GEORGE Kerevan calls upon us to rekindle the spirit of 1968 and reinvent our future – and who could disagree (It’s time for us to channel the spirit of 1968 to fashion a revitalised future, The National, January 8). But the events of May 1968, at least in France, hold other lessons as well for our independence movement.

George paints a picture of revolutionary youth betrayed by Stalinist trade unions. The reality, as I recall, was rather different (I was at school there: we took over the lycée and occupied it for a month – an educational experience like none other). The unions collectively negotiated a comprehensive package of wage increases, improved terms and conditions, and extensions to trade union rights – only for this package to be rejected in workplace ballots.

The strikes continued – no sell-out or manipulation there. Eventually, in June, the government called a general election, which the right won with a massive majority, and remained in power for the next 13 years.

The trade union leadership, in this case, had judged correctly what could be achieved in the prevailing circumstances.

Cool heads are needed, even when everything seems possible. There are voluntarist tendencies (“take your desires for realities” went the 1968 slogan) within the independence movement as well: we need to keep in tune with the public mood.

Incidentally, George didn’t mention one shining example of the spirit of 1968, here in Scotland: the iconic 1971 work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, led by communist shop stewards Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr. Now there were trade union leaders who understood political leadership, as demonstrated by the vast community campaign in support of UCS.

Winning independence requires a similarly broad, democratic and cultural movement for self-determination, which resonates well beyond the political elites and activists (including the readers of The National), but keeps its feet firmly on the ground.

Paddy Farrington