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STORYTELLING is one of the most powerful tools for learning, enlightening engagement on issues, and creating memory pathways.

Stories play a vital role in defining our history and our culture. Indeed national and cultural identity is nothing more than the cumulative effect of the stories told by communities. Stories have an innate ability to inspire, challenge, engage and mobilise people.

Framing the debate

Frames are the lenses through which we view the world. Our frames are the result of the stories we are told, the culture of our community or national identity and our individual life experiences.

Everyone experiences the world through their own frames and this all goes into the mix to create a shared social construct – the reality that has been created and accepted by the majority of people in a society.

READ MORE: Reinventing Scotland: 'Policy' can't save us – wellbeing economics can

Politics throughout the 90s and early 2000s became boring - all about managerial competence, GDP statistics, waiting lists, inflation… This "politics by numbers" was a delusional approach because nations work best when there is an overarching story about the nation and its purpose that gives direction and sets the moral tone.

Politics had largely become (and in some quarters today remains) the path better trodden but it doesn't work. 

Great change requires great stories. Martin Luther King had a dream – even Thatcher (below) and Regan had a shared vision. The neoliberal story didn't engage everyone. It created inequality and alienation and when it came to an end in 2007 it destroyed the idea of managerial competence.

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Some have failed however to realise time has moved on. Arguments over what statistics mean numbs the nation to politics.

The power of nightmares 

In the nineties and noughties, political elites gathered around the political centre, with centrists winning election after election in western democracies.  

The banking collapse exposed the elites as out of their depth, with no answers other than massive costly bail outs, leading to austerity and the slippery slope to lower standards of living. 

Voters looked for answers outside the political centre. The people with stories were Trump, Farage, Johnson, Bolsonaro, Sanders and Corbyn.  

More recently Orban in Hungary, Meloni in Italy, Milei in Argentina and Wilders in Netherlands, mavericks with a story to tell. At last they had an audience prepared to listen. 

The mavericks on the left keep losing because their story wasn't new. The social construct of our time is based on a cult of self, of individualism rather than the commonweal. There was no real alternative to the swing to the right Brexit, climate denial and racism. They manipulated the fears of the newly insecure electorate.

The Scottish Government's series of Independence Papers are a case in point. They feel they must explain everything in detail to move the polls but it won’t. The thinking needs done but it’s background stuff, small print at best. It lacks a great story at the heart of its message. 

The National: The Scottish Government is to publish more white papers on independence this summer

The economic system is kaput, society is failing. Britain is broken but politicians are not sharing a vision of what we want to replace it with. Changing an individual policy within the current system is like throwing pebbles in the ocean and expecting it to change the direction of the tide. 

It will take the powers of an independent nation for Scotland to switch to a wellbeing economy. That's two paradigm shifts – a tall order unless we tell a better story about the Scotland we want to create.

To build a better nation, we need to think about the values of the Scottish population and expose the mismatch between those values and the parties of Westminster.

The heroes of the story of Scotland's future are self-determination and a positive vision of how the nation, people and planet will change for the better through the wellbeing economic approach.

Learning from the past 

Independence lost in 2014 because of scaremongering – it’s true. But that was based on the fact that Britishness was the established story. A story of several hundred years of leading the world of empire and ruling the waves, of two world wars and monarchy.

Of course, that’s an outdated story that the Scottish people don’t really care for any more and hasn’t benefited Scotland for generations but the independence campaign offered nothing radical, no better story to believe in. Voters were told: “Don’t worry, almost nothing will change. You will still be able to get Heinz baked beans after independence.” 

The Union won by saying independence was too risky but the Yes campaign offered no great vision that mitigated that risk.

READ MORE: How consumption changes in a wellbeing economy

The activists had dreams and stories to tell and that’s what increased support but the official campaign offered nothing but slightly left-leaning managerial competence, the nuts and bolts of how it would work and not a dream of a better future that would have engaged and inspired.

If the Scottish Government continues to make that mistake, it will lose a dozen to twenty seats in the next UK General Election.

Painting a picture of a better, fairer, greener, healthier, happier and more successful Scotland based on accepting the values of societal wellbeing and rejecting the greed and inequality of neoliberal capitalism that drives Westminster’s thinking will open the door to Scotland’s brighter future. 

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the CEO of Business for Scotland, the Chief Economist at the 'Wellbeing Economics' think tank Scotianomics, the founder of the Believe in Scotland campaign and the author of Scotland the Brief.