IN the months running up to September 18, 2014 I received a phonemail from an independence campaigner in Easterhouse. At the time I was helping to coordinate mass canvasses through the Radical Independence Campaign. As part of the campaign we organised a voter registrations drive. “I’ve never seen anything like this”, said the message. “We have a queue at the stall of people wanting to register.’’ It was at that moment I realised that something profound was happening in Scotland.

If you study areas of low voter turnout, it is no surprise that these are clustered around constituencies that have been carved out of the political system. What is the point in voting, when you don’t feel that your interests are represented? But in 2014 that changed. Many who had never voted before realised there was an opportunity for change. And that this vote would count like never before.

We distilled this into a simple message. That it would be the housing schemes of Scotland, not the playing fields of Eton, that would determine the future. Yes Scotland couldn’t keep track of the groups being set up, or of the activities taking place. It blossomed into a full-blown movement that laid down lasting roots. People did not ask for permission to act. We shook a failed Establishment to the core.

I am not in favour of re-running the 2014 campaign. Even if we tried to, the context has dramatically changed. But this does not mean handing the soul of the independence movement to the corporate lobby. Instead we have to build a platform that can deliver transformational social and economic change at a time when the whole of Western politics is in crisis.

That crisis has material roots. It comes from economic inequality, from the battle scars of austerity, and from the arrogance of elites who have seen their wealth grow while millions have had their living standards trampled on from above.

Once people have found their voice, they don’t want to lose it. I always viewed the mass joining of the SNP as admirable for this reason. No longer would people sit on the sidelines. A hundred thousand people joined as a way of keeping independence alive. The 2015 General Election campaign reflected this radical intent, railing against austerity, for independence and in direct opposition to the Westminster establishment.

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But what has happened since is a lesson for all movements. Despite weak opposition, and enjoying near absolute political hegemony, notions of radical reform under devolution were quietly buried. Lacking on land reform, conservative on scrapping the council tax and standardised testing are just a few examples. The message: don’t rock the boat.

It was unsurprising then that Nicola Sturgeon selected Andrew Wilson, a founder of Charlotte Street Partners – Scotland’s premier corporate lobbyists – to draw up the economic programme. It was equally unsurprising that the Growth Commission read like something from a Blairite handbook.

Gone were aspirations of true economic justice. Back we went to deficit reduction. Financial regulation would mirror the UK. We wouldn’t control our own monetary policy. Flexi-work would provide cover for a retrenchment of precarious work practices. And despite the First Minister’s call for a Scottish Green Deal, the Growth Commission doctrine is an obstacle to such a policy.

I admire Andrew Wilson for his honesty when he alludes to the “softest possible independence”. Hard economic power will stay exactly where it is: with financial elites, the bankers and the orthodoxies that have consigned so many to poverty. The Growth Commission would become the negotiating position and the foundation for a new state, hard-wiring neoliberalism into the process from the start.

What we have witnessed is a combination of top-down party management, corporate lobbying, and a careful dangling of the independence carrot to push through a transfer of power from the mass independence movement, to a handful of advisors, careerist politicians and lobbyists. A far cry from Peter Murrell’s e-mail to new members urging a “people’s force for change” at the end of 2014.

I have been outspoken in relation to the SNP leadership but have never once attacked the independence movement. It is thanks to this movement, and the great demonstrations, that independence has been kept afloat. Alongside the committed network of Yes activists across the country I have no doubt that this movement will once again rise to the occasion and that we will indeed achieve independence thanks to their tenacity.

But to do that, all of us have to have the courage to challenge leadership positions when the stakes are so high. In debates on this question, I’m often told that independence comes first, then we can change society. But as I write, the process itself is being captured by corporate interests. Another Scotland is possible – but not with the Growth Commission.