SUPPORTERS of an independent Scotland have been told that if they lose the argument next time, they will not get a third chance.

The stark warning came from Stewart Kirkpatrick, who was head of digital for Yes Scotland during the first indyref campaign, at the Scottish Independence Convention in Glasgow.

He said they had to be honest about the reasons why they lost the 2014 referendum.

“We didn’t lose because of the BBC, we didn’t lose because of MI5 and we didn’t lose because of stuffed ballot boxes,” he said.

“We lost purely and simply because we did not convince enough of the people that we needed to reach to vote Yes.

“And if we don’t learn from that, if we don’t understand what we need to change about how we campaigned and what message we give, then we are destined to live through September 19, 2014 again.

“If we lose next time, I don’t think there will be a third chance in the lifetime of the people in this room.

“We will be the generation who got within touching distance and then threw the prize away, and I – for one – do not want to do that.”

Kirkpatrick said they would need to be ready for the next referendum, because there was one certainty about it – it would not be as easy as it was last time.

“This time the other lot know that we can win from the get-go. They might have been chaotic and a bit hilarious last time, but next time they will be professional. And they’ve got lots of money and lots of friends in the media.

“So we are going to have to be clever if we want to win. And I’m here to tell you we are going to win.”

He said the next campaign did not need another Yes Scotland group, but instead a small hub for research, co-ordination, strategy and communications for all the pro-independence groups already in existence, as well as any new ones that were formed.

“We need facts, we need messages and we need to get on the front foot with the media so that we can drive the news agenda. We need really in-depth research into why we lost, research into what would persuade those who are persuadable.”

Kirkpatrick said they also had to collect every book used by the No campaign so they can “throw it back in their faces” when they peddled scare stories in the next battle.

None of those “in the room” had any idea when the next referendum would be, yet 800 people had gathered to discuss how they would fight it, he added, and this was “just the tip of the activist iceberg”.

Kirkpatrick said key messages could be deployed now: “In an uncertain world, the only security is to be in control of your own decisions. The only way to protect your pension is to be in control of it, rather than have it governed by fly-by-night speculators in the City of London. The only way to make your businesses thrive is to start in a country whose economy is geared towards recognising innovation. The only way to secure your children’s future is to make them grow up in a country whose talents and resources are deployed for its needs according to the judgement of its people.”

He stated that “from today, we are in campaign mode”, and urged indy supporters to target as many converts as they can. But they needed a “bucketload” of hard and fast facts and “copper-bottomed” visions of an independent Scotland.

They had to be frank and honest about the challenges they faced, and have realistic plans to make sure they can be overcome – to show that the benefits of independence far outweigh the risks of staying within the Union.

“We don’t all have to agree. We just have to show the policies and the possibilities on offer as we face the future.

“Let’s set our visions free so we can persuade our friends and neighbours, so that the day after the referendum, instead of nursing a dram… we can join together – left and right, rich and poor, Yes and No and get on with building a better nation that we know Scotland could and should be.”