ON the night of September 18, 2014, I was standing outside Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh being interviewed for television when the news came through that Clackmannanshire had voted No.

It was the first area to declare the result of the referendum, and having spoken with a few of the Yes strategists, they felt Clackmannanshire would give a good indication how the overall vote would go, so I feared the worst.

I was devastated, distraught, but I could understand why so many people voted No. We have had a narrative foisted upon us for centuries that we are too wee, too poor, and that Scotland just can’t run itself. Far too many people in this country suffer from an almost systemic lack of confidence due to the drip, drip, narrative of “we can’t”.

Well, we can. I felt in 2014 and I still do that the UK is antiquated and not fit for the modern world, because all power is at the core in London and the people in that core are never going to act for the benefit of Scotland. They are never going to cede the power that is needed for Scotland, and the only way we will ever be a partnership of equals is when Scotland becomes independent and we negotiate from a position where we choose what is to happen. At the moment we have the reverse position where Scotland is told what is going to happen to it. That cannot continue.

Back in 2013 and 2014 I spoke publicly about my support for independence. It was and is something that I am passionate about and while I do not know for certain if people really pay attention to those in sport or any other form of public life, I for one wanted people to know where I stood.

There were a number of big names in sport and other areas of society that were also wanting to do it but they were fearful of coming out and saying how they felt. I could understand business people, for example, worrying about alienating potential customers, but for people like me, I don’t really have that concern.

I realise that some people might want to maintain a position of neutrality but that’s not my way.

I am just saying what I think, which is what I do in the position I have. I have always felt that if you are open and honest and try to explain why you think something then you are never going to get everybody to agree with you but they will know your position and most people respect you for that.

If you do voice your opinion and suffer a backlash in your work, for example, then it’s the people wanting to silence or sanction you who will be in a difficult position.

I have always taken the view that you are better being out in the open and if I think something or have an opinion, then I will say it.

I am clearly opinionated about politics now but I wasn’t always so. Growing up, ours wasn’t a political household and it was only when I went south to Manchester United at 16 that I began to encounter my peers from all over Europe and all over the world. To them their country’s independence was normal, so I soon began to question why Scotland was different, why Scotland was not normal.

I’ve always been inquisitive and wanted to learn about things, about Scottish history, and I am still learning. Even recently I visited Culloden with my family and going through the fantastic visitor centre the story was laid bare that the Jacobites were split between those who wanted Scottish independence and some who wanted Scotland to stay in the Union but have it all run by the Scottish Stuart kings again.

That sort of split and story is still topical today, the politics game being played out and the splits in opinion of the nation; these things are not unique to the modern day but it’s so important that with the back drop of Brexit we win our independence this time.

Due largely to geography, we are always going to have close-knit links with England, but you don’t have to be part of the same country to trade freely, as we have seen with the EU for over 50 years since its inception as the coal and steel community. So why be part of the same country and be ignored?

In this current Union, we’re outnumbered and always will be. We have seen in the last few days how Westminster will try to not allow Scotland to have another independence referendum – that’s not a Union, that’s colonialism.

It is normal for the people of a democratic country to voice their collective view and put in place the policies that the majority of the electorate want across the board. But in the Union, Scotland is always going to be an additional afterthought and for me that is unacceptable – my country cannot be an afterthought.

To return to my point about saying what you feel: I believe most Scottish people instinctively want Scotland to be govern herself and be independent, it’s just that in 2014, Better Together’s game was to scare them and sadly it worked.

I had plenty conversations with mates after the referendum who told me they wanted Yes to win but they voted No because they were genuinely scared by what they had been told.

What we need this time around is to continue the undoubted successes of the Yes campaign but importantly develop better arguments on the issues that scared people, because once that happens the direction of travel is only going to go one way.

What I didn’t realise back then was how institutionally Unionist Scotland was and is. It will be a slow process of chipping away at that mentality so that people feel more confident about expressing their opinion and are not fearful of negative ramifications for doing so.

It’s going to take time to build that confidence but as in any movement, once you get people to be torchbearers it encourages others to be confident and the momentum builds. Hopefully there will be more people in the public eye who will feel they can speak out when the second referendum happens.

Michael Stewart is a former footballer and Sportscene pundit.