WHAT is the independence movement’s strategy? Looking back to the period just before the first SNP government was elected, the core elements of the strategy were clear. We had a target, from which flowed our tone, and then we worked out the short- and medium-term tactics.

First and foremost, we realised that if Scotland were ever to become independent, we needed a pro-independence government, which could secure or construct a majority in parliament for an independence referendum. We could huff, and we could puff, but without the votes to give us power, we knew our efforts would come to nothing.

From this overarching target everything else flowed, including how we engaged with the world and presented ourselves to voters. We understood that we had to stop looking and behaving like an opposition, and start being governmental, with all that meant in terms of reaching out beyond our core support and offering a vision for the sort of country Scotland could become with the SNP.

As part of that, in 2005, a pivotal decision was taken. We realised that our previous approach was one of mixed messages, and it was not working. The better option was to nail our colours to one of two masts: either Scotland is a nation with great resources – both human and natural – and we can and should be doing so much better or, Scotland is in a bad place and facing a huge threat from Westminster and we must escape or risk further decimation and decline.

We chose the first path, the path of hope and possibility, and the rest, as they say, is history. We chose to be beacons of hope, not because there was no truth in the other claims, but because we learned that this was the most effective way to reach out to those who were not yet persuaded. It might take longer, but it provided also a more solid foundation for support – support built on rock, not sand, and so better able to withstand the inevitable storms.

Perhaps most importantly, we realised that no matter how big the threat we conjured up, the pro-UK side would always be able to wield a bigger and more threatening stick.

Of course, this is precisely what we saw in the final week of the 2014 campaign. Coming back to Scotland, after seven years away, I am struck by the degree to which “must” now dominates the independence movement’s language and approach.

We come across as angry, frustrated, impatient and while there are plenty of reasons to feel this way – from the catastrophe that is Brexit to the UK Government’s muscular Unionism that seems intent on rolling back the boundaries of devolution – I remain unconvinced that this is the best way to move forward the independence cause.

If we are to think target, tone and tactics, how might we approach the choice that is to be made by the SNP special conference in the spring?

Twenty-odd years ago the necessary next step for the movement was to become government. Today, it is for independence to become the settled will of the Scottish people. Getting support for progress consistently to 60% is what opens the door now to real and meaningful change.

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I say that for two reasons. First, even the most ardent pro-UK voices admit that this would change their stance on a second referendum.

A consistent, persistent, broadly based 60% for change is well-nigh impossible to ignore. But second, and more importantly, it forces us, the Yes movement, to change too.

It requires us to move out of the mindset of being “the 45” to the mindset of becoming “the 60”.

It means no longer speaking primarily to ourselves, but reaching out to meet the unpersuaded where they are, to understand and respect the stage of the journey they are on.

That means a shift in tone from majority “must”, something that, yes, gets us going, to a relentless, self-confident, optimistic “can and should” – the building blocks that we know can and will get people from five or six on the support scale for independence to the seven, eight or nine where we need them to be.

Our strategy then becomes centred on a transformational target, on moving from being the 45% to 50% to an ambition of becoming the 55% to 60%. From that, two immediate, tactical choices flow.

First, we don’t fire the starting gun on any vote until we are reasonably confident we can win. A pro-independence vote of 60% is what has impact, whether that is at Holyrood or Westminster.

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Second, it is time to get the full campaign started once again. That means not just the command-and-control version that has been sitting at SNP HQ over these past years, but also the real, true, grassroots Yes movement in all its diversity and creativity - the butterfly campaign that got us from 30% to 45% before and can deliver a similar step change to 60% now.

Some say that we need the target of a date, a fixed point in the electoral cycle, to get the movement focused and motivated. I say we underestimate ourselves. If we know that a target of 60% support is what we need, that is goal enough.

Beyond that, there is another decision we can take. If we want independence to become the settled will of the Scottish people, it would serve us well to discover what the will of the Scottish people is right now, and build from that point.

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That is a task not for the movement but for the government, and it is where an initiative like a new constitutional convention, or a similar process of civic conversation and engagement, would be worthwhile.

I have no doubt that right now more independence has the backing of a clear majority of people in Scotland.

Identifying that is not a threat to independence but part of a necessary journey of nation building, of moving forward together towards independence in our inter-dependent world.

Stephen Noon was chief strategist for Yes Scotland (2012-2014) and has recently begun a PhD research project at the University of Edinburgh looking at Scotland’s political culture.