We’ll never win independence until we’re confident in our own abilities and celebrate what makes us distinctive. The fourth in a series of six extracts from Determination, the new book by political strategist Robin McAlpine

BY emphasising rational, calculating aspects of confidence I have intentionally ignored other aspects. If you look at Catalonia for example they have a big and vibrant independence movement which is not really predicated on a “business case” at all.

Catalonia is not on the verge of independence because people have a detailed plan for a new nation state but because they have reached a level of cultural confidence we do not have. Catalonians wage a flag unashamedly, we do not. In fact, we are still struggling to drag ourselves out of the Scottish cringe.

Here I really do want to place some blame at the feet of more or less all the political parties. They may well claim to be “stronger for Scotland” or “Scotland’s radical alliance” or use other identifiers of Scottishness (a green saltire).

But they really do far too often give the distinct impression that they are not quite as comfortable with the concept of being Scottish as they might. There was an awful lot of talk during the referendum aimed at distancing us from flags and identity.

Fair enough in as far as militaristic, chauvinistic nationalism has sometimes used the aggressive waving of the national flag as a provocation. But honestly, do you really see the Saltire as a symbol of militarism or chauvinism? What is your real fear – that the waving of flags might lead to poetry?

The official Yes campaign was constantly vigilant about the issue of identity politics, policing diligently uses of Scots language, couthy imagery, flags and symbols. It was always worried about being tied to an impression of a “small Scotlander” mentality. So was Nicola Sturgeon who was always at great pains to claim that she was really only interested in the democratic and civic cause.

This was a line that was clung to by the Greens in particular (who constantly brand the life out of their party with Green everything but for some reason give the strong impression of objecting to the branding of the nation of Scotland via a simple national symbol like a flag). Colin Fox of the SSP deployed his “democrat, not nationalist” line to very great effect.

As a professional political strategist I understand completely and myself sought to project an image of our campaign as civic and democratic. But here is my question – can someone explain to me where “emphasising our civic nature” ends and “cringe” begins?

If we want people to identify Scotland as a viable, separate nation state, why do we sometimes give the distinct impression that we’d really rather people viewed it as a convenient administrative entity? The more we apologise for the flag, the less cultural confidence we give people. And people need to feel that cultural confidence as well as rational calculation. It’s part of the package of confidence which makes people take (calculated) leaps into the dark.

And if you think I’m misreading this, that the SNP (in particular) is perfectly comfortable with the Saltire (which it is), explain the apparent fetishisation of things non-Scottish. Why are so many governmental advisors chosen from outside Scotland? Does it not give the very distinct impression that we don’t have the relevant expertise here? Why have we not done things that boost cultural confidence like investing in the arts, film, music, the reflections of a modern nation state that let us see ourselves represented and then to feel proud of it? Why the hesitancy over Scottish history (which is just not all about “beating the English”)? Because there is a constant, low-level cultural war going on right now. There are Union Jacks on our driving licences; policies to undermine our renewables industry; the devolution of contorted tax powers which are difficult to use.

The media is relentlessly repackaging Scotland as a small administrative centre which should focus on micromanaging a limited range of bureaucratic policies in health and education. It’s the kind of narrative you’d usually find around a local authority. Apparently we should get over our cringe at TV series Outlander and welcome the jobs it creates. Eh, sorry here, but I wasn’t cringing. It really is a perfectly good historical romp like much of what is coming out of the new wave of US long-format television.

Feel free to call me paranoid but I am of the belief that unionists are engaged in an ongoing attempt to undermine Scotland’s confidence economically, culturally and politically. It’s what I would do if I was them. Are we going to fight back against this and assert our own confident, modern cultural identity? Or are we just going to cringe along with them? I don’t want a film studio in Scotland which has the sole purpose of enticing American productions about elves and goblins just because we have mountains. I want a film studio in Scotland that makes exciting contemporary films about a nation which is widely seen as one of the most exciting places to be in Europe. I do not intend to go into any more detail in this book about these questions of cultural confidence, a subject which would require a book of its own. But we must be aware of that low-level culture war which is being run continually and we must be ready to assert our own vision of what Scotland’s culture(s) mean not in theory but in rich, beautiful, tangible reality.

There will be no Scottish independence if there is no increase in Scotland’s collective confidence in itself both as a cultural entity but more importantly as a functioning, modern nation state. People must believe – really believe – we know what we’re doing. And that means we have to work and work hard to make sure that we absolutely do know what we’re doing. For me, this remains the single biggest task ahead. So let’s get that confident case for a confident nation built.

A thoughtful, London-based writer wrote during the referendum that he thought that, sooner or later, Scottish independence was inevitable. Why? Because he identified that when you arrive in Edinburgh from London, just like when you arrive in Dublin from London, it feels like a different place. That intangible, subliminal sense that you are “no longer in Kansas”.

That sense is a result of devolution, a combination of the different expectations, different institutions and different outlook that comes from making more of your own decisions. I have always said that 70 per cent of people who think we are gradually, inevitably, becoming an independent country is worth more than 51 per cent of people who are ready to vote for it immediately. It is a sounder foundation for our future if most of us really believe we’re different.

Determination: How Scotland can become independent by 2021 can be pre-ordered at allofusfirst.org/