STORY matters. It is part of what makes us human. It is how we make sense of the world, how we remember, communicate with others and interpret complex situations.

Story matters at every level. From the personal to community, from ­national to global. Story has resonance and reach whether in politics, society or history. It ­provides a thread linking past, present and future.

Hence, story is one of the integral ways that we ­understand modern Scotland, history, politics, and the dynamics and appeal of independence.

Let’s pause and address why story matters and why it is central to our existence as humans. By story, we mean something with characters, change, ­challenge and some kind of conclusion – or deliberate non-conclusion.

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The writer Christopher Booker in his ­magisterial The Seven Basic Plots (2004) proposed a finite number of stories in the world – seven in his case. Whatever the number, this perspective is as old as time. Booker believes that these seven archetypal tropes get to the psychological core of what it is to be human.

Underneath the seven, he argued, could be found one common unifying theme and search – namely the power and pull of darkness and the search for light – in other words, the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Story has to be aware of who is the teller and the ­listener, who is present and who is absent and missing (sometimes deliberately so). There are ­powerful, uplifting stories – and there are selective, inaccurate stories.

In any story, one of the first questions to identify who the author or narrator is and who owns it? Story has power – and hence also has pitfalls. It can be used for good, as in the recent ITV drama Mr Bates ­Vs The Post Office which vividly evoked the ­systemic persecution and emotional torture of hundreds of innocent postmasters, suddenly forcing the UK ­Government into urgent action after more than 20 years of delay.

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It can also be used for bad. The Nazis had a ­story; as did Stalin’s Russia; Mao’s China, and the authoritarian populism of Donald Trump. The ­Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in a TED talk in 2009 reflected on how Africans are ­portrayed by non-Africans and stereotyped so that many ­subsequently internalise these images ­contributing to their own oppression.

She argued that this external perspective was part of a single story about Africa made from the outside, and used it to make a bigger observation about the world. This is the point of the universal danger of a single, totalising story anywhere laying out the view that when we realise this and fight it, this results in a kind of “liberation” and release, taking us to a much more nuanced view of the world and ourselves.

All of this has consequences for Scotland.

As a ­nation, our history is filled with potent stories, tales and emotive events which have contributed to making us who we are collectively, how we see ourselves, and how our identities and views have been shaped.

Scotland’s stories are a product of many factors. These include geography; economic and social development; relationships with the other peoples and nations of these isles (most significantly with England); ideas, values and public discourses; key personalities and movements at points in history. Connecting the above is how much collective ­agency and power we feel we have – and whether we see ­ourselves as being able to shape our own future or see it as being decided elsewhere by others.

The stories of independence past

The politics of independence has equally been influenced by the power and emotions of stories. This has been true in the long run and in the collective folklore of Scotland as an independent nation; in the re-emergence of the issue in recent times; in the 2014 referendum and subsequently.

Acknowledging that 10 years after 2014, independence is in a cul-de-sac and needs to regroup, reappraise and do things ­differently is inarguable. To do this, it needs to understand the power of story, why its previous stories have been limited, and therefore needs to find a ­convincing new story.

Why have the stories of ­independence not been enough? The obvious answer is that independence has not ­sufficiently convinced enough sceptics of the ­principles and offers of independence. That could be about detail, ­uncertainty, anxiety about risk, or a belief in the ­continuation of the Union.

Independence has also fallen into the trap of believing its own hype and ­rationale – of too many folk thinking that the merits of independence are so ­self-evident that enough people will eventually come around.

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And moreover, that this is possible without hard work – or rethinking the offer of independence.

Believing that the main impediments are people being brainwashed by the BBC, mainstream media disinformation or the Labour Party avoids the real elephant in the room.

All of this is symptomatic of a ­political movement with a tendency to talk to ­itself too much, thinking that all it needs to do is pull off the right trick or invoke the ­correct process and – hey presto! – ­Scotland will be free. Bigger ­fundamentals are at work and need to be considered.

Barely examined are the ­emotive, ­fundamental stories that ­underpin the appeal and cause of Scottish independence which have contributed to bringing it centre stage but have so far not proven enough to give independence a convincing, sustainable majority.

The first story of independence is the “Scotland Why Not?” argument.

This postulates that Scotland is a nation and, ipso facto, should thus be an independent nation-state. This tidy, logical perspective misses that the world is not and never has been organised by such principles – a point understood by such scholars of nationalism as Ernest Gellner and Tom Nairn and post-colonial analysts such as Fred Halliday.

Many nations the world over are not independent such as Greenland, Catalonia, Tibet and Kurdistan, for a variety of reasons.

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The second is the presentation of ­independence as a principle irrespective of detail and policy. This could be called the Braveheart vision of independence – emotive, expressive, with a romantic pull drawing deeply back into history.

Yet this part of the independence ­coalition has never been enough to ­create a majority Scottish opinion ­because it is silent on the kind of ­Scotland that will emerge with independence. It automatically assumes that an ­independent Scotland is morally and politically superior to a Scotland in the Union – irrespective of the nature of that independence and union in real life. Not surprisingly, it does not have the ­characteristics or detail to speak to and create a long-term popular majority.

Third is the “whataboutery” ­argument which looks at the deformed nature of British politics and the British state, ­proposing that we need no part in this and must become independent as soon as ­possible.

This powerful and ­understandable response falls short in that it tends to ignore the current state of Scotland and again assumes that ­widespread repulsion at the debasement of British public life is enough to carry people to independence.

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At the centre of such a stance is an ­evasion and lack of responsibility for ­modern Scotland including ­devolution, the Parliament and track record of the SNP in government. The cause of self-government has to involve taking ­responsibility – what Fintan O’Toole called “the art of growing up”.

All our limitations and shortcomings cannot be blamed on Westminster, ­Tories or the absence of certain “levers” in ­Holyrood. A mature mindset would have an honest discussion about challenging areas such as local government and a ­decade-plus of cuts; about drug deaths and rising social inequalities; about the state of public services and the pressures on arts and culture funding – to name but a few.

Invoking the wreckage and carnage of Westminster is not enough. It is an ­abdication of that “art of growing up” and of looking at ourselves honestly and ­candidly and facing where we can do better collectively. That is tough in a ­culture of noise and often binary ­politics, but just focusing on the nature of the ­British state goes alongside ­ignoring or minimising the real-life political choices we make every day in Scotland which helps no one.

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Fourth is the SNP case in recent times of offering essentially “­continuity ­Scotland” as a version of ­independence. This makes people feel less scared, see less risk and view independence as entailing less upheaval and disruption. The ­“continuity Scotland” case builds on the fact that Scotland feels and is ­different and, in many areas, already has significant autonomy.

Thus, the ­argument goes, the achievement of independence is a gradual road that Scotland is on which is building up and expanding what we ­already have.

However, the continuity case begs the question – what is the point of change if things remain broadly the same? ­Ultimately in relation to Scotland, this case rests on reassurance which is an important part of any successful ­politics but does not make a positive case for change.

Fifth is perhaps the most powerful independence strand of recent times – Scotland as a progressive beacon of hope and enlightenment.

This gained traction under Thatcherism, the rise of the SNP under devolution and 2014. It still has mileage, but like the third point about the British state, this must have a relationship with present-day Scotland. Too much talk of “progressive Scotland” has been shaped by self-congratulation, smugness and making comparisons with the rest of the UK to believe we are “progressive”.

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The 2014 independence prospectus has gone, alongside the world it was based upon. This is not just that the UK has left the EU but in 2014, there was an ­underlying assumption that an independent Scotland would sit in a ­relatively peaceful and prosperous part of Northwest Europe. The world is now a good deal more ­unstable and dangerous than ten years ago.

Although Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea back in 2014, ­subsequently we have seen the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Israel’s escalating indiscriminate violence in Gaza alongside the rise of Trump and the threat to US democracy and the international order. Any future independence has to navigate such turbulent waters.

Independence can never be considered in a vacuum.

One wider factor is the death march of this reprehensible, failed Tory government and the anticipation and potential of a Labour government. Whatever the minimal offer from Labour and the minuscule difference between the two Westminster parties, polling in Scotland confirms that most voters recognise there is a difference between the two. Following that, Labour coming to office will demand that independence change fundamentally.

The future seven stories of independence and how we tell them

Taking all this into account, a future story or stories of independence need to understand this changed world; to respect and engage sceptics and those of different persuasions - and not fall back on tired tropes such as “Scotland Why Not?”, “Braveheart” or “whataboutery”.

Similarly, there is a need to go beyond the timidity of “continuity Scotland” and the self-congratulation sometimes present in our trumpeting of progressive values.

The characteristics of a set of new ­stories could involve some of the ­following. First, they must be ­progressive but in so doing explicitly lay out the ­values in question – egalitarian, ­redistributive, inclusive, ­environmentally sustainable, and about a different version of the economy and wealth to that of crony corporate ­capitalism. And in this, there has to be ­honesty and self-reflection about how we are doing compared to the comforting stories we often like to tell ourselves.

Second, such a vision should be ­democratising – understanding that this is about more than the Scottish ­Parliament being better than Westminster.

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Third, there has to be a culture of empowerment and ownership beyond Edinburgh and political institutions and more about the quality of relationships we have with each other and how collective action can best nurture and support them.

Fourth, the power of self-determination should be championed throughout society as we see ourselves as people with agency and active citizens – something the UK state explicitly discourages.

Fifth, independence should connect to the cultural – songs, music, the arts, ­celebrations and the power of collective joy. This is about profiling the cultural ­representation of our country domestically and internationally through multiple voices, visions, identities and stories.

Sixth, Scotland needs to move beyond a binary stand-off between ­independence and the Union which has little ­connection to today’s world. This is tough for some absolutists on both sides.

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A future self-governing Scotland will still be ­defined by numerous unions and share a social union and political co-operation with what is currently the rest of the UK. This means recognising the interdependency of these isles and the world and the idea that a modern self-government could be described as “inter-independence”.

Seventh, this Scotland will recognise in an age of international uncertainty that small states need to tread carefully. ­Scotland will be outgoing and internationalist but will know the limits of hard power which some bigger states fail to do and seem addicted to – think of Russia, the US and UK.

Who tells this story?

Fundamental to this is if we recognise the need for a new story, what does it entail, who tells it and how is it told? Who are the storytellers and narrators of Scotland’s future – how do they find their voice and get heard? These are unlikely to be politicians, political parties or even traditional ideas of authority. Rather the storytellers are all around us in the diverse tapestry of the people of this nation. For decades people have been doing exactly this.

In 1991 Ian Hamilton – who with three others liberated the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 – looked back on the Scotland of his youth and asked what had changed in the resulting 40 years.

He wrote: “Nobody sang in Scotland in the middle of this century. To be more correct, those who sang did not derive their songs from Scotland.

“Now everyone sings Scottish songs, and if I were a Unionist politician of whatever party … I would be counting the songs, rather than the votes.

“The people who make the songs of a country have a habit of making the laws.”

The above might be slightly over-romantic and sentimental but contains a ­profound truth about the power of songs and thus stories in the making of ­nations. Scotland has been shaped, made and remade by the resonance of stories through the ages.

The appeal of independence has always had at its heart the desire to start a new story of this nation with the people who live here as its authors.

Now is the time to tell a new story of Scotland and independence to shape our collective futures.