‘I’M optimistic about a Labour government coming, in London. But we have to push them to be bold.” Cue general gnashing of teeth, I’d guess, among this readership.

But that’s the kind of statement the long-standing strategist for independence, Stephen Noon, likes to drop into our stagnant debates.

Those opening words – from his appearance on Thursday’s BBC Question Time – came, of course, in a wider context. Noon had just been making the point that the travails of the NHS in Scotland were being echoed in Wales and England. These problems were thus “structural” and “systemic”, rooted in over a decade of “ideological under-investment in public services” from the Tories.

He’d also been looking at the Sunday Times Rich List, noting that the top 30 families had become 50% richer in the last few years. “Do you feel 50% richer?” The audience murmured.

Noon concluded by accusing Labour of merely “tinkering” with tax changes, compared to what was needed. He later urged that it was “the left” which had to stay on the Labour government’s case. To be sure, Noon pedalled his policy bike all over the place on Thursday evening. At one point, he provided metaphorical cover for a possible SNP shift on oil and gas licensing.

“It’s like a baton being passed on in a relay race, from the oil and gas industry to renewables. Do it too early, we don’t maximise our potential [by reducing the capacities and expertise that can be transferred from one energy regime to another]. Do it too late, it impacts on the climate”.

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Once a political strategist ... though no mention of how we might drop the baton altogether (with insufficient sovereignty, and enough Scottish-domiciled companies, to benefit from the boom).

There was also a revealing moment, when Stephen was asked about Labour plans to impose VAT on private schools, and falteringly confessed he was “conflicted” (as someone privately educated himself).

Confessing your conflicted nature, or being honest about your ambiguities, is a major element of Stephen Noon’s entire vision for politics at the moment.

This is a man who started off as advisor to Alex Salmond, and then became chief strategist to Yes Scotland. He now urges us all to “move beyond the binaries” of Yes/No, and head towards a “politics of love”. There may be a personal explanation here. After the 2014 referendum, Noon undertook training to be a Jesuit priest, which lasted for seven years.

He is now doing a PhD at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity (in Ethics and Practical Theology), looking at the “hope/expectation of a ‘new politics’ in Scotland that came with devolution”.

Noon is interviewing widely among his peers. But his theory of change appears to be connected to his abandoned vocation. On his Substack site, he tells us the Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan is his intellectual compass.

“For Lonergan, societal progress is more likely when we are attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible – open to the range of questions and perspectives that will bring new insights and open up new horizons”, Noon writes. “Decline comes if we are tribal, short-term in our outlook, and avoid the difficult questions.”

Noon continues: “It is my belief that the more consensual politics that was the hope of devolution is more likely to lead to progress than an either/or, them/us politics (whether that politics manifests itself in the binary of Westminster or aspects of the binary that is the current Scottish constitutional debate).”

This makes sense of many of Noon’s recent interventions. In an interview late last year with webcaster John Drummond, he reached back to one of the fathers of indy thought, professor Neil MacCormick. “MacCormick said you fight for the creation of a Scottish Parliament, then add to its institutional capacity – first rail, then tax, then social security... You take on additional powers according to pressing needs, step-by-step, building capacity.”

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Faced with a sceptical Drummond, Noon cites the admission of proportional representation into plans for the Scottish Parliament. This, to Noon, was an example of how Labour could sacrifice its own powers – by inhaling the consensual vapours of the Constitutional Convention.

All of which explains Noon’s opening “optimism” about a Labour government. “Play the ball where it lies”, he recalls his mentor Alex Salmond once saying. It’s about to lie, suggests Noon, on a fairway of constitutional openness in the UK – responding not just to Scotland’s claims, but rising Welsh demands too, as well as city-region mayors in the north of England.Hmm.

As the 10th anniversary of 2014’s referendum looms, this is a psychologically demanding request from Noon. I had a look at Thursday’s UK Labour manifesto to check its stances towards the Scottish Parliament.

In some of the language, Noon’s “optimism” is potentially answered. “Protect and respect devolution … Reset relations between governments … a new Council of the Nations and Regions”. There’s also this weird line: “We will ensure the devolution settlement for Scotland enables collaboration on Labour’s national missions for government.”

Sorry, but isn’t this the same executive contempt for Scottish policy autonomy from Westminster that we’ve become familiar with in recent years? How exactly (and paradoxically) do you “ensure…collaboration”?

I ask a sincere question. How, exactly, does Noon think these wellsprings of constitutional trust in Labour will jet forth from the indy movement? How are indelible indyref memories – like Labour leaders lining up with Tory enemies on Better Together platforms – supposed to fade?

“We can make a choice to see things differently” is a regular line in Stephen’s discourse. I am fully aware of, and deeply respect, the necessity for what spiritual folk call the “inner work”. Especially as an indy supporter. To understand the fears, anxieties – as well as joyful pride – of someone who politically identifies as British is necessary mental and emotional labour for the indy-minded.

Noon’s recent academic posts make strong claims, on the basis of his research, about the mood and modes of the Constitutional Convention.

He renders it as a place where other participants were valued intrinsically, for and as themselves, opening themselves up to relationships, and where self-interest was transcended in order that the whole project benefitted. That, for Stephen, was – and could still be again – a “politics of love” in Scotland.

It’s shimmering stuff. But I admit I do have a few problems with Stephen’s theologically-fuelled, faith-based optimism, in what he often calls the “home rule” process.

For example, I felt physical nausea when UK Labour recently guaranteed a “triple-lock” on the British “nuclear deterrent”. The movement I’m part of has ambition (and deep moral clarity) about a Scottish nation-state removing Trident from its territory.

Where would that position sit within this new, “relational” posture towards the Starmer regime, where we eke out increments of domestic policy-making power? What form of “politics of love” sits happily, or at least neutrally, with the absurd exterminism of nuclear weapons?

Still, as Noon often urges, there are many contrary (rather than contradictory) tribes that can roam around on the same plateau of Scottish collective “progress”. I also believe there are novel social groupings yet to be forged, beyond the usual forms of political party, Holyrood parliament or local authority/council, that can strengthen Scottish citizens – in readiness for the next constitutional conjuncture.

From our joint days in Yes Scotland, I’ve always appreciated Stephen’s calm counsel. And I increasingly appreciate the personal stability that faith backgrounds bring to the conduct of politics and public initiative.

But there’s always a danger of generalising from one’s inner settlement, towards an outer settlement. It can be a projection or imposition, as much as a revelation.

Modern Scotland is shouty, messy and edgy. There’s freedom, and also room for emergence, in a’ that.