The case for an independent Scotland is a compelling one. I think it is fair to say that it is an irreversible feeling once it captures your imagination. Of course, not everyone lets their imagination run wild and not everyone thinks with their heart on their sleeve. We must recognise that the question of whether Scotland becomes an independent country hangs in the balance. In other words, there are a lot of people to persuade – the poll by the Sunday Times at the weekend confirms this.
Personally, I’m a convert and it did not take much preaching to reach that state , prior to the 2014 Independence Referendum. A country that puts its people and their well-being first is the sort of country I want to live and work in. The sort of country I want my children to grow up in. I and others don’t need to look far to discover the small, successful independent countries that are thriving economically and supporting their citizens to be amongst the happiest in the world: Denmark, Norway, Finland and Ireland, to name a few.
But what is it about the idea of an independent Scotland that makes me feel more hopeful for the future? Well, for starters, the government we elect in Scotland will be the government we get. Each and every time. And they will have their hands on all the levers of government that can make a genuine difference to the livelihoods of people who live and work here. Never again will we face years of a government that we did not elect, imposing political projects upon us that we did not want. We will be able to invest in the people who live and work in Scotland, prioritising the issues that are important to us. We can reject the hostile immigration policies imposed upon us and re-join the family of European nations, showing the world that diversity and difference are things to be celebrated, not scorned at.
Flags, national anthems and history did not propel me towards Scottish Independence. The future did. A future where we, in Scotland, decide what is best for us. Not someone else, miles away, appealing to a completely different audience. A future where we can genuinely begin to build a fairer, more equal society.
But this is where we need to let the emotions settle and allow the head to switch on. Yes, we can do all of those exciting and meaningful things; and much more. But it will take time, and it will take hard work. We will not wake up on day one of an independent Scotland to the home we seek to build. This is, perhaps, where those of you open to persuasion stopped listening. We sold the vision, we appealed to hearts – but we promised so much, so fast that it damaged our credibility.
Emotions and vision are important tools in the case for an independent Scotland and I make no apology for relying on them. But so are transparency and pragmatism. We must level with you. There will be bumps in the road, there will be some difficult decisions to make and balances to strike. But we are not building Scotland for the next 2 to 5 years. We are building a Scotland for us and future generations. With smart, pragmatic planning, we can build a future that is truly ours.