This is the written transcript of Tommy Sheppard's Thomas Muir lecture, where he links the shared cause of earlier Scottish and English reformers to our present situation, and reflects on the current campaign for independence.

IT is a tremendous honour to be asked to speak in the memory of one of Scotland’s greatest champions for democracy. Let me apologise at the beginning, I’m not a historian – I say that because there are a few here. It is not my purpose tonight to give a historical appreciation of the life and times of Thomas Muir. There are many others better able to do that.

What I’d like to do is to draw attention to the continuity of objective between Thomas Muir and the political reformers of the late 18th century and the contemporary campaign we have in modern Scotland for political reform.

I also want to look at some of the challenges we have for the campaign here and now, and what we need to do about them. You will guess from the introduction on my background that I am on one side of the argument on Scottish politics. I apologise in advance if there are people here from the other side, but I do very much welcome you because we need to conduct these discussions in the open if for no other reason than the fact some of you will need to change your minds if we are to win independence.

For those who do want an historical appreciation, I highly recommend Murray Armstrong’s excellent book [The Liberty Tree – The Stirring Story of Thomas Muir And Scotland’s First Fight For Democracy]. I read it in preparation for this lecture and while I am not going to give a detailed history, I want to recap on the story. I must say that I am left wondering why Hollywood has not yet made a feature film, because it is a story of considerable legend.

Muir faced more adversity and adventure in his relatively short life than most of us could ever contemplate. Graduating from Glasgow University at the age of 17, Muir studied law in Edinburgh and was admitted to the Scottish bar at the tender age of 22.

Muir defended some high-profile cases that earned him a reputation as a radical. In 1792, he and a farmer from Fife, William Skirving, here in Edinburgh formed an organisation called Friends Of The People.

It soon branched out and connected with like-minded societies the length and breadth of Scotland as part of a national movement for political reform – arguing for universal male suffrage and for an elected parliament.

Such were Muir’s abilities, intellect and oratory that within a few short months he was one of the leaders of this national movement for political reform. That year, he went to revolutionary France and connected with exiles who were of a similar persuasion and were leading similar movements, the likes of Tom Paine from England and Wolfe Tone from Ireland. He began to put these movements and uprisings into a European and international perspective.

While in France, Muir was declared an outlaw by the High Court in Edinburgh on trumped up charges of sedition that were laid against him. Rather than claim asylum in France, Muir chose to return to Edinburgh to contest those charges and face his accusers, but lost because it was rigged against him from the very beginning.

The head of the Scottish judiciary, Lord Braxfield, a staunch champion of the status quo who was determined to kill the reform movement, made an example of Muir by sentencing him to 14 years’ deportation to the colonies.

This provoked outrage and while Muir languished in a rotting prison hulk on the Thames, the press and parliament debated his sentence. But it was duly executed and for most of 1794 Muir was aboard a convict ship sailing initially to Rio de Janeiro then back across the Atlantic, under the Cape and on to Australia.

When he was in Australia he was continually making plans for his escape. In early 1796, he persuaded a French captain on an American ship to give him safe passage across the Pacific, arriving on Vancouver Island then slowly making their way down the western side of what is today the United States.

When they reached the Bay of California, in order to avoid capture by the British, Muir handed himself over to the captain of a Spanish ship hoping for safe passage to Spain. But the Spanish authorities decided to detain and arrest him. Muir was sent back to Spain in a prison ship, by this time having fully circumnavigated the globe. When they arrived in Cadiz, they found the port was blocked by British ships and a gun battle ensued. Muir lost an eye and half of his face, leaving him with a permanent disfigurement and in constant pain. He was nursed back to some sort of fitness in Spain while the French and Spanish authorities argued about what should happen to him, the French petitioning for his release.

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After four months, he was allowed to go to France. He entered Paris and was treated in late 1797 as a hero of the revolution. He reconnected with Scottish, Irish and English exiles and spent the last year of his life petitioning the French government to support insurrections in Ireland and Scotland.

The Scotland in which Muir lived was very much different from today. There were a lot fewer people, for starters. The 1801 census records the population of Scotland as 1.6 million and that of England at just over eight million. Scotland was still very much a different country from England. Muir was born just 20 years after the 1745 rebellion and the Union was still in relative infancy – centuries of integration and shared history still lay ahead. By no stretch of the imagination was this a democratic country. Self-appointed burgh and county councils made up of the bigger landowners chose the country’s 45 members of the Westminster Parliament, who, with few exceptions, steadfastly defended the power and privilege of the aristocracy. In the General Election of 1790, 2665 people had a vote.

In that context, the cause of the reform societies for universal adult male suffrage was truly revolutionary. The ruling class, terrified by events across the Channel, understood the threat only too well and used every ounce of political power and military force to suppress the reform movement.

The reform movement of the 1790s died away but the seeds it planted took root and, bit by bit, democracy advanced through the 18th and 19th centuries.

I wonder what Muir and his fellow reformers would make of our imperfect democracy today and the current movement for political reform? He would probably be astonished that, more than 220 years after he campaigned for elected parliaments, we still have a majority of parliamentarians in the UK elected by no-one. The existence of the House of Lords should be an affront to any democrat. And that its membership continues to be boosted by patronage and privilege seemingly without limit ought to be cause for public outrage.

The Lords should be abolished and replaced with a second chamber elected on a regional basis in England and with national representation from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for as long as the multi-national state that is the UK exists.

Muir would also be concerned that, in a state that operates universal suffrage, so many of our citizens chose not to vote.

An estimated 14 million UK voters did not exercise their rights on June 8. Is this simply apathy, a lack of interest in the outcome? Or is it better seen as the result of alienation from a system that many believe is rigged in the first place? I think it’s more the latter.

Throughout the UK, our democracy is shallow and fragile, and if those of us who value it do not act we risk its erosion. There needs to be a major overhaul in how we teach political engagement in our schools. It is unforgivable that so many people attain voting age without ever having been told how to do it and why it matters.

There needs to be automatic voter registration so that when a citizen interfaces with the state, whether to apply for a driving licence or renew a passport, they are automatically added to the electoral register.

We need to change how we vote, looking at having elections on Sundays, allowing advance voting, and making it possible to vote securely online.

I’m also certain Muir and his contemporaries would be amazed that we still have the monarchy in place and that the head of this ostensibly democratic state is chosen in perpetuity by just one of the families that inhabits it.

I, like Muir, am a republican and I would prefer the monarchy to be dissolved completely and for the head of state to be elected, but I continue to be surprised at how outlandish and beyond the pale that superficially reasonable proposition seems to many people, and the lack of traction the republican cause has.

Arguably, the republican cause was better represented in the late 18th century than it is in this one. Nonetheless, a review of the monarchy is long overdue in our constitutional arrangements, and I hope that when the current Queen steps down, such an examination will take place.

But perhaps the biggest democratic reform we can contemplate is ending the multi-national state of the UK, which has served its purpose, and allowing each nation to become a self-governing entity, in turn sparking the break-up of England into regional units. This is one reason why I support Scottish independence. Not only would it enhance democracy here by putting the people who live in Scotland in charge of their own affairs, it would be a catalyst for democratic reform through England too.

Would Muir have voted Yes in 2014 were he alive today? Who knows? Certainly there are records of Muir, Paine and Tone trying to persuade the French government to support the establishment of three independent republics in the British Isles – one each for Ireland, Scotland and England. The radicals of the late 18th century in Scotland and England had no hesitation in supporting the peoples of each country in taking control of their own destiny – and saw reform in one country assisting the process in the other.

The lack of awareness of the case for Scottish independence by many of today’s English radicals is surely one of the things we need to address.

The independence campaign of 2012-14 was, by any measure, remarkable. It inspired and motivated people on a scale not seen in modern times. The Yes campaign provided a focus for anyone who wanted change. It brought together those who had long campaigned for national autonomy with those who increasingly saw independence as a more pragmatic and immediate route to social and economic reform than staying in the UK.

The message was unrelentingly positive, always talking up the potential for a new progressive country, arguing for better public services, equality of opportunity, and a fair distribution of wealth.

The Yes campaign was about many things, but it was least of all about identity. The media would have had you believe differently, but this was not about nationality, it was about empowerment, about taking control. It was breathtaking. The vibrancy and inclusiveness of the campaign was a world away from couthy shortbread-tin images of Scottishness. We already had our flags and anthems; we were at ease with being Scottish in all its forms, now we wanted political control.

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There were no insurmountable barriers to independence, only challenges we could not overcome. We had no opponents, only supporters yet to be convinced.

People were encouraged to speak one-to-one with family, friends, taxi drivers, school and workmates.

And they did. A million conversations saw the campaign come alive. And people were open to persuasion. We started the campaign with 25 per cent support and ended it with 45 per cent. Put another way, three-quarters of a million people voted for independence on September 18, 2014, who didn’t feel that way at the start. It was a remarkable and inspiring campaign without precedent.

It didn’t win, but the legacy is vast. It shapes Scottish politics today and is likely to do so for years to come.

So let me now consider what happened on June 8 and what we need to do next. At 10pm on polling day I arrived at the count in Meadowbank as the results of the exit poll predicted a hung parliament with the Tories losing their majority and the SNP losing 22 seats. I spent the next hour and a half doing radio and television interviews, explaining that this was a major defeat for the Tories and that even with a loss of seats this was a remarkable win for the SNP.

In one sense that was true.

The SNP got 37 per cent of the vote, far more votes than any other party, and won 60 per cent of the seats in Scotland. It was our second-best election result ever, and in fairness, even the dogs in the street knew the electoral tsunami of 2015 couldn’t be repeated – we were bound to lose seats. But winning 60 per cent of the seats on 37 per cent of the vote was entirely due to the first-past-the-post system being kind to the SNP. Here’s another way of looking at it – 480,000 people who voted SNP two years ago declined to do so this time.

In 2015, the SNP had more than 50 per cent of the vote in 35 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats – in June, they had more than 50 per cent of the vote in none. This was, by any measure, a political setback for the SNP. Given that the Greens contested only three seats and all of the other parties were opposed to independence, the opponents of independence might conclude that this was a major setback for the Yes movement.

They’d be wrong. In fact, support for the notion of Scottish independence has been remarkably steady at around 45 per cent. So why are the party of independence polling considerably less than the idea itself? Most of the answer is simply that a higher proportion of people who oppose independence voted than those who support it. But there were changes of allegiance too at this election.

I think a number of different but inter-related factors were involved. And the cocktail of political intentions they created as people made their way to the ballot box differed from one part of the country to another.

Let us begin with the Tory campaign against the second independence referendum. The Tories played a clever game but we should be clear that their objective was never to persuade people who are in favour of independence to change their minds, but to win votes from Unionist voters who, after all, constitute a majority of the electorate.

Hence the faux separation of the Scottish Tory Party from its Westminster leadership, the rebranding as Conservative and Unionist, and the constant appeal to voters of other Unionist parties to put the Union first.

The attack on the second referendum was two-fold. First, there was the accusation that those who argued for another referendum did not accept the result of the first one. We were branded as the anti-democrats, the Tories as defenders of the people’s decision.

Of course, it was rather more complicated than that. The SNP Scottish Government have a mandate in regard to a second referendum, obtained at the 2016 Scottish election which supersedes the decision of 20 months earlier.

It is a conditional mandate which says that if the circumstances that pertained in 2014 changed to such an extent as to invalidate the options which people voted on, then a second vote on the question should be considered.

A specific example is given in the SNP manifesto for that election.

It says that in the event of Scotland being taken out of the EU against the will of the people who live here, that would constitute grounds for a second referendum.

After the Brexit vote of June last year it looked as if that might indeed happen. To their credit, the Scottish Government tried to square the circle of respecting the views of Scots to stay in the UK while also wanting by a bigger majority to stay in the EU, which the UK wished to leave.

A framework document was published last December which set out how Scotland could have a different relationship with the EU whilst still being part of the UK.

It was a compromise from a Scottish Government led by a party which believed in an independent Scotland and membership of the EU and yet which advocated neither.

The document was met with contempt and indifference by London – and the Westminster Government refused point-blank to consider any differentiated post-Brexit arrangements for Scotland or to acknowledge that the Scottish Government might have a locus in the debate.

Now, we do not yet know what Brexit will look like, but in March of this year it seemed certain that none of the potential outcomes would be satisfactory for Scotland.

And so I do not think that Nicola Sturgeon had any choice in the spring when she said that Scotland must get to vote on whether the Brexit deal negotiated by the British Government was acceptable or whether circumstance had changed so much that Scots would wish to reconsider the option of becoming an independent country.

But at best this was a complicated and heavily nuanced argument, and no match really for simply saying that we’ve had a referendum and there’s no need for another one. In attempting to explain how and why a second referendum was justified, we got trapped into arguing about process rather than principle.

Thus the debate became about a referendum and not about the potential benefits of independence itself.

So what happens now? Well, actually, the result of the June 8 General Election in itself has changed the possible outcomes of Brexit and therefore the way in which the Scottish Government’s mandate can be executed.

We still do not know exactly what a post-Brexit Britain will look like, but it is now possible to argue that some sort of differentiated arrangements for Scotland might be secured.

The picture is certainly unclear enough to have to wait and see what emerges before deciding whether the change is sufficient to trigger the exiting mandate. So, effectively, the timetable for a second Scottish referendum has been paused.

The Tories will, of course, claim victory on this. But, ironically, the change in course from March is required not because they did well in Scotland, but because they did so badly in the rest of the UK. Either way, with a second referendum timetable off the table, they have effectively lost a major part of their armoury.

This now gives us the opportunity to get back to talking about independence itself rather than the technicalities of how and when we have a vote on it.

This brings me to the second objective of the Tory attack on the idea of a referendum. The Tories – and, in fairness, the Labour Party too – constantly accused the SNP of being obsessed about a referendum to the detriment of the day job, that somehow advocating independence meant the Government was less able to run health, education, policing or whatever.

This was a clear attempt by Unionists to pretend that the constitutional debate is something abstract, not connected to the everyday administration of stuff.

We should never give ground on this. If we learn anything from Thomas Muir and the reformers who preceded us, it is that the case for constitutional reform is inseparable from the material improvement of the people. One is a means to the other.

Indeed, that is why so many people were won to cause of independence in 2014 – they believed that self-government would allow us to build a fairer country with better public services and a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.

So, in going back to first principles and arguing afresh the case for an independent Scotland we need to connect what has been done with what further needs to be done.

Yes, we are right to argue the achievements of the SNP Government, but in the same breath we must also explain the limitations of what can be achieved with the current financial and legislative restraints on it. And we must seek to explain what more could be done if those constraints were removed and the Government had the full powers of an independent state.

The third factor at play in changing allegiances in this year’s election was Brexit itself. Strangely, given that the election was called ostensibly because of Brexit, there was precious little debate about the matter during the campaign itself. However, there had been debate about little else for two years.

The SNP were the only major party in Scotland that was unequivocally pro-EU and in favour of Remain in last year’s referendum. But among SNP voters, opinion was divided with a third or more voting leave. Since the referendum, the SNP had appeared to be associating EU membership with independence to an even greater extent, especially by linking the case for a second referendum with being made to leave the EU.

To many SNP supporters who voted Leave, this was a bridge too far, and rather than risk their vote being claimed as a mandate against Brexit they simply stayed at home.

Some, particularly in areas with the largest Brexit votes, such as the north-east, might well have lent their vote to other parties in protest at what they perceived as the SNP’s Europhilia.

Given that the Tories were the most Eurosceptic, it seems likely they were the main beneficiaries of this shift. Now, these SNP leavers still believe in independence, so the question is how to get them back.

There are good reasons for not liking the EU: the Common Fisheries Policy; the constraints on member states’ borrowing; the lack of democratic accountability.

And there are bad ones: xenophobia and resistance to international co-operation.

I am very pro the European Union. As a socialist, I believe firmly that restraining capitalism and limiting corporations’ ability to exploit workers, consumers and the environment is a damn sight better than letting them do what they want.

But the EU could be better and we would do well to develop a critical narrative that looks at how we would like the EU to develop – contributing to an agenda for change in Europe along with other progressive parties.

Most of all, we need to be clear that an independent Scotland would seek a relationship with the EU that is palpably in the interests of the people who live here.

Whenever we get the chance, it should be the objective of an independent Scottish government to negotiate a deal with the EU which is best for Scotland. That doesn’t mean membership at all costs; it may well mean a hybrid relationship such as that enjoyed by Norway.

Whatever the deal, it should then be put to the people of Scotland for confirmation in a further referendum. Independence means having the ability to decide things for ourselves, whether that be how our health service is organised or the agreements we have with other countries.

The main concern for all of us who seek self-government should not be whether we are in the EU but who decides whether we are in the EU – the people of Scotland, or someone else. For now, that decision is being taken by someone else, and against the express wishes of people in Scotland. The case for independence is that it removes the democratic deficit required by the UK in this as in so many other areas.

The final factor which churned the electorate in June was undoubtedly that of Jeremy Corbyn. For some people, of course, Corbyn was a reason not to vote Labour, and he may have encouraged some of his party’s older, traditional voters to go Tory.

But, for a much greater number, he was the reason why people were prepared to give Labour a second chance. Much of the SNP’s attack on Labour in the run-up to 2015 was that they were right-wing – red Tories who not only sided with the Tories in the Scottish referendum, but who supported Trident, Tory austerity and foreign wars. It stung and it resonated because it was true.

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But now, here was a Labour leader changing direction, moving to the left and getting vilified by the Tory press for doing so.

You can call Jeremy Corbyn many things but the red Tory moniker isn’t plausible. Here also was a Labour manifesto which, whether or not it was achievable, was certainly clear.

It drew lines between the haves and have nots; us and them, and all of it promoted through a canny social media campaign which learned much from our own in 2014.

The Corbyn effect was undoubtedly much more pronounced in England than here – but Scotland was not immune.

To begin with, it was easy on the doorstep. You could simply say that most of Corbyn’s policies were already being implemented by the SNP Government, that we were more radical than he was, and besides he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected anyway. It worked, but only for so long as a Corbyn victory seemed impossible.

When the polls began to narrow in the final two weeks and pundits began to speculate about the chance of a Corbyn win, suddenly the election became a whole lot more exciting. Corbyn was able to portray Labour as the engine for social change and talk of people power in a manner not dissimilar to the Yes campaign of 2014.

For some, particularly young, left-leaning voters in urban areas, the attraction was undeniable.

I know several people who told me that they voted Yes in 2014, and voted for me in 2015, but this time they voted Labour because they wanted to endorse, and I guess, associate with the message he was putting out.

And, of course, given that the SNP spent most of the campaign saying the election was not about independence anyway then, from their point of view, where was the harm in lending their vote to Jeremy?

The ironies of this are manifest. For starters, the Labour victories in Scotland for the most part replaced left-wing SNP MPs who were well disposed to Corbyn in the House of Commons with right-wing Labour ones who are not. A few more Corbyn sympathisers were taken out by Tories in seats where the Scottish Labour leadership’s exhortation to vote for anyone but the SNP saw Labour voters do just that. But perhaps the most interesting thing is, given Labour has leaked support from the right to the Tories while at the same gaining support from SNP and Green voters on the left, the cohort of Labour supporters in Scotland has never been more open to the prospect of independence.

If the Scottish Labour leadership respond to this by allowing a genuine debate inside the party and allowing those who support independence the right to organise, we would be in for a very interesting time indeed.

This is something the wider Yes movement should keep a close eye on.

How should the SNP respond to Corbyn’s Labour Party? Firstly, we should work together where we agree on things. There may well be opportunities in the new arithmetic of the Westminster Parliament where we can combine with others to defeat the Tories. Of course we should take them.

Secondly, we should point out the limitations of Corbynism – and they are many – when it comes to change in the UK. He does not support constitutional or electoral reform; despite his personal history he cannot get his party to review, never mind stop, our expanding nuclear weapons programme; and his proposals for the welfare state were a lot more modest than what we were arguing. In short, Corbyn’s Labour isn’t half as radical as it thinks it is.

Moreover, the main limitation is that despite amassing a lot of goodwill among the electorate, swaying legions of floating left and liberal voters, and genuinely activating a new layer on erstwhile no voters – he still didn’t win.

But the main way we tackle Corbynism is to accentuate our own uniqueness – and that is the case for independence.

And here’s the key question: does the rise in Labour support in Scotland and drop in SNP support mean that there has been a decline in the number of people who believe that independence is the best way to change the world around them?

I think the answer to that is not yet – but I am far from complacent about the possibility that this might happen.

Between 2012 and 2014, we succeeded in persuading 1.6 million people to vote for independence. That happened because we were able to unite those who wanted change.

The case for independence was not about the trappings of nationhood but about the real power to change lives, to spread our wealth more equitably, to invest in the skills of our people, to harness our natural resources, to build a more equal and more inclusive society.

We wanted independence in order to change Scotland.

Many progressive people, fed up and frustrated by a lifetime of getting nowhere by other means, rallied to the cause. People who would define themselves as socialists, liberals, Greens and simply democrats joined with those who called themselves nationalist to build a rainbow alliance of all sorts of people in all sorts of places united by a common intent.

In particular, many who had put their faith in the Labour Party, and who had believed their leaders when they said that independence was a diversion from the class struggle, came to see that far from being irrelevant to the social and economic change they aspired to, independence could be the midwife of that process.

There are those, maybe plenty here, who support independence as a matter of principle. They believe, no matter what, that Scotland is an ancient nation and should govern itself. But that is not a majority viewpoint.

The route to majority depends upon convincing people that taking power for ourselves is a better way to improve the lot and the chances of the people who inhabit this land than allowing it to remain as a region of a much larger polity.

So, looking ahead. Given the dramatic and often unexpected changes that have taken place in our recent political history, I should caveat what I say next. This is how it looks now – it might be different next week.

But for now we need to protect as best we can our people and our economic interests as the UK leaves the EU, and at the same time we need to get back to basics and prepare a new prospectus for independence.

The timing of how we move forward for another independence vote is now on hold until we can see with some clarity what a post-Brexit UK looks like and know of Scotland’s role within it.

Like I said, things can change but for now it seems to me that it is unlikely that we would be able to trigger another referendum before March 2019, and perhaps not even then. By then we will be two years away from the next Scottish Parliament election and, clearly, we would then have the option to seek a renewed mandate at that ballot.

Given the choice between getting a new, clear and unconditional mandate in 2021 or trying to resuscitate a heavily nuanced mandate linked intrinsically to Brexit, I know I would opt for the former.

I know also that this scares some in the Yes movement, who fear that pro-independence parties may lose a majority in the 2021 parliament and the chance of a further referendum may disappear.

To them I say: have confidence in your conviction. There is no reason why we cannot take support for independence to far greater levels than hitherto in the next four years.

Besides, there is no shortcut for this. If there are not the numbers to elect an independence-supporting Scottish Government, then there ain’t the numbers to win a referendum in any event.

So, realistically, I think those who seek independence need a plan which works backwards from 2021. I don’t know if this is a marathon rather than a sprint but it’s certainly 5000 metres.

That means we need to build a new case for independence which builds on the old. A case which answers questions left unanswered last time and takes account of changes in the world since.

One of the major attempts to undermine the case for independence by those who oppose it is to suggest that the campaign is essentially nationalist and that nationalism is inherently a bad thing. Neither are true and we need to be prepared to say so.

In fact, the principal argument, that the people who live in Scotland should be the ones who decide what happens here, is essentially a democratic argument rather a nationalist one.

Anyone who looked for one second at the Yes campaign in the run-up to September 2014 would have seen a progressive coalition for change made up of liberals, socialists and nationalists and all points in between.

I am not a nationalist. If I must have a label call me a republican social democrat.

But I have no hesitation in working with people who define themselves as Scottish nationalists and no hesitation in defending them as progressives in our contemporary political context.

Nationalism may mean different things to many people, but usually it is the assertion that there is a national interest which transcends any other division in society.

But actually, if you care to converse with a Scottish nationalist of today, you quickly realise that their concern is not about their wee bit hill and glen but about the injustice and inequality suffered by the communities around them.

So the national interest is in fact the public interest.

This is the civic nationalism espoused by many in the SNP and is both inclusive and progressive. It is concerned with empowerment, not identity, and it makes no judgment about where you come from, simply about where we ought to go.

So, to pretend, as some detractors of independence do, that its proponents are somehow part of a political continuum that includes the American alt-right and the ethnic cleansers of north-eastern Europe is not only wrong, it is dishonest and offensive.

In engaging with the English left, we should also be clear on the concept of solidarity. I’ve oft heard Labour Unionists declare that the working class of Glasgow and Edinburgh have more interests in common with the working class of London and Liverpool than they do with the ruling class of either country.

In one sense this is a truism; of course people who have very little have more in common with each other than with those who have wealth and property. But that’s not only true across the Scottish Border.

The working class of Glasgow also have more in common with the working class of Lisbon, or Marseilles, or Milan, or Detroit, or … you get the idea.

To claim cross-border common interests as a reason for maintaining the Union is to suggest that the United Kingdom as presently constituted is an optimum polity which allows the democratic advancement of class interests.

If this were ever true, it certainly is not true any longer.

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In actuality, the Union prevents a potential progressive majority in Scotland from achieving radical social and economic reform by hitching it to a Conservative majority which frustrates its every ambition.

We suggest that an independent Scotland would allow the emergence of a progressive country in the north of Britain which would espouse equality and solidarity within and beyond its borders. This could act as a catalyst for progressive change throughout these islands. And the English left ought to embrace it. And so to the future. This is the summer of reset – and maybe we should take it into the autumn too.

In constructing a new prospectus for independence capable of winning majority support, we need to demonstrate how it will change the lives of most Scots for the better.

Clearly, the whole point of independence is that people get to choose from a range of potential outcomes according to their political choices. However, we still need to be able to illustrate what independence might mean and how, potentially, it would change our country for the better. That is why we need to talk specifics and we need to exemplify what might happen in an independent Scotland.

I believe we should concentrate on four main themes. Firstly we need a plan for a prosperous Scotland. We will not get a majority of our fellow citizens to vote for independence if they believe it will impoverish them. We need to demonstrate that Scotland can thrive with independence. That means we need to rebut the lies about not being able to afford the levels of public spending we currently have.

The GERS figures published yesterday have been reported as showing the Scottish deficit has reduced to £13 billion or eight per cent of GDP. In fact, there is no such thing as a Scottish deficit because there is no independent Scottish economy.

The revenue and expenditure figures are a series of estimates for how a Scottish regional economy within the UK is performing. They are based on many assumptions which simply would not apply in an independent Scotland.

Moreover, they deny the possibility that if an independent government were in charge of the Scottish economy, rather than all of the principal economic levers being located in Whitehall, they might be able to improve it.

In many ways, the current apparent imbalance between revenue and spending in Scotland is an indictment of the way it is currently managed as part of the UK rather than a reason for not trying alternatives.

A Scottish government with the powers to borrow and invest in the stewardship of our vast renewable energy resources, develop our communications infrastructure, and drive up industrial productivity could see our economy grow rapidly in the early years. Brexit makes it unlikely that an independent Scotland which aspired to be part of a European single market could be part of a sterling zone. That means we need to conclude our consideration of currency options fast.

I can see little argument now against an independent Scottish currency backed up with our own central bank.

Secondly, we need to argue for a democratic Scotland which seeks to put the people in real control of their communities. It will soon be a generation since we last considered the reform of local government in Scotland. Our 32 local authorities operate on boundaries determined by Michael Forsyth and funded (more or less) through a system designed by Michael Heseltine.

I cannot believe that modern Scotland could not do better than this.

Lesley Riddoch spoke on this in some detail in her lecture last year and I agree with much of what she said. Crucially, we need to start thinking of elected local councils as a way of deciding on community priorities rather than of managing services. Decentralising the budget and allowing local top-up precepts will mean local communities can vary standard service levels if they want to.

The Scottish Parliament itself should be reformed. It’s high time we started working on a draft constitution for a new Scotland which would define the rights and responsibilities of citizens, local authorities and national government and its agencies.

We also need to spell out how an independent Scotland will care for all its citizens, the social insurance schemes we will provide, and the principles on which they will be based. We should be working now on revising the taxation system we will inherit so as to make it more progressive, simplified and harder to cheat.

To its great credit, the Scottish Government retains a commitment to universalism in public service provision that seems absent among the left in England.

The old socialist adage “from each according to their abilities and to each according to their needs” is alive and well in Scottish public policy. We believe everyone should help fund public services through taxation and everyone should be able to access them.

Just because some people might be well enough off to afford private health care or education it doesn’t mean they should lose access to these public services.

In fact, if they do, then we begin to eradicate the political support for public services, residualising them. Public services should be the normal way in which people combine to provide the services and facilities they need, not a safety net there as a place of last resort for those who can afford no better.

Those who attack this principle deploy no end of shibboleths in their argument, from rich pensioners getting fuel payments or bus passes to middle-class parents getting child benefit.

But this is a price worth paying for decent public services which command widespread support across the community. And having universal services allows us to make the case for progressive tax reform to fund them, a case which is toast without them.

Above all, we need to argue that a new Scotland will be an outward-looking country that welcomes people from all over the world who wish to make their homes here.

Our immigration problem is that we don’t have enough of it.

Scotland would also be a good neighbour seeking the closest co-operation with England, Ireland and Wales.

Already, many in England look enviously at free university education, free medicine and free elderly care in Scotland.

They are told by the Daily Mail and others that these things are only possible by dint of English taxpayers subsidising Scottish ones. This is a lie. But with independence we could demonstrate beyond question that these things are possible simply by people choosing them, by organising the administration of things in a different way according to different priorities. Then, perhaps, they would choose that too.

Muir saw a Scottish republic as a concurrent development with similar changes in Ireland and England.

The reform movement was as one across these islands.

Today, we should be clear that those who argue for reform in England, whether that is fair votes, abolishing the House of Lords, or reform of the monarchy are our allies in our quest. And we should encourage them to see an independent Scotland as entirely consistent with the democratic advances they seek.