As minds begin to focus on a possible second independence referendum, lots of voices are calling for us to learn the lessons from the last one. Not enough analysis has been done, some claim, to find out what went wrong in 2014. For what it is worth I am not sure that much went wrong and that moving the Yes vote from around 30 % to 45% would seem to indicate that we got a lot right.
There is also the danger that revisiting the past condemns you to fighting last year’s battles, when what you need to do is prepare for the next one. Indyref 2 will be very different from indyref 1. At least we should aim to make it very different.
For me, this means above all we must work to ensure that the key message is as simple as possible. We must at all costs avoid getting dragged down into the “so many (unanswered) questions about independence approach”. Dundee University even ran a programme of events entitled 5 million questions. Interesting to note that they did not attempt anything similar, say 65 million questions, with Brexit.
There are not that many questions, answered or unanswered about independence. The questions that do get asked, on the economy, pensions etc, are the stuff of daily politics in all countries, and have nothing per se, to do with independence.
The key message we must repeat, again and again and again, is that independence is a question of democracy. The question is who gets to decide on the future of Scotland? Our answer is – the people who live in Scotland. That’s it. Pure and simple. Even our opponents recognise this is the strongest argument in favour of independence. Which is why they try to move the debate on to other matters. Something we must strenuously avoid.
Now I am pretty solidly convinced that a large majority of our fellow citizens already agree with this. They do want decisions about Scotland to be taken by the people who live here. Unfortunately a significant number remain unconvinced of the underlying strength of the Scottish economy. Which is not altogether surprising, when all the UK parties, and almost all of the media are constantly repeating that Scotland is too wee and too poor to be successful as an independent country.
Before indyref 2 we need to have changed this perception. It should not be too difficult. After all Scotland has all the fundamentals to be a sustainable and successful economy. But we need to find a way to convey this in simple, non technical terms. I tend to fall back on comparisons with other similar sized independent countries. Denmark for example is perhaps the closet country in terms of size, population and geographic location. When Unionists say that Scotland is too poor, we should always turn this round. We should constantly ask Unionists to provide the evidence as to why Scotland is not as economically sound and robust as Denmark? What is it that Denmark has that Scotland lacks? We need to move from the defensive and always try and force Unionists into justifying with evidence their claims.
In a nutshell this is my recommendation for preparing for indyref 2 – Keep it simple. Independence is about democracy and not about specific policies. Scotland has the resources, natural and human to be a successful economy. Force Unionists to provide evidence of the contrary.