‘TAKE your time and hurry up” was the phrase my dad coined when teaching me how to play a round of golf when I was a kid. Carluke was where I was first schooled, and then on a dozen seaside links from Dunoon to St Andrews.

Take your time on any one stroke. Breathe, focus, visualise where you want to go. And stay calm. Always. More than anything, keep your eye on the ball and play it as it lies. But once your shot is played get a move on before the next one to keep the show on the road and consider your partners and those coming behind. The metaphorical link to securing Scotland’s progress seems self-evident.

Then there is the great and almost certainly apocryphal tale of Celtic supporters driving home from Lisbon following their European Cup triumph in 1967. On the road out the town they spotted another Celt thumbing a lift for the near 2000-mile journey home.

They stopped and he asked: “Where are you going?”

Glasgow,” they replied.

“Ach no, you are OK – I am going to Edinburgh.”

The silliness of that hitchhiker has parallels in what I have long felt about some attitudes in the national movement in Scotland.

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The opposition from some, for example, to the devolved Scottish Parliament because it was to be all or nothing, independence or bust. No loaf better than half a loaf. History has proven that perspective, generously put, misplaced.

In truth, of course, the Scottish people have always been a cautious and canny bunch with a very keen sense of the need to be convinced about each step along our journey without end.

The challenge for those of us making the case for progress is to win a majority and to settle the will of the people towards that goal.

I firmly believe we will win and by a substantial margin. But to get there we need to persuade people with a clear, honest and rigorous prospectus. We also have to ask the question when the people know that it must be put to them and they are ready to answer, positively.

For most of my life independence has been an idea backed by somewhere between a fifth and a third of people in Scotland and very low down the list of priorities for most. A minority pursuit, we have been ignored and ridiculed. Now we are being fought. Next, to echo Gandhi, we win, but only if we earn it.

The creation of the Scottish Parliament began a process that has transformed us, and the 2014 referendum delivered an historically high tide of support. But, at 45%, not enough to progress.

The National:

To move forward, those of us who believe in independence already need to open our eyes and minds and keep our wits keen. We need to re-secure the support of those who voted Yes in 2014 of course. Our case needs to be refreshed and straight answers given to difficult questions about a future that can be imagined and worked for but never proved in the abstract.

Our focus must be on the persuadable, but uncertain. Our tone must be engaging and we must be listening, understanding and considerate. The idea that we will ever win by hollering ever more loudly to those who don’t yet agree is obviously risible. The idea that there is some sense in singling out those on our own side with whom we disagree is almost worse.

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The noise and clatter is very much a fringe pursuit. It echoes on the extremes where the wild things go.

Mainstream majority Scotland and the mainstream of the mass membership SNP want to be persuaded – and persuaded at an orderly pace that wins rather than satiates self.

I don’t think that the independence case has ever been stronger or with greater opportunity. We have our own parliament and government and civil service and the means to choose.

We have a prospectus designed to deliver that recognises the realities of our starting point and articulates a clear transition plan. In the First Minister we have one of the most experienced and capable political leaders in Europe.

So our focus must turn to those who need persuaded to get the coalition for Yes comfortably over 50% and towards 60% and beyond.

There is a clear shift in sentiment. The polls will lag until the question is ready to be put, and it must be done in a way that allows clear answers on what the future will be in terms of the preferred detail of the relationship with both the rest of the UK, Ireland and the European Union.

That time will come, it could come quickly but it is not yet today or tomorrow.

We will find the time to play that most critical next stroke. The opportunity is truly generational.

So in the meantime we must hurry our preparations. And for me that means more listening and less clamour. Persuasion not uncivil conduct. We are a democracy and by that means we win.

Who are the people who voted Yes in 2014 that currently say they would vote No? What has moved them and what would win them back?

Who are the people who have moved in the other direction? What moved them and what would persuade others to follow? Who finds that their minds are opening but remain to be persuaded?

What is the message to those born outside of Scotland and especially south of the Border but who have devoted their lives here now? And to the older generation for whom the concerns were too much last time?

This is where we must focus a listening ear and respond with a clear, pragmatic and deliverable plan grounded in rigour and truth. Work needs to be done now and it will reap rewards.

When Scotland is independent all parties and people will be able to offer their competing visions of the country they seek to be.

And Scotland will be able to become the choices it makes rather than simply opposing the choices it does not approve of from a government it did not elect.

But for that new country to succeed we first must manage a transition from where we start now to a sustainable place.

That means new institutions, sound public finances, well-run public services and a system of governance everyone can trust and believe in, especially those we ask to fund it.

It also means a well-considered co-operation with our nearest neighbours in Britain, Ireland, the European Union and the wider world. That will take agreement and work to secure the mutual interests of all. A grown-up approach in clear contrast to the UK strategy for Brexit now.

And in our conduct as advocates of progress we have to embody the change we wish to promote. Scotland has a track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in many walks of our life.

Let’s not repeat that now. Trust in each other and those we have asked to lead. Listen, prepare and ready, and when the time is right, make our case as well as it has ever been. Patience and persuasion must be the order of the day.