FOR pity’s sake, Scottish politicians, stop lying. Stop sneering. Stop insulting. Try talking. Try being honest. Listen. Think. Engage. We’re not in a civil war. Act like adults.

It’s already started. The phoney claims, the anger, the accusations, the insults. Not just from the political class, but worse – from their troll armies: online unionists and nationalists intent on drowning out and vilifying, spreading lies and plain old fashioned hatred.

There’s a myth put about by independence supporters, my ‘side’ – how I hate that damn word – that the last referendum was ‘civic and joyous’. It wasn’t. It was horrible – petty, nasty and spiteful. Both sides bear equal responsibility. It split friends and families, and encouraged some of the worst characters ever inflicted on Scotland to emerge from their subterranean depths online.

Now we’re right back in a state of constitutional crisis without any evident destination. Anyone who says they know what’s going to happen – whether Nicola Sturgeon will get her way, whether the Supreme Court will say Yes, whether the next general election will be the means to decide Scotland’s fate, whether unionism or nationalism will eventually be destroyed – is one of three things: a liar, fantasist or lowdown propagandist.

READ MORE: The independence deadlock

As a Yes voter, I’m ambivalent about the process underway. I don't like the idea of the next general election being turned into a ‘de facto’ referendum – politicians love some weak Latin to dress shoddy ideas in fine clothing. I want independence, but I also want this country governed, and governed well, and that means politicians being held to account for their policies. Twisting an election into solely a constitutional battleground is the means by which scrutiny and thought are killed, and division and crisis spread.

However, the greatest weight of responsibility for what’s happening falls upon the shoulders of the Tory government. There’s a democratic mandate for another referendum. The SNP and Greens are a Yes majority in Holyrood. To deny that mandate is to assault democracy. It’s also to make the Union a prison from which there’s no escape.

Britain is a free country, I believe. If one part of the Union has elected a majority of representatives who want to hold a referendum, then the most basic notions of liberty demand that a referendum be held. What else can the Yes movement do but follow the path it’s now on?

Unionist parties need to think very hard about the choices they’re now taking – specifically Scottish Labour. They’re siding with a Tory Party in London which has shown itself repeatedly to have no respect for the rule of law, and they’re denying the will of voters who elected the SNP and Greens into power. Anas Sarwar plays as dangerous a game with his future as Nicola Sturgeon plays with her own.

We’re now in unknown terrain, which isn’t just filled with traps and drowning-pools for politicians, though – we’re treading a dangerous road which politicians are paving specifically to foment anger, and force voters into neatly manufactured silos which benefit only them. Crisis creates camps – and that’s what politicians want.

None of this had to happen – at least from a Scottish perspective. Regardless of Boris Johnson, Scottish politicians could have found a way forward, if they really wanted to – but that means we must assume the SNP and Labour, and the Greens and Lib Dems, and the Scottish Tories, give a damn about the people. Let’s pretend they aren’t just in it all for themselves, for money and power – and using the division and hatred they provoke to accrue that money and power.

If we make those assumptions, if we allow ourselves to believe that our politicians really do care about a greater good – crazy though it may seem – then one has to ask: ‘Why are we here?’ There’s been years to sort out this constitutional mess. Since the day of the Brexit vote, this moment has been advancing slowly but surely upon us. It became inevitable once the SNP and Greens took their Holyrood majority.

Why, at some obvious juncture, did our politicians not simply convene a national convention to discuss a way forward? Not just a national convention involving them – the political class. But a national convention involving both representatives of civic Scotland – unions, think-tanks, business leaders, academics, scientists, economists, charities, a whole panoply of important voices – and also, crucially, ordinary people like you and I. To do democracy justice, any national convention on Scotland’s future would need a raft of ordinary voters, selected like a jury, and weighted to fairly represent the nation. If there were 100 political and civic delegates, then add in 100 citizen delegates. Ordinary people have wisdom too.

If we’d done something as neatly obvious as that back in 2016, or even 2021, we wouldn’t be here now. Politicians in any convention would have been forced to engage respectfully with one another, as they’d be surrounded not just by all those civic leaders, but by folk like you and I who would, one imagines, show our disgust if they behaved in a partisan, self-seeking way.

There’s still a chance to try this approach – still time to talk. Stop the fake grandstanding – it’ll achieve nothing. If unionist politicians really believe in their Union then come to the table, listen to the concerns of independence supporters, make the case for the Union and attempt resolution. If SNP politicians really care about Scotland then come to the table, heed unionist concerns, and attempt resolution. Both camps must find a way forward that doesn’t alienate half the country, and allows Scotland to express its will.

We’re not even at the beginning of a path to a solution. Sturgeon’s plans take us no further than the next election. Then what? She’s not going to use a majority to unilaterally declare independence, so we’ll be back to square one. Is the great hope that Keir Starmer wins and is more amenable? We can dream. And Unionist plans take us nowhere either. Screaming ‘No’ is the response of the autocrat.

For pity sake – talk. That’s what we pay you for. Talk like adults, don’t fight any longer like grotesque children. You’re all Pied Pipers leading us nowhere.

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