IN 2014, I ran around all of Scotland, and much of England, saying Britain is broken and it’s time for change. Back then, our movement was out on a limb. We were outsiders, trying to get an audience for an analysis of the British state that most of the media considered absurd. How had some people got it into their heads that Europe’s most stable capitalist democracy was on the verge of collapse? Today, by contrast, there is no more argument: Britain is synonymous with crisis.

Of course, just as no good deed goes unpunished, there’s also no prizes for saying we told you so. I’m not jumping for joy now that everyone admits Britain is at a critical impasse. There’s no room for congratulating ourselves. But it does mean we’re in a different political reality today, compared to 2014. Back then, we were outliers, talking about a crisis nobody else acknowledged. Now, there’s no doubt that certain arguments are won and have passed into common sense: whether you read The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The National or The Telegraph, Britain is broken and it’s pretty much unfixable.

Here’s a way to measure the scale of the crisis. For a second, just forget that you support Scottish independence. Forget that you have any desire for social equality. Forget all your values, and imagine you are an advisor to the Conservatives. What should they do? Of all the possible outcomes of the next six months, which one ends best for the British state? I’ve tried this exercise, many times. Every scenario seems less plausible and less desirable than the last.

Let’s imagine the EU capitulates and agrees to May’s terms. What then? She’s got to win over the DUP, the Brexiteers, and the free-market liberals in her party, which is almost impossible, or she’s got to bring another party round to her vision, which is even less likely. Or she ignores Parliament and causes a constitutional crisis. That’s before we even consider the consequences of the deal: is there a hard border in Ireland, or a new border across the Irish Sea? Every ingenious solution brings up five new problems.

Maybe May could capitulate to the Brexiteers, or even resign in favour of one of them. Let Boris Johnson negotiate a Canada-style deal. But they’d never get the deal through Parliament, and that’s just the beginning. The Tories, let’s remember, are the party of the British business establishment. And they want the softest Brexit possible, or, better yet, no Brexit at all. Johnson has it easy out of power, making wild remarks in his columns. How is he going to sell his vision to the hedge fund managers who actually run Britain?

Maybe there’s a referendum on the deal, bypassing the deadlock in Parliament. But what happens if the people vote against the deal? Does that mean no-deal Brexit? Does it mean we’re rejoining the EU? Or is it back to the negotiating table, and then another referendum on another deal? More questions than answers.

Maybe we just overthrow Brexit, either through Parliament or through another in/out referendum. For Conservatives, this has one major advantage: their financial backers in the City of London would be absolutely delighted. But this wouldn’t solve the legitimacy crisis of the British state, it would make everything worse. We’d go back into the EU broken and humiliated, with no opt-outs and no room to negotiate. The right-wing populists would know this. They’d also know that a democratic referendum had been overthrown. And they will use this fact to build their project until there’s yet another referendum.

Labour is asking for a General Election but after Theresa May’s electoral disaster in 2017, the Tories will only vote for an early election if there’s a cast-iron guarantee of a massive blue majority, which isn’t going to happen.

Finally, then, let’s imagine that, somehow, Britain finds a magic solution. It doesn’t satisfy everyone, far less make everyone happy, but it’s enough to muddle through. It quietens the DUP, the Brexiteers, the liberal Remainers and all the other factions. That seems impossible today. But imagine it, for the sake of argument.

Even if that happens, Britain as a project is dead. Nobody even bothers to deny this anymore. Devolution has been abandoned and Stormont has been running without a government. Polls now show an emerging majority of support for Irish reunification. The Scottish Government, and, indeed, all parties in Scotland, representing over five million people, have been sidelined completely.

How can the British state have any legitimacy ever again? One half of the establishment lied to win the Brexit referendum, enraging 48% of Britain. Now, the other half of the establishment are using “project fear” tactics to overthrow the result, which will enrage the other 52%. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. The whole system is broken.

This is undeniably a crisis. The only question is, how should we respond to a crisis? Any crisis can bring out two reactions, one backward-looking and nostalgic and the other forward-thinking and radical.

In our post-EU referendum society, political nostalgia in response to crisis is everywhere. There’s the hard Brexiteer nostalgia for the fifties, a mythical country when everyone was white and nobody locked their doors. Then there’s the Remainer nostalgia for the nineties, when everyone embraced globalisation and the economy kept growing and people voted for sensible, centrist politicians.

Nostalgic retreat from reality is the opposite of what ordinary people need. The radical response is the opposite of imagining a rose-tinted past. People who desire real change embrace the possibilities thrown up by crisis. That means knowing that you can’t put everything back together. It’s broken, and the bits don’t fit anymore. And, for us that’s a good thing.

Since 2008, millions of people have woken up to the fact that our economy is rigged and our democracy is a sham. Now that it has happened, we can’t go back to shutting our eyes. We can’t afford nostalgia for the 2014 movement either.

Of course, I’m still inspired by the activism that was created. So many people, in the smallest towns and villages in Scotland, organised themselves every day to fight for progressive causes. That grassroots energy inspired people across the world. However, just “getting the band back together” in the hope that another referendum comes soon doesn’t take us anywhere.

Our movement needs to adapt in response. If we want to win next time round, we need a message that’s even bolder than before. Flirting with nineties-era nostalgia for centrism is a road to nowhere. We need new leaders and activists in the Yes campaign. The same voices, second time round, won’t convince the 55% alone.

So much has happened since September 2014 and for better or for worse, we are at this point in the journey. And still, Scottish independence has never been an end in itself. It’s about the example we could set if we break free from the poisonous legacy of the British state. Now, seizing the new moment, looking forward and knowing we can’t simply recapture the spirit of 2014 is the truly radical, and maybe the only, response to the crisis.