THE tides of pro-independence optimism, cajoled expertly by the SNP party machine follow a familiar pattern. A fresh opinion poll indicates a recent increase in support for Yes; then some leadership loyalists say the tide is turning and, in the days following, a few sympathetic columnists urge us all to unite so that we can rise up and “make this happen”. We are then urged to put all the divisions of the past two years behind us so that we can defeat the far greater evil of Toryism as practised by Boris Johnson’s cabinet of thieves.

Once, such consummate condescension and party engineering had the desired effect. There would indeed be renewed optimism and the party funds might receive a reasonable injection. Such innocent times seem far distant now. On social media several previously loyal SNP party activists suggest they’d now prefer life under the Johnson regime than a government run by Nicola Sturgeon and her WhatsApp cabinet. So sickened and marginalised have they become that you know life will never be the same again in this party which once portrayed itself as something softer and cuddlier in UK politics. Anyone who thinks we can all just “unite” and submerge the divisions so that we can “move forward together” are deluding themselves.

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The first SNP conference of the post-Covid era (assuming that there ever will be a post-Covid era) will require a team of UN peacekeepers to keep order. The sheer hatred that now exists between several SNP factions is quite distressing to behold. Hatred in this context is not too strong a word either. The malice and ill-will directed at women in the party who seek to defend their sex-based rights is especially chilling and much of it seems virtually to be endorsed by their own leadership. These wounds will not be healed any time soon, if at all.

Others have seen friends, former comrades and allies defamed and traduced for joining Alba in exasperation. It can’t be easy still to remain in this party when you see people who have fought inequality their entire lives now dismissed as bigots on social media by the salonistas and fake liberals.

The prospect of the SNP forming a partnership with the Scottish Greens threatens to marginalise many women in the party even further. Much of the misogyny and false accusations directed at them comes from the Greens, a party which has weaponised this to touch the hems of power, despite never actually winning a single, contested seat in its ornamental history.

The organised campaign of poison and intimidation directed from within the party against Joanna Cherry and anyone deemed to be supportive of her should be a source of shame for those responsible for it. When I raised this with a senior SNP figure a few months ago I was told simply: “Joanna isn’t a team player,” as though being guilty of this alone justified the attacks. It thus becomes clear why the party refuses to investigate complaints of actual bullying and intimidation by male members known to them. The absence of any support for Ms Cherry even as a man was being charged and admitting guilt to threatening her with extreme sexual violence also begins to make sense.

This is a party where women members can expect to have their reputations trashed and sullied if they dare to speak out.

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Even if the police find no evidence of actual criminality over the whereabouts of £600k raised specifically as a referendum fighting fund it’s clear that a lot of members have been played for fools by the party leadership. They have been deceived and this won’t easily be forgotten or forgiven either. When some continued to ask what on earth the leadership was doing with the money they’ve been subject to attacks by Ms Sturgeon’s elite troll force.

This money was supposed to have been ring-fenced for the purpose of fighting a referendum campaign. In the last few years the SNP seems to have devoted much time and energy avoiding a referendum, while using a compendium of words and phrases to indicate it’s still committed to the cause. An awful lot of vowing, pledging and demanding has been going on. Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, does little else.

The migration of so many senior SNP people to Alba means that Sturgeon and her husband, party CEO Peter Murrell, are free to continue running the SNP as their own personal fiefdom, granting favours and promotions here and there to those who remain loyal and unquestioning. Ms Sturgeon is reportedly keen to leave a legacy following her time as First Minister. She can’t seriously think of claiming anything significant in health, education and justice where the only policies of note have been meaningless ornaments of the Named Persons and Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation.

Boris Johnson may be missing a trick here. The SNP are simply in no fit state to fight an independence campaign and have never been less well equipped for independence. How would they survive the merest pin-prick of scrutiny in a no-holds-barred and take-no-prisoners referendum campaign? The first one in 2014 was keenly-fought but largely civilised. You sense though, that the next one will be far less so. Yet several of the SNP Westminster group reportedly burst into tears because Humza Yousaf, as Justice Secretary, didn’t signal what they wanted to hear about gender reform before he was chivvied back on-message.

It won’t take much for even a half-decent Better Together campaign to exploit these deep and lifelong divisions. And that’s before they start turning their attention to the SNP’s chaotic governance of health and education.

The party still hasn’t produced any serious thinking around the currency issue, Scotland’s future relationship with Europe and how the Border will be managed. Those big television debates would have to carry an X-certification and a host of trigger warnings for Yes supporters. It may be that the conditions for securing a final, decisive No vote will never be more favourable than these for Boris Johnson.

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