IT is great to see Angus Robertson back in public life as the managing director of Progress Scotland and, of course, as a fellow columnist for The National.

His Progress Scotland initiative is one of a number of critically important steps in ensuring Scotland finds “a new stage of the journey begun long ago and which has no end”. Those were the words of Donald Dewar at the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament nearly 20 years ago – where has the time gone?

Angus is one of life’s good guys. Thoughtful, caring, considerate and kind in private. In public, an articulate, authoritative and substantial voice during his Westminster career and someone with a strong international outlook and ambition. The beard I have yet to buy into, but Al Gore got away with it when he left politics, so why not Angus?

Angus is fluent not only in German, but German spoken chiefly in the Austrian accent. Understanding modern Germany and Austria is a good starting place for making the most of our relationships with the rest of the continent we share.

READ MORE: No voters tell Progress Scotland why they have changed their minds

He is liked and respected in all the places he has been, which is always a sign of good character as we pass through life. An engaging man with an interested mind, Angus takes the time to understand the perspective of the past and of others. He always has. Not always in a way that captured my interest, but that never stopped him trying, or indeed being trying. But I digress. A passionate and clever campaign leader, Angus succeeded mainly because he was brilliant at harnessing the talents and power of the collective team.

To do that required one of the rarest skills in politics – the ability to listen with the intent to understand rather than to reply.

Watch any TV or live debate and you will see exactly what I mean. This reality is not, by any means, unique to politicians, it is everywhere. Listening actively and properly is a genuinely important life skill.

The great Ernest Hemingway put it thus: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

To succeed in persuading people of what you think requires not just a brilliantly articulate and purposeful exposition of your position. In fact, not even that. It requires you to understand their perspective and why they currently disagree or remain to be convinced. In fact, all the better if you can help people make the journey of their own volition so that they feel they own their own stake in the prospectus you seek them to buy into. And “told you so” is one of the least attractive phrases in our lexicon.

What definitely won’t work is hollering abuse in the hope that one day the people you seek to persuade will somehow relent and come to their senses in the face of your aggression. Hectoring repels. It is all the more dreary and empty if the hectoring plays the woman rather than the ball. Pay attention and you will see a lot of that also. Rather than debate content, some feel it best to traduce the individual, question their motives and legitimacy. Usually because they have lost the argument or have very little of substance to say.

As Plato put it: “An empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” Or, if you prefer Ecclesiastes: “For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” There’s so much of it about on all sides and pointed in all directions.

Politics fails people if all we are left with is attaching a badge to our opponents and then shouting abuse at the badge. Enough of all of that. As children we are taught the Aesop’s Fable about The North Wind and the Sun, which is about persuasion, and is as old as time. Competing to make a traveller take their cloak off, the North Wind hollered and the traveller held their cloak steadfast and sure. The sun, in contrast, shone and beamed in all its glory and the cloak came off by the wearer’s intent. The parallel to Scotland’s independence case is self-evident.

We need to be the sun. In our conduct we need to be the beacon of good grace, good conduct and integrity. We need to persuade.

READ MORE: The Unionist reaction shows Progress Scotland is a gamechanger

Angus’s initiative is designed to start with listening and move to persuasion. This does not mean telling people what they want to hear, it means understanding how best to make the positive case for what they need to hear.

Two things from the discussions after the launch strike me most. First, that re-running 2014 and hoping for a different result makes no sense. Too much has changed and must be learned. And secondly, it would serve the country very well if such a step comes by not just winning but winning big, as I believe we shall.

The ambition must be to deliver the settled will of the Scottish people in the way that the 1997 referendum did. We have to unify a significant majority for independence as a means not an end. Independence can only ever be a beginning. It brings a set of responsibilities and a tool box to deliver on them. It will require thought, pragmatism, co-operation and a rigorous plan. It will require long-term thinking and effort and a generosity of spirit. It also requires us to think about what the transition to creating the newly independent country will be like. In detail.

As the 2014 case for the UK in its current form disintegrates, so we must renew a vision for what Scotland can become and how it will relate to the rest of the countries of the UK, Ireland, Europe and the world.

It will be a process that will be delivered purposefully but over time. There will be events along the way, not just one. The transition requires to be orderly to protect and promote the welfare of all. It will happen.

Those of us who have already made our personal journey to agreeing must unite behind listening and persuasion. It may be slightly less exciting that some of the alternatives being suggested by some. But it is the only way to win and win big.

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