OH, the Velvet Revolution. Out of all the collapse-of-communism anniversaries this November, Czechoslovakia’s is the one which fascinates me most, and has done for the past 30 years.

Those playwrights, poets and singers serenading the many thousands in Prague’s Wenceslas Square in 1989 completely inspired me at the time. Maybe too much.

When young Ms Sturgeon got me elected as the SNP candidate for the Glasgow University rectorship in 1990, beating the late Tony Benn, we faced a generally barren landscape for left-wing Scottish nationalism. So was I guilty of over-enthusiastically blurting out, on the university steps, a comparison with the dramatist, activist and post-communist Czech President Vaclav Havel? It’s in the STV archives, and it cannot be denied.

In 1992, my bro and I then released a whole album, Truth And Love, inspired by the whole revolution. I’ve just pulled the battered CD jewel case from the shelf. The booklet features two juxtaposed quotes.

One comes from Havel himself, which translates: “Truth and love will win over lies and hate.” The other line is from Jim Sillars, dated April 10, 1992: “Scots must face the paradox: what happens when Scotland votes Labour, and England votes Tory?” You can take the boy off the SNP Snappy Bus, etc …

So I guess Sillars’s paradox has been conclusively faced (and hopefully we take another step towards the obvious resolution on December 12). But the sheer, intoxicating idealism – some might say naivety – of the Havel quote also has to be reckoned with.

Is there anything contemporary Scots independistas can learn from the bohemian, jazz-rock loving, deeply free-thinking souls of the Velvet Revolution?

The National: Does Scotland have an equivalent?Does Scotland have an equivalent?

At the very least, this will be a complex answer. But one should make something immediately clear: we’re not facing a fake, corrupt and tediously oppressive Soviet-style regime like the Czechoslovakia of 1989.

To dwell with the testimony of Czechs from that era – particularly the memoirs of figures like Milan Kundera or Ivan Klima – is to hear about a subtle, witty society chafing under the crudity and cruelty of a petty authoritarianism.

Dissident creatives found themselves officially banished to forestry commission jobs, or shifts as janitors and engineers (there were also regular and outright political executions). Public language was degraded. Forgetting to use the prefix of “comrade doctor” or “comrade teacher” was to immediately invite suspicion.

Indeed, the whole society was labouring under the false, choking cloud of “normalisation”. This was the insidious, grinding and daily suppression of Czechoslovak character by Moscow, pursued after they rolled in the tanks to quash the previous (and even groovier) uprising in 1968.

By comparison, Scots in 2019 are completely free to associate publicly and express themselves fully. In his memoir My Crazy Century, Ivan Klima recalls literary and political journals that could only exist in photocopied form, passed physically from salon to salon, constantly being intercepted by secret police.

The Scots indy movement has cultural and media platforms that the Czech dissidents could barely dream of (well, maybe their illustrious early 20th forbear, the writer Karel Capek – inventor of the term “robot” – had already narrated it). Whatever we lack, it isn’t instruments of communication amongst ourselves, and to the wider society.

Some have compared the recent artists and creatives’ Declaration For Independence to the Charter ’77 document.

The National: Scotland is fortunate to be free to demonstrate our beliefsScotland is fortunate to be free to demonstrate our beliefs

Its drafters were self-described as “a loose, informal, and open association of people … united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world”.

Who could disagree? The Czech state at the time called it “an anti-state, anti-socialist, and demagogic, abusive piece of writing”, made by “traitors and renegades”. The worst we have are misguided orchestral geniuses, feverishly imagining a Tartanitarian Scotland.

What we can certainly learn from the Velvet Revolution is the importance of crowds in public spaces, assembled on powerfully resonant dates. And the necessity of youth and students, as an electric charge running through any civic protest.

The VR is usually dated as starting on Sunday 17th November. On this day, state police reacted with undue force to an annual commemoration of the murder of student Jan Opletal by the Nazis in the 30s, which had swelled to a general anti-regime protest.

National Avenue in Prague ended up a mess of blood and clothes – so it would be true to say that the Velvet Revolution had a little harshness and moisture to it.

But that triggered defiant waves of public assembly in the days after, spurred on by the liberations in Germany (with the Berlin Wall coming down on the 9th of November) and Poland (where the Communist government had stood down in June). Theatres opened up their doors in Prague, and became vital spaces for deliberation, filled with an excited multitude of students, dissidents and brave citizens.

By the time Havel addressed crowds of 200,000 from a balcony in Wenceslas Square, on Monday 20th, the legitimacy of the regime was crumbling before the citizens’ eyes.

Will Scottish independence have its balcony moment? Well, it depends, doesn’t it? For the sake of progress, it’s surely not required.

What would have to fail were the existing democratic tools. Say, a series of electoral mandates for legal indy referendums, and then the refusal by Westminster administrations to grant them.

And if non-violent civil assembly or disobedience, or institutional non-compliance and disruption, was required to press the case for Scottish democracy further, the British state surely wouldn’t be as heavy-handed as the white-helmeted Czech enforcers. Would they?

THE Catalonian situation, for all its complexities, is surely a terminal caution here. All those with currently immovable positions on the next moment of Scottish constitutional change will dwell on this, and not want to go anywhere near it.

Yet I wonder what old 89-ers (never mind 68-ers) in Prague thought, when they saw Spanish police apply their batons to voters and protestors in Barcelona’s streets. Or when the Spanish authorities arrested and convicted elected representatives from the Catalan parliament.

We’ll come to Scottish lessons from the Velvet Divorce (that is, the constitutional separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993) when the date comes around. It was a strange, non-democratic, elite affair, the process not having much to commend it to the Scottish situation.

But meantime, and on this very Saturday, Czechs are coming out massively to protest again. This time, it’s against illiberal and intolerant political leaders, preaching ethnic intolerance and practising business corruption, with ties not only to the Communist past but to Russia’s current attempts at influence and control.

The main targets are Prime Minister Andrej Babis and the President Milos Zeman. And again, students are at the forefront. “A Million Moments” was founded by Charles University theology students Mikulas Minar and Benjamin Roll. They managed 250,000 in an earlier protest in 2018.

Compared with the Velvet Revolutionaries, “we are in a different position,” Roll has recently said. “We are not in a totalitarian regime like in 1989, but their values, their way of thinking is inspiring. We are not protesting against the system but we are trying to prevent Babis changing it.”

If Scotland ends up facing the ultra-capitalist, Trump-tickling regime of Johnson-Mogg-Cummings by the middle of December, we may be standing in the same shoes as these current Czechs. That is, trying to defend progressive norms, values and standards, against a grubby barbarism.

And if we find ourselves in that place, let’s try to act with as much artistry, grace and beauty as the Velvet Revolutionaries once did.