EXPERIENCE is one of the few advantages of old age, especially when it comes to politics.

My first experience of political activism was canvassing for Donald Dewar in Aberdeen in 1966 and 1970. In electoral terms, that was a relatively successful period for Labour, being in office for 11 years between 1964 and 1979.

From the mid-60s, however, many of us were aware that something nasty was happening. 

The Militant Tendency was increasingly influential, turning the party in on itself.

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Constituency meetings were dominated by those who talked class politics, but wouldn’t have recognised a worker had they bumped into one. Time was frittered on esoteric and pointless motions.

Why do the hard miles governing and fighting for the underdog, when you could be rooting out the philosophically and politically impure in your own ranks?

Labour’s internal turmoil opened the door to 18 years of Thatcherite government.

The independence movement can learn much from 1970s Labour. Clearly, there are those within who find government too hard work.

Like 1970s Labour, they endlessly debate issues of little interest or relevance to the majority. When tired of that, they brief and plot against their own side. As President Truman nearly said, “If you want a friend in politics, get a dog.”

Those of us old enough to bear the scars of the 70s see history repeating itself.

Like Labour, the SNP is an umbrella which shelters many perspectives and causes. To borrow an analogy, it’s a melting pot on a cold fire. In that context, leadership is always going to be a difficult, sometimes impossible.

The emergence of the Alliance for Independence (AFI) presents yet another self-inflicted challenge. 

The inevitable fragmentation and navel-gazing brings to mind Monty Python’s Life of Brian. “Excuse me, are you the Judean People’s Front? F*** off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea.” 

As Labour played into the hands of Thatcherite Tories in the late 70s and 80s, so the emerging divisions within the independence movement can only benefit its opponents. The ego-driven machinations of yesterday’s men, and one in particular, will undermine confidence amongst those wavering about the wisdom of independence.

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Furthermore, Keir Starmer’s revitalised Labour may well appeal to former supporters currently resting in the SNP camp.

Most Scots have little interest in the “great game” of politics and are turned off by internal bickering and manoeuvring. Instead, they respect hard work and competence.

By turning in on itself, the independence movement risks snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It has much to learn from 1970s Labour and the Judean People’s Front.