DURING the run-up to the Scottish referendum in 2014 my main contribution came as director of an officially registered campaign organisation called Wealthy Nation. As the name may suggest, its purpose was to counter the Unionist argument that Scotland was “too wee, too poor, too stupid” to make it as an independent state.

While other campaigners tramped the mean streets of the industrial areas, we would try to attract Yes votes from plush, leafy suburbs or bonny wee burghs or even big hooses on remote estates (and we did find a couple of those).

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To the wider movement we were making a basic point that, to win, a bid for independence had to involve, at least to some extent, all parts of the country and all levels of the population, rather than being a surrogate Marxist class struggle. When in 2013 a “Great British Class Survey” was carried out by the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester, it discovered that the “established middle class”, steadily expanding, had now actually grown bigger than the “traditional working class”, in long-term decline. A Scottish campaign that relied solely on the proletariat was doomed to failure.

Wealthy Nation adopted a strategy of recruiting rich and successful Scots who had made their pile on their native soil – though admittedly some then domiciled themselves abroad so as to escape the UK taxman. Still, they were happy to come home for the campaign and help us: “I think I am worth £50 million”, one told me as he wrote his cheque (for quite a small amount).

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Yet it pains me to report that a number of these fine fellows have in the past three years fallen by the wayside and, if not quite reverting to Unionism, have in their own minds pushed the day of Scottish independence far into the future.

One of their reasons I can easily understand. If a second referendum were to be held this year or next, I wonder if an outfit going under the name of Wealthy Nation would be at all welcome in the ranks of Yes supporters. We were given our place four years ago – only slightly grudgingly – because we offered the narrative that Scotland could without any doubt stand on its own feet, and would indeed be all the better off after independence with economic policies serving our own interests rather than interests defined for us from Westminster, by people who knew little of Scotland and cared less.

But we could not blend in a second time if, as I suspect, this new campaign were geared to the proposition that Scotland suffers such terrible poverty, as a sort of European Somalia with proliferating food banks and rough sleepers, that the only rational choice is to break free into social upheaval.

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The name Wealthy Nation will obviously never be much of a match for such a concept, so we would not just be held at arm’s length but rebuffed altogether. In fact all prosperous citizens would have to be written off by the Yes campaign, just as the entire north-east of Scotland, once a stronghold of the SNP, seems to have been written off, merely because it does not fit into a view of the world as seen from the banks of the River Clyde. Instead, I suppose, victory will be a matter of radically politicising single mums and problem drinkers.

I have yet to overcome my own doubts, but a couple of imminent publications might help me. One is the long-awaited report from Andrew Wilson’s growth commission, now 15 months past the original deadline. The word has it that this is because Andrew too obviously supports the capitalist system, while the rest of the SNP, with few exceptions, does not.

The second report is coming from a poverty and inequality commission headed by the quangocrat Douglas Hamilton. This outfit has, unlike Andrew, been leaking its findings. An example came last week, with a story from “sources close to” the commission that even the rich areas of Scotland contain hordes of poor people we ignore at our peril.

So in 2018, nearly three decades after the death of socialism, it’s not yet time to abandon the class struggle – or so the gullible reader is tempted to conclude.

In Scotland we get mountains of this sort of stuff because we regard government as the source of all bounty. Any good cause therefore needs to attract the attention of government, something known in its civil service as “exhibiting the bleeding stumps”, or giving the starkest possible picture of the problem involved. It’s a navel-gazing, inward-looking procedure, feeding off its own fantasies because, short of independence, Scotland has so little contact with reality.

I would say that to acquire a reasonably objective perspective on the whole question of Scottish poverty we ought to bear a couple of facts in mind. First, Scotland is the 18th richest country in the world, with a standard of living about the same as in France. What is more, the distribution of income is also about the same as in other advanced European nations – but, for example, not so unequal as in England, because we lack the class of super-rich living in or round London.

Now and again nice English people come to look at us as we wallow in our self-pity. A recent example was the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, of which the credentials as an anti-poverty campaigner can hardly be doubted. The Rowntrees are a Quaker family from York who made a fortune out of chocolate but finally sold up and established a charitable foundation which, since the turn of the 21st century, has been producing often harrowing reports on the state of society. In them we will seek in vain for whitewash, but the one I’m talking about said this: “Across the four countries of the UK, Wales has consistently had the highest poverty, only slightly lower than London and similar to the North East. Scotland has generally had the lowest poverty.”

I mention this not in order to deny that Scotland contains poor people living in degraded parts of our cities, or that we should make every effort to help them. But the overwhelming majority have access to the basic necessities of life: food, a place to stay, medical care. In the real Somalia the people have none of these things.

That is why we may speak of Somalia’s absolute poverty, of a country where subsistence cannot be guaranteed and death is a constant companion. It should be clear that, when we also speak of absolute poverty in Scotland, the usage is a travesty. One of the government’s own websites says of people in such a condition: “They may be starving, lack clean water, proper housing, sufficient clothing or medicines. There is debate in some areas around whether absolute poverty exists in the UK.” I damn well hope so, because the answer is no.

Nationalism usually flourishes when we are feeling good about Scotland: in the 1970s when North Sea oil was coming onstream, in the 1990s when we reached a standard of living close to the UK average, after the turn of the 21st century when we made devolution work.

This history renders it all the more peculiar for our present government to prefer what we might call the miserabilist position, harping on about how all is for the worst in this the worst of all possible Scotlands. Is it really likely we can win the next referendum by telling ourselves how poor we are rather than how rich we are? I’m still hoping for a campaign in which Wealthy Nation can again play a full part, but I don’t see one on the horizon yet.