We asked 10 prominent writers and figures in the independence movement to give us their thoughts on where we go from here. Send us your responses for a letters special in Monday's newspaper to letters@thenational.scot

Michael Russell, Scottish Minister for Brexit: Scots still deserve to have a choice after Brexit

The National:

IN May 1995, on the night Roseanna Cunningham won the Perth and Kinross by-election, I (as the SNP’s official spin doctor) was almost outspun just as the result was declared. My Labour counterpart, Jack MacConnell, literally ran all the way to the TV cameras shouting that the SNP had had a “bad night” – all because the total number of votes we got was slightly down on the previous election.

That we had come first by a mile and that there had been a massive swing to the SNP wasn’t relevant to Jack – all that mattered to him was making enough noise to drown out an SNP win and hide a pretty miserable failure by the other parties.

Some things never change, yet the truth is that last Thursday the SNP had its second-best ever result by far at a General Election. Of course no-one wanted to lose any seats but high water marks are just that – lines which are rarely reached and never at successive polls.

Equally ridiculous has been the Tory attempt – aided and abetted by Labour and the Liberals – to claim another but even less credible victory. The Unionist parties want to assert that in failing to win the election they actually succeeded in forcing the party of independence to desert independence.

They didn’t and they won’t. But it is important to recognise just what the SNP said during the election and why we said it. The proposal for an independence referendum at some stage after the conclusion of the Brexit talks is a commitment about Brexit. In other words, what the SNP were and are saying is that the people of Scotland have a right to be consulted about being dragged out of Europe against their will. That commitment was in the manifesto on which all the SNP MSPs were elected to government. That vote, held at the conclusion of the process, would be about what a UK government had managed to negotiate and what the moderating influence of the other three nations of these islands had achieved with regard to those final proposals.

The issue of independence arises because – unlike in 2014 – there is no status quo to which Scotland could revert if it refused to endorse the UK’s proposals.

Nothing else could be on the table, not because of the SNP but because of the Tories and their self-indulgent and divisive EU referendum last year. They have burnt all the other lifeboats during the messy, vicious Ukip-dominated Brexit civil war within their own party.

There have been and remain many good reasons for choosing independence that have nothing to do with Brexit. Those were debated in 2014 and at some stage will be debated again. The big issue now is the destabilising threat of Brexit, about the way in which it can be either avoided or mitigated and about what will follow the UK leaving (or crashing out) of the most successful trading block in the world.

How Scotland chooses its future in such circumstances is as urgent a question today as it was last Thursday. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in reflecting on the means to allow that to happen, is doing what she always does – seeking the best for Scotland and everyone who lives here – but doing so in a very difficult and unstable political situation.

Let’s not forget that situation was created by the very people who are now demanding that the people of Scotland lose even their basic democratic right to choose their own future. Knowing Nicola, I am sure she will not be deflected from her vital task by the diversionary antics of one-trick, spinning, ponies.


Victoria Heaney, activist: The same voices can't dominate the debate

The National:

LAST week’s General Election results were a nudge to wake up and listen to those dominating forces that have slowly stifled the passion and creativity, of the energy released during the last independence campaign.

So many Yes voting friends felt compelled to lend their vote to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn on the back of a manifesto that mirrored, so many aspects of the case for radical independence.

It was the same case that turned me from a No voter to an activist who would have walked the length of this country to just change one person’s mind (and still would).

In 2014 we campaigned on a vision that life would be better in an independent Scotland.

We would offer social security, a better standard of living and a different direction to the neoliberal quagmire, of profiting from poor people. We were going to set an example with everything that we had power over, and do it better. Sounds great, eh? However, this is does not translate to the families of those who freeze on our streets, those being denied enough self-directed support to live independently, those wanting a frack-free country and those wanting a better standard of education. People wonder if independence will change any of this, and rightly so.

In order to strengthen the case for Yes we need see governance, not dominance, from those in power.

We need visionaries, not dreamers in the Yes movement. Where do you find them? Well, I will give you a clue – they aren’t driving about in yellow cars, asking for two votes and wearing yellow rosettes.

They are on the fringes of the mainstream, possibly voting for Corbyn, holding food solidarity events and part of international networks. They are taking care of their communities and feeling ignored as not everything they do revolves around getting votes for one party (but some people would like it too), or independence (but they still believe in independence).

Promoting a country that has shared values, goals and aspirations, can’t be left to two people and one party. I think we need to focus our time and energy in our local communities, which feel like they are backed into a corner of a binary Yes or No.

To build a newer, fresher positive case for people to vote Yes, we need to take a step back from party politics and do things differently. There is no point in trying to achieve independence if we aren’t going to learn from what we already know.

In 2014 we spoke about fair representation, which made sure that gender balance throughout Yes activism was something everyone thought about when organising and acted on. This action appears to have been made redundant in recent pro-indy circles. Manel after manel is all I see and hear (talking to themselves mostly). The most recent trend comes in the form of ex-Labour Party men becoming evangelised by the non-existent Yes campaign touring the country, shouting about “fighting for indy by any means”.

Haven’t you heard? They are going to save us all from the Union!! C’mon girls get out and vote!!

In reality this style of activism has the opposite effect and until the men involved recognise this we have little chance of moving forward in to a flourishing Yes campaign unless those same faces, voices, dominating forces take a step back.

Victoria Heaney is a National Committee Member for Women for Independence, but is writing in a personal capacity.


Ruth Wishart, journalist: We need a twin-track approach to win voters

The National:

LIKE so many Scots, heady with enthusiasm after the 2014 campaign, I added my cross to the SNP tsunami the following spring. Who could fail to be energised by 56 MPs being elected specifically to further the indy cause?

And there were other issues in play – like many former Labour voters I came out the other side of the New Labour, The Iraq war period convinced us that the people’s party had lost all the bits of the plot which mattered. That Scotland could be different; better than that.

Two years on, it’s not just the First Minister who needs time to reflect on the way forward. The runes have still to be read, but it seems logical some Labour defectors from the nationalist army bought into Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of 21st-century socialism – even if he bowed to party pressure to put Trident renewal in the manifesto.

The much vaunted Tory revival in Scotland is rather more modest than raw numbers suggest, but a combination of Davidson bravado and the narrow focus on pro-Union, anti-indyref2, was more coherent than Scottish Labour managed. So where now for true believers in independence? Let’s start with the polling statistic which gets less publicity. Support for independence itself has barely shifted from 2014. There is still a starting base of roughly 45 per cent.

Support for holding a referendum any time soon is considerably lower than that but the positive side of delay is that the next two years will provide more evidence of the harsh economic penalties of Brexit. SNP- voting Leavers will not be immune to that, especially if Mrs May’s poor judgement is further exposed during negotiations.

However irrelevant the jibes about devolved policy performance during a UK election, there’s little doubt they resonated with some of the electorate. So, it’s time to accentuate the positive gains made by the Scottish Government compared with the UK, but also time to take seriously valid criticisms.

Time, in fact, for a twin-track approach: renewed endeavour on the health and education fronts in Holyrood, while also continuing the backstage work addressing the crucial economic questions which are again likely to dominate any future independence campaign.

We must also target the demographic which voted No (and Tory, and Leave) in the greatest numbers. In both 2014 and in the Brexit referendum the old shafted the young. We need to get my generation on board. My placard is at the ready.

Part II: Colin Fox, Maggie Chapman, Andrew Tickell and Catherine R Schenk 

Part III: Willy Maley, Dennis Canavan and Isobel Lindsay