Brexit changed the game: the Union from 2014 no longer exists

In 2014 I was living in Northern Ireland, but I watched closely as the independence referendum was carried out in a largely positive and engaging way.

Taxi drivers were discussing currency arrangements and town halls packed out for debates. This civic engagement was a stark contrast to the divisive and often ugly arguments about the constitution I was used to growing up in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, the result didn’t go our way in 2014. However, the union that voters endorsed in 2014 no longer exists. 

There is no status quo as we approach a second referendum.

“What is the process for removing our EU citizenship? Voting Yes.” That now infamous tweet from Better Together remains undeleted.

A major plank of the unionist argument in 2014 was that we could only remain in the EU if we voted No.

Now, just 7 years after the first referendum on independence, we find ourselves outside the EU against our will.

Our businesses are struggling to export to the continent, and our rights to work, live and travel in 27 other countries have been lost, despite an overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain.

If we are to win a second referendum, we must have a laser-like focus on convincing undecided and soft-no voters.

The arguments that we on the pro-independence side find appealing may not be the arguments that undecided voters find convincing, so we must campaign based on a desire to persuade undecided voters, not based on our own pre-held conceptions.

We must not be zealous in our attempt to persuade.

Imagine you were undecided on the issue. Would you be more likely to be won over by someone who set out clearly and realistically the benefits and potential challenges of independence, or by someone who paints a utopian picture where everything will go smoothly?

As the First Minister rightly said – for countries Scotland’s size, “independence works”, but nothing will fall into our laps.

I want the government of Scotland, regardless of which party is in power, to have all the powers available to other countries.

After all, are unionists really arguing that Scotland is somehow uniquely incapable of governing itself when we are surrounded by similar sized independent countries, all of which are successful?

Scotland is like any other Western nation. We face many of the same challenges, notably climate change, ageing demographics and stubborn inequality.

Whether Scotland is independent or part of the union, we will still face these challenges.

The big decision for voters is this – who do they trust to lead the response to these challenges?

Governments elected by the people that live in Scotland, or Westminster governments we don’t vote for?