THERE’S a sense that Scottish independence is becoming inevitable – that sooner or later it’ll happen. Independence has come a long way since it lurked on the fringes of political debate.

It’s now part of the mainstream. In fact, with the SNP in power since 2007, it could be argued that supporting independence is the status quo position. If some polls are accurate support for independence now stands at 50 per cent. Opposing independence could soon be the minority view.

Yet as support for independence grows – as it becomes the mainstream, and the sense of historic inevitability increases – there’s also a feeling that the concept of Scottish independence is stagnating, that it needs reimagined.

This election focuses that tension: as support for independence appears to near critical mass, the concept begins to look very tired. The debate about independence in this election will be relatively meaningless.

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We already know what will happen. Labour, Tories and the LibDems will say it’s bad, the SNP and the Greens will say it’s good. There’ll be no nuance. There’ll be no substantive debate. There’ll be no new thoughts about independence, about its shape and form, about what happens after a vote supporting independence. It’ll be a constitutional pantomime.

Independence will even overshadow Brexit. As an issue, Brexit still retains some nuance, making debate worthwhile. The same can’t be said of independence. Voters may be tired but they will listen to what the parties say about Europe because there may still be something to learn, something new to inform our thinking.

But with independence, our minds are made up, and so are the politicians’ minds. We know the story. It’s a redundant debate. Yet, ironically independence is the debate which will dominate. The real issues which matter – jobs, climate, housing, health, policing, taxes, schools – they’ll all get an airing, but we know they’ll come second. This is an election which politicians, especially the SNP, know rests on the constitution.

Here’s the crucial problem for the independence debate: the only vision we have of independence is a nationalist one. Independence is seen by nearly all voters as an SNP issue – if you don’t like the SNP, you don’t like independence. Of course, the Greens support independence, but despite an environmental message of hope, they find it almost impossible to breakthrough and get their voices heard.

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After the 2014 referendum, voters split along constitutional lines. Most newly forged Yes voters left their old political homes, like Labour and the LibDems, for the SNP. No voters primarily kept to their traditional parties and dug in to repel the nationalists.

This meant independence became the sole territory of the SNP. By the time the referendum was over, 45 per cent of the people supported independence - yet it was the domain of one party. That’s a democratic mess, and it’s led to intellectual stagnation and political entropy.

Independence is too big an issue for the SNP alone. I speak as a Yes voter. The party hierarchy project a vision of independence which is cautious, managerial, and, frankly, uninspiring. The vision of independence projected by the SNP’s base is one wrapped in a saltire; it feels blinkered, insular and smacks of old-style nationalism.

The bottom line is that in Scotland a nationalist ideology thoroughly dominates the concept of independence. But as the 2014 referendum showed, support for independence grew not among people who identified as nationalist, but among people who identified as progressive and internationalist, who wanted an outward-looking Scotland rather than a regressive Westminster.

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There are plenty of people who support independence but hate nationalism – I’m one. I know a lot of No voters – Labour, LibDem, and even Tory – who say now that they see independence as a viable choice. They no longer view it as something hostile. However, they’ll never vote for it because of their deep antipathy towards the SNP.

What would change the entire dynamic of the debate is this: if the traditional unionist parties dropped their outright opposition to independence, took a neutral position, and allowed their members to think and vote freely on the issue. That way we’d get some robust and imaginative thinking.

Of course, I accept it’s probably a pipe-dream, but I also said this country needs to use its imagination to make politics better. We’re a brainy nation, not scared of big ideas – so dare to imagine.

Imagine if we were given a socialist vision of independence by unshackled Labour politicians. That would certainly appeal to centre-left folk like me. Imagine how fascinating it would be to hear a radical Tory voice envision a capitalist form of independence. This type of change to the tempo of discussion would also allow the Green message – an environmental vision of independence – to break through, when it’s most needed. Most importantly, such an approach would detoxify debate, erode divisions, and sow the seeds of unity.

All this would pose a serious threat to the SNP’s stranglehold on power. Voters who aren’t drawn to the SNP, but do support independence, would find different candidates to back who they agree with on both the constitution and bread and butter issues.

In the current Brexit mess, it’s hard for an independence supporter, who’s uncomfortable with the SNP, to find alternative candidates to vote for, especially if they feel a Green vote is wasted. This isn’t healthy for democracy. Nor is it healthy for the SNP. The party is sluggish and complacent – it needs some fire at its heels.

It’s bewildering why all of the other parties fail to see any benefit in taking a neutral position on independence. Labour must realise the days of Gordon Brown are over. The party has taken such slippery positions on Brexit that it can surely find a slippery way to become neutral over independence.

The LibDems defy the notion of liberal democracy in their dictatorial refusal to countenance a second indyref.

And the Tories? Well, it seems crazy to think of the Tories being neutral on independence, but not so long ago the party was the bulwark of the union … until it threw Ulster unionism under the bus over Brexit. After all, the Conservatives would sell their granny for anything which gave them a soupçon more power.

The simple fact is that a country on the cusp of great change – of possibly soon going it alone in the world as a new nation – needs vision for the future, and right now that’s in pretty short supply. I’m not saying my utopian reimagining is right, but at least it’s something to think on, while we wait for the politicians to develop some new ideas.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year