Jamie McLeod: The Yes movement must win an emotional victory

Writer Jamie McLeod explains why he cares about Scottish independence and why emotions really matter

SCOTLAND. What is it? Is it a nation, a colony, a province or simply an idea?

I grew up in an obscure part of Scotland where fishing and Rangers FC was life – nothing else really mattered. Growing up 30 miles north of Aberdeen, I would have been forgiven for not realising just how close I was to Scotland’s third city. 

The difference in accent, tradition, culture and mentality still to this day astonishes me.

You see, the thing is, Scotland to me is not just a nation, it is certainly not a province or a colony, but a tangible idea of a reborn nation.

I often wonder what it is about the abject idea of Scotland being independent that turns people off from it. Those of you with sociology degrees or psychology masters would likely be better placed to interpret the actions of how and why people vote, but without partaking in formal qualifications down this line, I have only my life experiences to guide me - and believe me, I have suffered more than most and I am only 33.

You see, the thing is, Scotland to me is not just a nation, it is certainly not a province or a colony, but a tangible idea of a reborn nation that can shape not just the five million here at home but the seven billion around the world.

Scotland has always punched above its weight but it has only punched above its weight because of ideas individually. These ideas did not happen because of unity of state or a unity of people, but because of the single mind of an individual who has experienced things in his or her life and been shaped by a culture in Scotland, and of progress and openness with the burning desire inside to be a unitary state, whether aware of it or not.

How would I know? How can someone as small and unimportant as me possibly make such an assertion?

It is twofold. Firstly, it is the desire deep in my solar plexus to see Scotland restore her national identity across the world and, secondly, it’s the desire to empower others who are lost to understand that the emotional identity of others and how they impact me subconsciously drives me forward to make the world better. 

What is it that fuels that emotion? In my case it is progressiveness. It’s the left wing in me. It’s the belief that we are all one. It’s the belief that we should all care for each other.

Are we honestly saying that all those people in Scotland who, in effect, changed the world through their inventions, started off wanting to invent simply for personal greed and fame? Maybe a modern day inventor thinks like this, but historical inventors did it out of a creative mind. 

Creativity is spawned from an ability to self-express, and generally people who are expressive tend to be more leftwing and socially inclusive.

Let me try to explain this second part in the context of Scottish independence. I am sure we have all been there, where we have had a discussion either in a pub, around the dinner table or at work where we believe either for or against independence, and as that discussion intensifies we feel the emotion building.

But what is it that fuels that emotion? In my case it is progressiveness. It’s the left wing in me. It’s the belief that we are all one. It’s the belief that we should all care for each other. I may not be an inventor, but I am an inventor of an idea. A collective inventor of a better place.

As mentioned earlier, my life until I was 11 was horrific and what I went through could bring some people to tears, but from ages 11 to present, my life changed direction. This wasn’t my doing, this was the doing of two strangers, both of whom are fundamentally against independence.

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This may seem like a paradox when we look at the emotional decision of these two strangers to take me under their umbrella for their own emotional reasons (which you could argue was a leftwing mentality, at least in respect of caring for others), but to be against a socialist, caring and outward Scotland. Why is that?

Simply, I believe it is because the mentality that is associated with the emotion is deep rooted into their own upbringing and household culture. These two strangers told me not so long ago that if they hadn’t liked the look of me when I first met them that they wouldn’t have taken me under their umbrella. This, on the surface may seem shallow but it is not.What it tells me is that there is a deep rooted subconscious desire to help, but only help in whatever way is manageable. Is it possible that some people who are against independence feel that such a big change to help the many is outwith their ability to handle? 

For every attempt to sway someone to back your cause, you must tap into the emotional aspect of that cause and relate it to them on a level they can handle.

Is it possible that the world and its problems seem too big for any one person to affect change so why bother changing it?

The desire for social cohesion and fairness undoubtedly stems from what we have learned and what we know are our limitations. So where does this take a national movement on its journey? How does a whole country recognise this emotional aspect and tap into it?

I cannot provide set answers, but what I can say is that for every attempt to sway someone to back your cause, you must tap into the emotional aspect of that cause and relate it to them on a level they can handle. It is absolutely paramount that they are able to link the proposal with their own life. 

That doesn’t mean give them hypothetical assurances on wealth, equality and fairness, but actual tangible comparisons.

For the Yes movement to win the argument, it must embrace the very real threat of uncertainty and subsequent emotional fear that it brings. It must reach out to all ages, all genders, all racial groups and all cultures. It must also bring people into the fold who have gone through massive uncertainty and who can relay their personal stories and how it affects their choice for an independent Scotland. 

For the Yes movement to win the argument, it must embrace the very real threat of uncertainty and subsequent emotional fear that it brings. It must reach out to all ages, all genders, all racial groups and all cultures.

It is paramount that the argument becomes emotional. I know this may seem counter intuitive, but the emotion must be one of "we can do it", not one of "we hope we can do it" or "we might not be able to do it", but one of assertion that "we will do it".

The Yes movement must bring the argument down from a national level of finance, security, trade, the EU, monarchies and the rUK to a level that people associate their lives with.

It must be able to demonstrate that the Scottish people, united under one banner can change this world. We must learn from our history. We must embrace our culture, we must stir up the emotional pot of Scottish identity to win this argument. 

We must ensure that the arguments on the ground at the grassroots level are ones that affect people’s households, not their future pensions. We must embrace all that makes us unique and all that brings us together. Only then will people realise that a united Scotland can do it. 

A united Europe has done it, a United Kingdom has done it and so can a united Scotland.

It must also bring people into the fold who have gone through massive uncertainty and who can relay their personal stories and how it affects their choice for an independent Scotland. 

The fear of uncertainty must be illustrated as a construct of the self and potential outcomes imprinted onto people, the embracing of change must be broadcast across all of Scotland as an opportunity to unshackle the fear of one potential outcome for the excitement of another potential outcome – success.

Only Scotland can do this. Not the rUK, not the EU, not the farmer down the road or the politicians in Holyrood but the people. And that argument must be won on an emotional level that outstrips the emotional level of fear.

Scotland was once a brave old place, full of admiration and respect. Scotland must choose to become that old, brave place again, full of admiration and respect.

Picture courtesy of Tom Parnell

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