IT has been more than five years since Scotland voted against independence from the UK, and a lot has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. While debates continue over the means by which a second referendum should be secured and whether or not there’s really a mandate for it (there is), lets not forget that the key ingredient in all of this is having enough votes to make it worthwhile.

In the days, weeks, months and in some cases years following the result, many independence supporters proudly declared themselves as part of “the 45%”. Among the 45% of people who voted Yes in the highest turnout of any vote in decades, many people whose hopes for a better future had hinged upon that moment translated their frustration into cementing their identity as a Yes voter.

The pitfall of this is that 45% is a static number and a Yes voter is something that some of us were one day in 2014, but there were not enough of us to win. Since then, of course, the “material change” needed to revisit the independence question has been evident in abundance. There is plenty to recommend the prospect of independence to people who have been considering the issue over the past few years (it has been mentioned a few times, after all), and yet there is still much to do to convince people to make that leap.

While many people are opening up to the idea of a second referendum, the extent to which the divisions between Yes voters and No voters have become entrenched over several years of political deadlock will be hard to overcome. In Scottish party politics, the lines between nationalists and Unionists are clearly drawn, even where voters, members and elected representatives might well have more in common with some on the other side than on their own. Changing this may not be in the SNP’s interests electorally, but for the wider goal of achieving independence – and for the future of Scottish democracy – it could be essential.

When it comes to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, the answer is in the name: they like conserving and they like unions. While the odd independence-supporting Tory does exist (I believe I saw one once, in the wild, before it submerged itself back into the lagoon), it is fair to say there aren’t enough of them for either an independence campaign or a Conservative Party campaign to spend too much time worrying about.

Labour voters, however, are another matter entirely. There is no logical reason why Labour supporters should be uniformly committed to remaining in the UK and polling indicates that at least three in 10 Labour voters already support independence. If the aim is to increase support for independence – and increase it significantly – Labour voters are one group who can and should be being persuaded to make the journey from No to Yes.

Last week, the Sunday National reported that the grassroots campaign group Labour for Independence received hundreds of emails per day from Labour members following the General Election in December, while 350 members have officially signed up to the campaign. If those are the numbers of people who were engaged enough to get in touch, think how many others there must be who would be interested in hearing the positive case for independence.

Even among Scottish Labour politicians, green shoots have started to spring up through the cracks, indicating a willingness to compromise, consider or at least debate the merits and drawbacks of independence in good faith. In the days following the General Election result – in which Labour lost six of its seven remaining MPs in Scotland – Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said that, while “the SNP blueprint for independence is flawed”, the Scottish Parliament should be allowed to decide on whether to hold a second referendum.

The following week she and fellow Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has also said the decision on another referendum should be made “by the Scottish people”, chose to abstain on the Referendums Bill, going against the party whip.

The party’s constitution spokesperson, Alex Rowley MSP, has since said that granting the Scottish Parliament the power to call a referendum with a two-thirds majority is “worth considering”. Meanwhile other party figures, including Labour councillor and president of Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Alison Evison and former MPs Ged Killen and Paul Sweeney (both of whom lost their seats in December), expressed support for another referendum in the name of respecting democracy.

Former Scottish and UK Government minister Malcolm Chisholm has said there is an “incontrovertible democratic demand for indyref2”, stressing the “material change” represented by Brexit – and the list goes on.

The natural impulse of many independence supporters who have felt let down by Scottish Labour as a result of its hard-line Unionist stance and involvement in the Better Together campaign is to celebrate the party’s decline and will it out of existence.

This approach only serves to deepen divisions and is likely to alienate anyone who remains loyal to Labour. It is incumbent on all of us who are interested in winning people over to independence to respond positively to those who are, shall we say, “indy-curious”, and to demonstrate to Labour voters, past and present, that there is no single political party of independence.

That Scottish Labour needs independence voters to have any chance of revival is self-evident. But if the independence movement thinks it can – or even should – win a referendum with only the support of SNP and Green voters, it will be just as guilty of letting stubborn tribalism stand in the way of a truly successful movement for change.

If more people are to open their minds to independence and, vitally, if more pressure is to be put on the UK Government to respect the will of Scottish voters and their representatives, we must aspire to create a genuine cross-party and non-party effort. The beginnings of this shift have already emerged in the form of Unison, Scotland’s largest trade union, calling for a second referendum. If we want to see more of this, ensuring that independence is not a partisan issue is imperative.

Looking beyond the referendum, don’t we all want to be able to enter into “the early days of a better nation” without almost half the population seething with bitterness and resentment? The last thing we want to do is drag a sizeable chunk of the electorate kicking and screaming out of the Union (see Brexit for details), so engaging people in positive, non-partisan and non-judgmental conversations on the issue is fundamental.

Ultimately, the more people who vote for independence, the more airtight the case for respecting the result will be, and the more easily the country can move on to building a shared and positive blueprint for the future.

Bringing more people into the discussion about what an independent Scotland could look like – because there is by no means one or even two answers to that question – is an important and exciting part of that process. We should all be clear that multi-party democracy is a positive element of our political system and one that we should hope to see thrive and develop in an independent Scotland. With that in mind, the sooner we can start to engage in cross-party cooperation and meaningful debate (as opposed to obstinate opposition on either side) the better.

Due to its disastrous electoral performance, Scottish Labour has embarked on a “listening exercise” on issues including its stance on the constitution, the conclusions of which are expected next month. It remains to be seen how meaningful this will actually be, but there is nothing to stop those of us who already convinced by the case for independence to conduct a listening exercise of our own.