The third in a series of six extracts from Determination, the new book by political strategist Robin McAlpine

THERE is a clear, simple, straightforward path from here to Scottish independence and it is within our hands. We don’t need to pray to the gods for divine intervention. We don’t require anything magical or mysterious. We just need to work and work hard. As soon as you realise that there are no "triggers", that referendums should be won years in advance, that you don’t need a No campaign to have a Yes campaign, you free yourself to devise the future as something which you can determine yourself. I believe firmly that it is this self-determination which will make the difference between us winning and losing. And I’m determined we don’t lose.

Currency is the emblematic factor of our defeat – because it symbolises the real problem with the Yes campaign. We (for good reasons) weren’t prepared. It’s not that members of the public want to know the size of a foreign currency reserve, it’s that they want to be convinced that someone really knows the answer. It’s not that they necessarily preferred a Plan B of an independent currency, it’s that they wanted to be reassured that there was a fully-functioning Plan B in place, just in case Osborne really did refuse to allow us access to the Bank of England.

The currency issue became a failure because people sniffed out that the work hadn’t really been done and that we were, to all intents and purposes, bluffing. (Let’s be clear here – England could have prevented a currency union and it did no good at all for us to have only the answer of "liar, liar, pants on fire". And with only 18 months to sort it out, according to the timetable for independence, there wasn’t much scope if things did go wrong.

I write this here only so we can make sure this doesn’t happen, but I was definitely a little worried that by painting ourselves into a corner for short-term campaigning purposes we were going to get a bad deal on currency which could have taken years if not decades to recover from.

It is this failure to induce confidence in nervous possible Yes voters which I believe to be the single biggest factor in the Yes campaign failing to win. On referendum night TV (which I recall only blearily) there was a crucial moment which encapsulated all this perfectly. There were various members of the public on a panel. The host interviews one. He tells her that he thought the currency case hadn’t been worked out properly, that he was a businessman and the White Paper was too much assertion and not enough information, that this was all risk and the rewards hadn’t been outlined (or words to that effect). An English-based commentator picked up on this and said "so you’re anti-independence?". To his great surprise the man replied: "Not at all, I really want to believe in an independent Scotland, but it needs to be based on a much better case than this." If we do not listen to this man and this opinion and we do not respond and react to it, we will shoot ourselves in the foot. We must make it easy for those who want to believe to actually believe.

Here, I want to direct a little criticism towards the "hold the line" tendency in the Yes movement. There are people who have expressed the view that the last thing we want to do is to mess around with the case, but that rather we should just plough on with loyalty to the cause and discipline to the message. In this view, questioning whether we got things right the last time round is simply "splitting the movement" and that if the "high heid yins" have settled on Sterling union (for example) then it must be for a reason.

This might be fair enough in the middle of a campaign, but it is positively dangerous in preparing a campaign. If we listen only to those "above" us and expect to relay that to those "below" us, we will ignore what we are being told by the very people who we need to win over.

I have many No-voting friends and neighbours (I live in a firmly

No-voting town). Absolutely none of them are saying to me: "Right, what I need for you to convince me is to come back again with exactly the same stuff you came with last time and then to badger me about it some more." The sympathetic ones are saying: "Look, I’m proud of Scotland and want to believe it can be an independent nation but you need to answer my questions."

SO let me be absolutely clear on how I think we answer those questions. I propose that we need not an updated White Paper (which frankly sprawled over far too many subjects, some barely related to the actual process of independence) but rather we learn the lesson from the Scottish Constitutional Convention which built the case (very successfully) for the Scottish Parliament. Over a pretty compressed period of time it worked through not every question it could think of, but rather every question that needed to be answered to set up the infrastructure of a new parliament.

We should do the same. Restricting ourselves only to the institutions and infrastructure required of a new country but which is not currently in place in Scotland, we should build a coherent, thought-through plan. In the next chapter I will outline in a little more detail what I think needs to be in that case. But broadly it covers the fiscal, monetary, social and regulatory infrastructure which is currently reserved to Westminster, the things we know we need but which we don’t have.

(There is all the time in the world for political parties and campaign groups to build a case for what we could do with all this new infrastructure and while I do not believe for a second there is such a thing as policy-neutral institution-building, we should stick as far as possible to what things would look like and how they would work rather than what they would do.) This would create what you might call a "consolidated business plan for a new, independent nation".

The process of building this plan will be important. It must be something that is broadly shared. It will do no good if there are unilateral decisions about controversial issues imposed on the whole movement without the movement having the opportunity to debate and negotiate these properly. Last time round, a lot of people bit their tongue on issues like whether to keep a hereditary, unelected head of state, a policy imposed on the movement which had very little support.

This time round we have time to resolve these issues better (I am a republican but would happily accept a compromise that sees Queen Liz accepted as head of state for her lifetime but with a promise of a referendum when the time of succession comes around). No-one will get absolutely everything they want (just like not everyone got what they wanted out of the final report of the Constitutional Convention). But what we should get if the process works is a really solid, really shared, really persuasive proposal for a new country which doesn’t involve bluff or anyone holding their nose. The power of having such a document would be enormous. Independence would become a specific proposal which could be discussed seriously, not improvised round the edges.

There is of course a major problem here, which is that we’re running out of time. Let’s work backwards for a second from my proposal for a 2021 referendum. Ideally you’d want to have at least two full years of a major Yes campaign persuading people of the new "business case" before you went anywhere near the election or referendum. This means that ideally you’d want the case completed for launch not later than the very beginning of 2019 (and the cautious side of me suggests that longer than that would be preferable – think how fast the last 18 months of the indyref went ...). That means it would need to be signed off by everyone in the autumn of 2018, less than two and a half years away at the time of writing. And a cross-party body for overseeing and negotiating this work does not even exist yet (though steps are being taken to try to create it).

TO demonstrate the time pressures, let’s work forward for a moment. To create a detailed and robust case for a currency solution, a pension and social security system, a civil service, regulatory infrastructure, an inland revenue service, some kind of central bank and so on, is not a small task. Were you to plan such a project, I suspect you’d want more than three years and possibly something more like five. We’ve got two. I will admit to being frustrated that we didn’t get something like this started within six months of September 2014. From here it would be easy to sleepwalk into a second referendum little more prepared on crucial issues than we were for the first.

But if we get it right we could hold a massive national launch of this founding document perhaps for Burns Night in 2019. We can by then have a big, effective national campaign planned (as discussed in Chapter Six). We can then spend two years campaigning relentlessly on this proposal. It gives us two years to shift that chunk of the population who were not opposed in principle but did not have confidence in us last time. They are more than enough to cross the 60 per cent threshold needed to enter 2021 with confidence. We then have the opportunity rapidly to convert that majority support into Scottish independence.

Determination: How Scotland can become independent by 2021 is available to pre-order at