SCOTLAND in the UK today is a far cry from the one in 2014. Just eight years on and we are now governed at Westminster by what some have described as one of the most right-wing governments in the world.

The UK is a sinking ship trying to pull Scotland down as it goes. The case for being an independent country has never been clearer or stronger.

We are well armed with examples of not just what we could be now without the ties to Westminster, but what we could have been. In a time when our younger generations are discussing alternative realities in their daily discourse (popular especially on Reddit and TikTok), we certainly can wonder what could have been our alternative reality if only the path we had taken was the Yes one.

We are abundant in evidence and examples of what “we could have won” but how do we use this, how do we communicate this and get our message across to those who are still to be convinced. What is our message? We have so many perspectives on what the message is and should be, we even have “Conservatives for Yes”, believe it or not.

The ultimate message surely must be the argument for true democracy? The Yes movement, to use an old term, is a “broad church”, and we obviously have many differing views on the visions for the future we have in mind.

Mine, I am sure, differs greatly from some who are reading this piece right now but ultimately don’t we all want that debate to be between us and us alone? It should be ours to have without interference, voted on fairly by Scottish citizens, using all the powers and levers at our Parliament’s disposal.

To end UK rule, to have full autonomy and self-determination realised is not the end goal – it’s the beginning of so much more. Shaping and creating a country of our own free will and choice is what we aspire to. It’s a lifetime’s work and desire of many.

Self-determination has free choice at its core, it is central to democracy. The choice to believe in what we want, to choose to live our lives how we wish, to participate in society in our own way. We may not be free from consequences, good or bad, but freedom to choose should surely always preface that.

How do we then sell choice, full autonomy and self-rule to those who are undecided, or who are looking to switch from No to Yes with the right arguments to satisfy their apprehension, and why are some still unconvinced by our endeavours?

There may be many reasons, but one which stands out to me is our message delivery, which is a crucial aspect of any campaign. Self-reflection is invaluable to understanding why some will not accept our message and scrutinising the delivery of it is key to that understanding.

We already know that we are viewed by our opposition as unruly and uncouth, or at least that perception is a narrative they push to delegitimise anything we say or do.

We need only look at what surprise there was at how we Scots handled the passing of the Queen, and the sombre dignified approach which took them aback. I cannot imagine for the life of me what they expected.

At every turn there is an effort to delegitimise us and our movement.

Our behaviour will ultimately be a deciding factor in how we are portrayed and whether our arguments will achieve legitimacy by those we seek to convince.

They want folk to think we are incapable and too reactive to be trusted.

Good relationships build trust and ensure genuine connections with people. It is these genuine connections which will open the hearts and minds of others to the message we are conveying.

If we look at conduct around us, we need to ask ourselves if a particular behaviour of an individual or group has ever caused us to disengage with their message, then ask what we can do to ensure we are conducting ourselves in a manner which doesn’t make people disengage with us.

We can’t abuse and vilify each other online thinking that it will in any way shape or form convince anyone of the merits of an independent Scotland.

There is plenty to be angry about, that I am sure nobody can deny.

But when we show self-control in our actions and our words are respectful, we become a place of refuge in an ever more verbally violent debating bubble.

We can’t control another person’s actions or words – and of course why should we? It is their choice. But we can control how we act and respond to them.

Our conduct while campaigning can determine the ultimate outcome.

Therefore, I am delighted to see the code of conduct on the final agenda for SNP conference.

Our conduct will make or break our campaign, that I am sure of.

Committing ourselves to being composed and considerate will not only strengthen us as a movement, it will protect us from any efforts to delegitimise our message and it will attract people to join us.

Dignified behaviours are a sign of strength and resolve which our opposition fear.

They want to see us chaotic and uncivilised as it plays into their narrative.

A civic movement where we engage in good faith, with integrity and respect, is a noble aspiration. After all, our cause is a noble one – true democracy.