THERE’S no denying the importance of the role social media played, and continues to play, in the Scottish independence movement.

The rise of online sites like Bella Caledonia were key in making the case for independence and debunking misinformation, but without the network of social media with which to distribute that material it would have meant little.

Indy media sites were vital in enabling a movement to organise itself in its own grassroots way, and the depth of debate visible to anyone interested in it, and the great spirit in which it was done, was a factor in turning no votes into yes votes.

But almost 18 months after the vote, that online movement is in grave danger of eating itself. A curious self-destructive element has emerged recently, and for those who are serious about convincing 55 per cent of the population that they ticked the wrong box in September 2014 this is dangerous.

Take some of the increasingly bizarre attitudes towards CommonSpace, the online news website I edit. CommonSpace was created to fill a gap in the alternative online media for a straight news service, a service that, funded by its readers, would ask difficult questions and hold power to account to ensure that the kind of complacency that led to the collapse of Scottish Labour and voter trust would be less likely in a new, energised and engaged political culture.

And CommonSpace has done phenomenally well for a team of one editor and just three reporters. We’ve had exclusive stories picked up by national newspapers and our coverage has led to difficult questions for those wielding power in both the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

It’s peculiar, then, that CommonSpace – along with well-established pro-indy websites like Bella Caledonia – has become the enemy for a fringe of the independence movement best summed up by the wonderful Twitter hashtag #wheeshtforindy.

Questioning the party of government, which happens to be the SNP, is no longer tolerable for this extreme minority: Wheesht for indy, we can always ask questions later. Examining the weaknesses in the case for independence – which you would think is pretty essential if Yessers want to win a second independence referendum – is being skewed into an “attack” on the movement.

Creativity, vibrancy, honesty and debate is being squeezed out of social forums by those who’ve come to identify their very being alongside the cause of independence, an identity which increasingly takes on the kind of scary nationalist tone that two years of campaigning ahead of September 2014 had been successfully battling.

The Twitter account of @GAponsonby is a prime example of that element of the independence movement which seems hell bent on its own destruction. The man behind this popular anonymous account is constantly warning about the apparent threat of – wait for it – pro-indy initiatives like the new socialist coalition Rise, to independence.

Even pro-independence newspapers like the Sunday Herald and The National aren’t pro-indy enough for him: the media can’t be trusted, nobody can be trusted – put all of your faith in the SNP, don’t ask any questions and, for God’s sake, wheesht for indy. Great 'truth-tellers' such as these lack the self-awareness to recognise the sheer arrogance required to shout others down while elevating themselves on the pedestal of a movement created by the very people they now declare a danger.

And in the echo chamber that social media is, where all nuance is lost, many Yessers are worryingly lapping it up.

The independence movement on social media is descending into bickering between those who still want the debate and those who want to shut it down in favour of soundbites about evil journalists, Unionists, and Saint Nicola Sturgeon. But who are they convincing?

This phoney social media war is less about winning hearts and minds and more about ego. It’s self-righteous and gleeful when pointing the finger at Unionists – or “yoons” as they’re now referred to – and saying: “I told you so.” It is, perhaps, the worst strategy you could muster, and I will undoubtedly be the latest villain – secretly working for MI5, presumably – on social media this week for questioning it.

But this is serious. People may dismiss it as Twitter and Facebook chatter, unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but if the indyref movement taught people anything about social media it is that what happens on the forums filters down to the meetings on the ground.

Scotland is at risk of losing a diverse and knowledge-hungry movement in exchange for an angry, paranoid one that has a meltdown when a difficult question arises. It is a gift to those who wished to paint the independence movement as dangerous and intolerant, and risks alienating Yes voters who didn’t sign up for this.

Tweeters and Facebookers must get back to those indyref roots and remember that not only is it OK to ask questions and admit weaknesses, but doing so is essential for the growth of a strong, healthy movement.