THESE febrile times in UK and world politics underline that we are living with a broken British political system, government and economic model.

This is the background against which my new book Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence was published last week – a contribution to the debate on self-government that attempts to contextualise it historically and geopolitically.

Take the historical point. The independence issue has come centre stage – aided by more than Thatcherism, the 1980s, successive failures of Westminster and rise of the SNP. Rather this debate has arisen because the collective idea and sum of how people see Scotland has profoundly shifted over two to three generations.

There is never at any point a singular, monochromatic Scotland – and we have to strenuously resist the allure of believing in a single story – but from the late 1950s Scotland began to shift in how it saw itself. This was at the height of “British Scotland”, of Labour and Tory parties winning 97% of the votes in Scotland and of politics from the Shetland to Scilly Islands being seen as homogenous and about one “national swing”.

From the late 1950s, Scotland began to deviate from this pattern. In 1959 as England swung more Tory and Harold Macmillan was elected with a majority of 100 seats in a third successive Tory victory, Scotland moved away from the Tories towards Labour.

Underneath this, Scottish institutions began to talk about Scotland as a distinctive economic area with its own needs, spurred by rising unemployment and low growth rate relative to the rest of the UK.

Adding to this, something was changing in the culture of Scotland. Youth culture, student politics and a nascent folk music scene all contributed to the theory and practice of the politics of protest, particularly CND. This last point was amplified by the 1959 US decision to ask for basing rights for their nuclear weapons in the UK and the Macmillan government’s desire to have a so-called “independent nuclear deterrent” – both of which came to be based in Scotland in the Firth of Clyde.

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This coalescence of events in the late 1950s helped the idea of Scotland to slowly – and imperceptibly at first – “deviate” from the rest of Britain, helped the decline of “British Scotland” to begin, and allowed for the rise of a more distinct Scotland which wished to be more autonomous and embrace self-government.

It has been a long, bumpy road from those days of a very different Scotland but they saw the first electoral successes of the SNP, the re-emergence of the home rule question, establishment of the Scottish Parliament, and the coming of the independence question.

That is one dimension of this debate. Another critical factor is that this is about more than politics. This is about the rich tapestry of who we are as a society, the collective memories and stories we have that make us who we are, and what they say about who we want to be in the future.

ONE of the less emphasised areas of our debate is the cultural dimension. Cultural change and ideas have played a major role in the shifting Scotland of recent decades.

This can be witnessed across society, from the songs people sing at public occasions such as international football and rugby matches, to the renaissance in arts and culture in recent decades, and even a renewed interest in history and the complex stories of Scotland’s past. This used to be one of the major strands of Scottish nationalism when it was a smaller party in the 1950s and 1960s.

As the party became more successful and professionalised, it (and the wider Scottish nationalism) has tended to neglect this rich area. Yet, culture and imagination is one of the key aspects of being human, creative and distinctive in the world, and Scots have disproportionately contributed to this. It is a rich part of the self-government tradition which should not be ignored.

Another pillar of this debate is the shifting idea of Scotland – both domestically and geopolitically – aided by all the above. Not only that, this then reinforces that our debate is one with major international consequences. Ultimately our future will be decided by 5.5 million people living in Scotland, but any discussion and decision impacts much more widely.

Our debate matters to all those who live in the rest of the UK – in Wales, Northern Ireland and England – and who equally endure the degeneration and collapse of public duty, honesty and trust that is Westminster and the British state.

Independence never used to be the defining issue of Scottish politics, but is now. The shifts of the past decade have seen independence come in from the cold. The 2014 referendum in which independence won 45% has shaped the debate since then.

The desire for independence has not yet achieved a consistent majority and there is serious work to do, but the British Social Attitudes Survey finding of 52% support for independence – compared to 23% in 2010 and 33% in 2014 – underlines the continuing trend.

All this success requires not complacency, or assuming that independence can win by default, but underlines the need to become more serious and nuanced.

There is a need to understand the appeal of the case for the Union and why it still has support; just as there is a need for pro-Union supporters to comprehend the logic and rationale of independence.

There is a need to recognise that in the cliches of a “divided Scotland” and 50:50 nation, that is not who we actually are. Underneath these headlines Scotland is a nation of flux, fluidity, change, doubt, uncertainty and continual movement. Voices and perspectives of doubt and ambiguity exist in significant numbers and need to be heard and respected, for they will undoubtedly be the key to how our future evolves.

Any political debate centred just on party politics or the rival claims of Scottish versus British nationalism will not be very edifying. One strand which needs to be encouraged, in the words of Fintan O’Toole, is self-government as “the art of growing up.”

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What O’Toole meant by those words, penned in 2014, is that our debate is informed by a slow maturing, of taking responsibility for our actions, who we are and who we want to be, and honestly looking at ourselves and assessing where we fall short of what we claim to be, and doing something about it.

“The art of growing up” and taking responsibility will never be easy, tidy or linear. Instead, for some it is foreboding, involving as it does avoiding the propensity to blame our problems on external factors such as Westminster, Tories or successive UK Governments. External factors of course have a big part to play in Scotland’s state, but we should not use them to avoid taking wider collective responsibility.

In this, independence is much more than a political project, it is a state of mind and attitude that involves much more than politicians, politics and political parties. Rather it is a national conversation and discourse about who we are, who we want to be, and who we see ourselves in the near future.

In that, it is a debate which we have to undertake with respect, and full recognition of the many different Scotlands and stories out there.

Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence, Pluto Press £14.99