WRITING for this newspaper in the past year has afforded me an excellent opportunity to express my own perspectives on the issues of the moment but chiefly around the theme this paper is most devoted  to – winning Scotland’s independence. It is so important for the independence movement to have a newspaper like The National with the ability to balance the agendas of other outlets.

As we open the new decade it would appear that we have never been more positively poised in the long story of the national movement. We have progressed through the famous dictum attributed (wrongly evidently) to Gandhi that “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

I have been active in the SNP since I was around 16. Frighteningly that is more than three decades. In that time, we were largely ignored or laughed at. We have been fought hard in more recent years but especially in the run-up to and in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum.

How we conduct ourselves and our case has always been crucially important. The tone, the content, the manner of persuasion have always mattered. But now more than ever they require to be impeccable because the stakes have never been higher.

The foundations, content, moral authority and truth of the case for the status quo have probably never been weaker. At the same time the foundations, content, moral authority and truth of the case for independence have never been stronger.

The National:

The arguments are well-rehearsed; we have a radical right-wing populist government, aligned to their unedifying equivalents around the world, leading us out of the European Union against our will. The prospects for the impact of this on our country, economy and society are very significant and grave.

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At the same time, major longer-term issues challenge policymakers everywhere and require an imaginative and considered approach. Climate change, inequality, demographic pressures, the changing nature of work and transitions through the “fourth industrial revolution” all present colossal challenges.

To lead the country through the many issues we face will require political leadership that is courageous but also secure in its legitimacy democratically. Politicians will have to speak the truth, identify the pressures and the trade-offs and articulate the value of the effort that will be required. This is as true for us whether Scotland chooses independence or not.

The most likely way to ensure that we get the chance to make the choice is to grow support for it in the country.

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The higher support is for both independence and a referendum the more the pressure will be for that choice to be put. The international community matter also, chiefly the European Union of course; and again there the latent support for Scotland’s potential independence has never been more substantial than it is now.

The National:

This makes the strategy and tactics adopted by the Scottish Government and the broader independence movement acutely important now and in the coming months.

What we must not allow is our own frustration and sense of urgency to endanger our composure, unity and ability to persuade. The legal and constitutional dispute between the UK and Scottish Governments is best prosecuted by the First Minister, her cabinet and law officers. Doubting their intent is just risible.

The best focus and use of time for everyone else is to work to ensure that we are persuading those people who will take support from 45% through the 50s and beyond.

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This will include winning back those people who voted Yes in 2014 but who now say they would vote No. It will also require winning those who were previously opposed but who can now be persuaded.

Many of us will know from our own personal connections that there are many people in that category, sometimes from the most surprising of sources. But you would also require to have a tin ear to not detect that many who are persuadable risk being put off.

For my money, there are three big rules we have to now follow if we are to win and win big.

First, focus and discipline. Don’t waste time engaging and feuding and being seen to feud with the entrenched opponents of independence, least of all on social media. It is a complete waste of time and energy and is a turn-off for people who are swithering. And for goodness sake stop an even worse waste of energy niggling within our own team.

The National:

Second, understanding. Offer people the route to supporting independence by recognising what has changed since 2014, what was unconvincing about the prospectus then and what is challenging people’s concerns now. Brexit does present a case study in how not to do it. But for many people, it also offers concerns about what change would mean with independence. Doubling down on hollow, Brexit populism is unlikely to win as a strategy.

Third, truth. Tell it. The transition to independence and the early days of the better nation will take hard work and effort. But this will be worth it. Rome will not be built in a day but it will be purposefully over a generation with the benefits accruing surprisingly quickly.

There will be challenges and trade-offs. Pragmatism will be required in our dealings with the rUK government and the European Union. These challenges will be easy for opponents to articulate while the benefits to many may seem less certain and further off in time.

So just keep telling the truth. Recognise the concerns and all of the realities and identify our prospectus for what we mean to do about it. Pretending that there is some pot of gold – black or otherwise – at the end of the independence rainbow is selling false hope to people who deserve truth.

There is a toolbox and using that wisely to build the society and economy we wish to become will take effort and time. But the evidence from around the world of the best performing small countries is that it will be worth it. Very much worth it.

Preaching that independence will take no effort because of oil, or because we can print cash would be selling a false prospectus. Even if enough people believed it for it to win narrowly it would not be made good in the years that followed. Just as the Brexit false populism demonstrates.

I have never felt more certain and secure in the strength of the case for Scotland’s independence. I think that we will win and win big. And when we do I believe that we will be able to manage an orderly but challenging transition back into the European Union.

I firmly believe that we can put our public finances on a sustainable footing in relatively short order and while growing our commitment to public services.

The opportunities are exciting, but we need to win the chance to deliver on them by persuading people now. That is the responsibility which lies with all of us now as advocates of independence.

We have never been better placed. Discipline, focus, understanding, unity of purpose and truth will get us home.