one man, because it will be an altered movement and SNP that goes forward from it.

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A good turnout will prove that even without a formal hierarchy and centralised membership structure, Scotland’s uniquely dispersed Yes movement can flex its muscles and be effective.

That in turn should encourage SNP members to seize the opportunity of their October conference to dump the democracy-stifling candidate selection procedures, the dearth of internal scrutiny, the narrow processes for conference motion selection, the corporate tone, the vacuous, grandstanding ministerial speeches and the low priority given to indy – all part and parcel of the Peter Murrell years.

I suspect Yousaf has already got the message.

But if not, Saturday must be the moment that dispels it. There’s no time now for self-indulgence, posturing, back-slapping or hollow words. It’s not possible to keep a lofty distance from the 50%.

It’s not acceptable to talk about empowerment but keep cards so close to your chest, no-one outside the leadership circle has any idea of indy strategy.

The boot is now on the other foot.

Yes activists are keeping the dream alive while the SNP leadership gets into gear and embraces its core reason for existence – developing, advocating and investing personal emotion into the goal of independence.

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Explaining through every policy, FMQs response and murky exchange with negative newspapers and political opponents WHY we need independence now.

Why – for example – the creation of a new state is the only way to match Denmark, whose district heating schemes weaned its people off oil and gas so completely that some schemes actually cut prices during the post-Ukraine energy crisis which saw heating costs treble here in Scotland.

Why is that not possible here? Because Westminster is in charge of energy.

There’s another thing. We are at a real cleavage point in politics.

Not just about independence but about the future shape of our country.

Will Scotland make the green transition and use it to decentralise society and truly turbocharge a democracy that too often reflects the top-down elitism of Westminster?

Or will existing business interests insist that big is beautiful and allow business as usual to keep dominating our economy and society?

This is the political cleavage point of the next half-century and younger generations know it.

The debate is healthy and vital and differences should not be hidden away for fear that Fergus Ewing will perform another bit of high-profile shredding from the SNP conference podium or Kate Forbes will deliver another withering verdict on the Greens’ aversion to economic growth.

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It’s a real issue. There’s a lot to be said. And it all needs to be argued out, maturely, respectfully, publicly and not through the distracting prism of personality politics.

It’s time for real activism and real vigorous debate. And happily, the recent change in SNP leadership makes that possible. Not inevitable, not already in the bag and maybe with the dead weight of precedent, not even likely. But possible.

What a terrible shame then, if this is the moment party members and the wider movement give up.

Sure, things look tough. But the opinion polls are a warning – not yet an outcome. If you live long enough, you see plenty about-turns. In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour were set to be annihilated according to the newspapers and pollsters.

Actually, he wound up only 2227 votes from being able to form a coalition government. Likewise, the Scottish Greens – getting daily pelters but set to almost double their MSP total at Holyrood.

In short, it’s all there to play for – with some reimagining, activism, belief and hard work.

And the game begins on Saturday.

See you there.