A NATION is the sum of the stories told about the people and places that constitute that nation. That collection of histories we tell about ourselves defines us and shapes our world view.

We often tell our stories via poetry, song and literature, creating unique cultures which provide a shared narrative of ourselves and our nation. Stories create a bond, connecting us to those that share our story and therefore our culture. If that story is progressive and evolving, as Scotland’s is, then the nation and its culture changes with its story.

We started to think of ourselves as a nation again

An example would be the impact on Scotland of the consideration of ourselves as a nation state. People in Scotland asked what nationalism is in a modern context of international interdependence and interconnection?

Scotland’s answer has two fascinating and forward-looking elements that clash with non civic nationalism.

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That we are internationalists and see ourselves as wanting to join the world and indeed rejoin the EU.

That to be Scottish you simply need to be part of our nation. Regardless of race, creed or ethnicity if you move here and want to work or raise a family then Scottishness is open to you. Many of the Scottish independence campaigners I work with are Scots by choice.

Scotland's cultural mini-Dark Ages

It hasn't always been this way. My parents were economic migrants from Glasgow to England and I went with them, starting high school in Hexham. When I left, Scotland seemed a very British place. Distinctly Scottish culture was reserved for Hogmanay. Kilts were never worn at weddings or funerals and certainly not graduations.

The National:

Folk music and Burns were twee and country dancing was a punishment forced upon us by teachers a few times a year instead of gym. The SNP had two MPs out of 71 and my family were all Labour voters.

I remember getting the belt for speaking Scots in school. It seems almost unbelievable now to think that a primary school child would be made to walk to the front of the class, hold out his hand and be hit three times by a teacher wielding a three-pronged leather strap – for using the word “gallus”. Sectarianism was far worse than now but it's still a blight on Scotland’s reputation.

We became "Culture Vultures"

When I came back to Scotland in the late 80s, it was nothing less than a revelation. Kilts were everywhere, ceilidhs were cool and folk music was popular. It wasn't just old-Scotland but contemporary Scottishness, a visible emerging self-belief of a nation beginning to cast off the shackles of second class status through art and literature and especially pop and dance music.

The National: Ceilidh

Young people were buying into that culture and also into the concept of independence – and I decided I was too. It was a different, more compelling story: Not shortbread-tin-Scottishness but a mix of old and new, of cultural awakening and pride combined with the legacy of the tipping point moment of Scotland's rejection of Thatcherism.

Politicians ride waves, they don't make them

This cultural awakening led to devolution. Labour’s then-Scottish secretary George Roberston claimed “Devolution will kill nationalism stone dead”.

However, the SNP were no real threat back then and it was the wave of positive cultural change that Labour wanted to ride to power in a devolved assembly as a foil to future Conservative governments. It was a story of a better future, a new politics (what happened to that?), home rule and a different approach to the whole of the UK.

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But unfortunately the new Scottish Labour/LibDem coalition did nothing with the devolved powers as London didn’t want them to, spoiling the story for themselves.

When the opportunity for independence came the SNP/Yes Scotland message was: “Don’t worry nothing will change that much, you will still be able to watch Doctor Who and buy baked beans”.

The message of Scotland's future was overly political and detail-obsessed, lacking the radical self-belief and cultural movement that could help to paint a more positive vision.

Nearly a decade on, the Scottish Government still lacks that compelling story. Its focus remains still on managerial competence and gradualism but that road is blocked.

The emergence of support for a wellbeing economy and the values that underpin that are a sign of a new cultural renaissance. It forms the basis of a new story that understands that the wealth of a nation is not just financial but based on foundations of equality, fairness, health, happiness and care for the environment which are connected to our increasingly internationalised cultural view.

Wellbeing is the golden thread

Wellbeing and independence go hand in hand in Scotland, as the Westminster parties are all committed to British nationalism, Brexit, austerity and neoliberalism. Wellbeing and independence must become the golden thread that inspires a new chapter in the story of our nation.

We need to kick our addiction to divisive political argument and passive acceptance of political leadership to add a new dimension to Scotland's story. We must invite those not yet convinced to help create that story in partnership with us. We need to ask what they would change to secure Scotland's future wellbeing and what a better nation would look like.

Trust me, no one I've ever had that conversation with ever paints a picture that is compatible with maintaining the Union.