SEPTEMBER 18 is a sore one for many of us. Or perhaps, September 19 would be more accurate. The 18th I look back on fondly – a day of sheer hope and ambition. Optimism galore, on the cusp of a nation reinvented. I couldn’t imagine the possibility that it was out of reach, I couldn’t fathom any plausible reason why people wouldn’t want the vision I’d spent months hearing about and campaigning for.

I was consumed by disbelief on September 19, 2014. So much so that the anger I felt was palpable, how could the country have passed up this opportunity? Precisely the strain of blind, echo-chamber-enforced optimism that cost us our independence that day.

It took me a long time, but I eventually began to understand the hesitancy towards independence. Certainly post-Brexit, an event that somewhat pierced my sunshine and rainbows-esque view of the divorcing of nations. While I still believe Brexit and Scottish independence are two vastly different beasts, it did present 19-year-old me with a fat dose of reality. For the first time, I realised that independence would be hard.

It might sound blatantly obvious now, but up until that point I was fully drunk on the idea that an independent Scotland would become a socialist utopia of fairness, equality and ambition overnight.

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Granted, I think being in the Union is harder than any transition to independence ever would be – but exiting it wouldn’t automatically mean problem solved. Securing independence was a means to the end but really only the first step in a long journey. We’d only fallen at the first hurdle.

That’s partly why we lost. For those of us who were convinced there was no unconvincing. For those of us who weren’t, convincing was going to be hard.

Many of us couldn’t grasp that at the time, it almost seemed too obvious a choice that the idea people would be against it wasn’t one worthy of fretting too much about.

On the day of the referendum, a fellow campaigner told me he was “sick of people telling him they were voting Yes” – he couldn’t see any scenario in which we lost. I agreed with him – I couldn’t either. And then we did.

Independence would undoubtedly change our nation for the better there is no question, especially when you get down to the fine detail of what it could enable us to do. It’s more matter of fact than opinion but for those of us immersed in this world all the time, it’s one we take for granted.

A viewpoint we have only been able to access through our activism and front-row political privilege. But it doesn’t mean that on the outside of this bubble, it translates.

The National: We must acknowledge what we would do different during indyref2We must acknowledge what we would do different during indyref2

While the hope and optimism was a joyous feeling and one I overly indulged myself in (and still do from time to time), it cloaked our ability to win the key arguments.

Most sceptics weren’t sceptical because they didn’t believe in Scotland and its potential, they were sceptical because there were huge unanswered questions in their opinion. I’m not sure looking back that I entirely disagree. There were definitely gaps that could have been better addressed.

Hope and optimism were good but it wasn’t going to put food on the table, secure pensions or make decisions about the Border.

IF we are going to win when the next opportunity arises we have to grasp that firmly, and with both hands. Our campaign needs to focus less on the end goal – the Scotland we all envision when we talk about independence. Because realistically, there’s a huge amount of time and work in between then and now and being honest about that is how we convince.

In times of real uncertainty, financial difficulty and if we’re being honest desperation for quality leadership and direction, the last thing the country needs is more of the same blind optimism.

We firmly kicked off the next era of our campaign in Edinburgh a few weeks ago with the Believe in Scotland rally and I think it invigorated our support in a way I’ve not seen since 2014. We are once again raring to go and ready to get out and do what we do best.

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However, in nine years, I don’t believe we’ve evolved to the level that we need to have in order to win. I don’t underestimate the raw emotion and passion that power our belief in this cause, and how challenging it can be to separate that from the nitty gritty.

But that’s what we now need to turn our focus to. The policy that the everyday person cares about. We have to do a deep dive into the economic viability of an independent Scotland – the number one hesitancy across those who are unsure – and ensure our position is so watertight the opposition don’t even give it airtime. We have to strike the balance between illustrating that hopeful vision for the future, at the same time as being honest about the challenges that lie ahead and present solid solutions to them on our own.

The electorate, I’d argue, are – by and large – politically sceptical. So let’s stop over-promising. We are campaigning to a population of politically astute adults. What they need of us, now more than ever, is honesty and realism. They want to feel like their government are working with them and working for them rather than telling them what they want to hear just to leave them disappointed later.

So, let’s be honest. Let’s talk about Scotland’s independent potential, about what we can be and do and achieve. About the difficulties we will face as a nation on our way there, and how we will overcome them together for the greater good of us all.

Independence is best, it’s not simple.