ROBIN McAlpine says he has a plan to bring fresh life to the Yes movement.

In a new paper shared exclusively with the Sunday National, the Common Weal think tank founder outlines a strategy for achieving independence focused on building broad popular support for the proposition and winning over No voters.

McAlpine may want to save the Yes movement, but he does not want to be seen as a messianic figure.

“I’m not an ambitious person, I’m not driven by money,” he says. “I don’t get a job out of this. Nobody builds me a statue, I don’t become fucking chairman of the board.

“This is purely my best assessment I could possibly make of how we become independent in the next decade.”

What is to be done?

HIS plan is ultimately concerned with how to “drag the UK to the negotiating table”, rather than debating the relative merits of de facto referendums, Section 30 orders or other matters which McAlpine considers questions of “process” rather than strategy.

But getting there is the key part of his three-pronged plan, which has been in the making for around three years.

To sketch out his plan in summary: First, assemble a network of around 150,000 activists who will be organised and fed lines and arguments to push the case for independence in tailored ways which relate to local or personal issues for “targets”.

This could be done through “social media, direct messaging – it could be email, it could be fucking carrier pigeon”, or everyday conversations at the school gates, pubs and so on.

These agents would be briefed using research informed by behavioural psychology and granular research into the kinds of people the campaign thinks are winnable, informed by something called psychographics, which builds up pictures of voters by rating them on values, desires and ambitions.

The National:

Research included in the paper finds that “soft Yes voters and soft No voters” are hard to differentiate in psychographic profiles – something McAlpine says should generate “easy wins” in the early stages of winning people over to independence.

Campaigners will be directed through an app on when to text contacts – who will have to consent to being approached – and on how to bring up new “talking points” in the real world.

This is based on the example of Bernie Sanders’s, left, 2020 US presidential campaign which, while unsuccessful, was praised for the innovative grassroots approach that allowed it to quickly raise funds and awareness without major corporate support.

The National: Bernie Sanders

Secondly, create a “national commission” of independent experts to work out the answers to what Scotland must do on day one of independence. They will formulate concrete policies on currency, pensions and the other issues over which political parties tie themselves in knots.

This leads to the less certain part of the plan. Through the campaigning work, McAlpine reckons support for independence should pass the threshold of 60%, which he says will “create the political story that Scotland’s settled will has changed” in favour of independence.

Despite the protestations of the First Minister and many within the Yes movement, McAlpine argues the Unionist side’s “mandate is stronger than our mandate” and so can keep blocking another referendum or requests for separation negotiations.

The National: Humza Yousaf

Once that has been overturned through a concerted campaign, however, the UK Government “will shift their focus instantly to how to maintain their interests in an independent Scotland because they will smell that they’re losing it”, he says.

McAlpine goes on: “But if not, we will need to think at that point about how we increase the pressure. But at that point, the clear democratic will of Scotland is being ignored – an entire toolbox opens to us that we don’t currently have access to.

“We cannot do civil disobedience at 47%, it’s not going to carry support.”

'Carnival of democracy'

THE last leg then becomes a question of how to demonstrate this in concrete terms. McAlpine suggests that a three-day “carnival” to encourage the mass signing of a petition – styled on the Scottish Covenant of the 1950s – which should demonstrate an unshakeable mandate for independence.

The National: From left: W Ross McLean, A Nicol signing The Scottish Covenant and McCormack

At this point, McAlpine argues, the First Minister could phone up the UK Government and say: “You know the fucking game’s up now, you can see the polls, why don’t you just give up?”

The nitty-gritty details are set out at length in the new Direction paper published today.

McAlpine says he does not believe his work will rock the boat among the Yes movement establishment at the moment with the SNP pursuing a mandate with potentially less of the vote than they achieved at the last election while Alba remain married to the plan for a Scotland United ticket.

“What I’ve never come across is anybody in there who really, privately thinks any of these solutions are going to work,” he says.

“But that’s the world, that’s just how it goes. They’ve got to come up with something as a pitch to try and save an election campaign.

“I was always aware this wasn’t going to happen in the short term, there’s too much self interest at the moment.”

A glass half full

IT will, he believes, take a crisis within the SNP for them to sit up and take notice.

McAlpine predicts a “caning” in the upcoming Rutherglen by-election and notes the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances.

“The independence movement isn’t ready for a united strategy at the moment, and until they are, we won’t make progress,” he says.

“My best guess at the moment is that things are probably going to get a bit worse before they get better.

“I think that’s just the reality. Partly, what I wanted to do with this paper is give out the message: ‘Look folks, if things do get worse, there is still hope of better’.”

An SNP spokesperson said McAlpine’s plans would be read “with interest”. The Greens declined to comment and Alba failed to respond.

Luckily for him, he believes the parliamentary route to independence is a dead end anyway.

“Not everything that happens in the world goes through a political party,” he says.

“And as I keep trying to point out, you can barely find an instance of a major case of social change across the 20th century which was primarily parliamentary. If you go back and look at any of them: Indian independence, the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement... any big, major social change that you can think of in the 20th century was really led by broad-based campaigns and not a political party.

“And there’s a reason for that. Broad-based civic [campaigns] can just speak to more people than any one political party can. Political parties have this habit of putting people off.”

Furthermore, he believes all this can be achieved with or without a pro-Yes majority at Holyrood: “While it would be a hell of a lot easier if we did this with a pro-independence Scottish Government, technically you could do the whole thing without a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.

“You would need to fund the National Commission with private money, that now means you’re raising £3m and you would need to fund the petition bit at the end, which you could do perfectly fine by yourself.”

He puts the total cost of the project at around £15m over a period of three years; only £2m dearer than the Edinburgh tram inquiry – and six years faster.

Some of this, such as the petition and the National Commission, he envisions being paid for by the Scottish Government while crowdfunders could be set up and party coffers raided to finance the campaigning elements.

“We could do that on a subscription basis or we could go to the US, because we’ve never fundraised in the US which is madness,” he adds.

“This is not big money. This is what drives me up the wall – 99% of what we need to do is brainpower. Basically we just need people with good heads in the right places.”