My husband doesn’t like Ben Folds. It isn’t the music he doesn’t like as my husband would be hard-pressed to name a Ben Folds song. He doesn’t know why, but he knows he really doesn’t like Ben Folds. He thinks he might have read something years ago that gave him the impression that Ben Folds was shifty and unreliable, but he doesn’t remember any of the details. What he does remember, quite clearly and strongly, is how that forgotten information about Ben Folds made him feel. It’s a funny thing – people can forget your face, your words, your ethos – pretty much everything about you, but they never forget how you made them feel.
In 2014, the independence movement made some people feel scared and out of sorts. I know because I was one of them. Even being asked the question played havoc with my sense of security and identity. As an immigrant with British citizenship and no other nationality, would I become a foreigner in my own home? Would I lose my EU citizenship? Would I still belong here? Once it was all over, I felt relieved, but also quite sad. I didn’t forget how it felt to be forced into making a decision I didn’t want to make. Those feelings were not positive and I didn’t give them up easily.
In the wake of the Brexit vote which left me feeing shaken, unrepresented, and frightened, Nicola Sturgeon immediately spoke out for Scotland, and for me as a citizen living here. She reiterated that Scotland had voted to remain, and that she thought it was democratically unacceptable for Scotland to be force to leave the EU – and with these words she made me feel that I was being represented. Every time she has spoken on the subject of Brexit since, she’s echoed my own beliefs about Scotland’s place as a liberal democracy in Europe. By speaking about what was morally correct, she made me feel a bit more at ease. When she called for a second independence referendum after exhausting all other avenues of keeping Scotland in the EU, she made me feel safe. I won’t ever forget this.
If Scotland is going to gain its independence, those of us on the Yes side have a big job winning over those who still feel the way I did in 2014. When we speak with them, they may not remember exactly what we said. They might not remember the specific facts and figures we offered, or the exact words and phrases written in the leaflets and brochures we give them. But they will remember the way we make them feel, and if they feel at ease, secure and safe we have a very good chance of winning them over.
Leave them feeling lectured, hectored or attacked and, however strong our arguments, they won’t come any closer to agreement, much less be won over. We also have to accept that there are people who simply can’t be won over, for many reasons. Not every fight can be won – we have to direct our energy where it can do most good.
Security and safety are the feelings that not only helped me realise independence is the only way forward, they also made me extremely resistant to any fear mongering coming from the other side. If we’re to conquer the fear that lost it last time, we have to offer something more than hope. This time the message must be about the security and stability an independent Scotland will deliver.