If you are serious about securing Scottish independence, beware of passion. Beware of the unselfcritical and the impatient. Beware projection. Beware the thought that other people think as you think. Be suspicious of your motives. Test your claims. Follow the evidence.
Beware those who see the defeat of the Yes campaign as entirely the fault of other people. Beware those who point an accusing finger only at Project Fear and a biased media, and who have nothing to say about where Yes Scotland and the White Paper went wrong. Beware those who can't begin to understand why people voted No. Beware those who see the Scots as credulous, taken in, but now smarting from buyer's remorse. Beware those who believe it was only the Vow what won it.
Beware of those who behave like a drowning man, scrabbling for something -- anything -- to justify a second referendum. Beware of those who think they speak for a pro-indy majority which marches only in their imaginations. Beware of those who still refuse to recognise that only a single poll in the entire campaign ever put Yes - very marginally - ahead. Beware those who will not see that no poll has shown a sustained or substantial majority for independence since. If you seriously thought we were going to carry the day on the 18th of September, beware your own judgement. Have a healthy skepticism. Question the limits of your social circle. Learn its lessons.
Beware the activists who told you the Yes vote in their constituencies was all sewn up, and who stood, crestfallen, when dawn rose on the 19th of September, with their local campaign trailing miles behind. Beware those living in areas which voted Yes, who seem indifferent to the fact that the majority of the country did not. Beware those whose enthusiasm for a second indyref seems unconnected to any evidence that the campaign is actually winnable.
Beware those who see the 2015 election result as firing another starter's gun. Beware those who see the election of 56 SNP MPs as a referendum proxy. Beware those indifferent to the 160,000 lost votes separating the 2014 and 2015 results. Beware the self-deceptive logic of "one last heave". Beware those who want another referendum to recall a feeling, to recall hope, to recall purpose, but with no analysis of what went wrong, or what has changed. Beware old men in a hurry.
If you are serious about securing Scottish independence, you must beware all these things. If you are serious about accomplishing this task, you must beware squandering our best, last chance to realise it. You must have patience. A second referendum cannot be held to make people feel better. Too many generations of my family, and many families in this country, have campaigned for this old idea for it to be consigned under the sod forever in a doomed spasm of feeling unsupported by any analysis.
There's no point in igniting a false hope - only to extinguish it forever. There is nothing noble about destroying the cause you care about through soft-headedness. I can understand your anger. I can understand your frustrations. I can understand the mounting despair you feel at this majority Tory government and its plans for the country. But sentimentality is self-indulgence. A second referendum cannot be for the true believers who are already on side, but must speak to those whose minds have changed, for those who can be persuaded. It cannot be an act of sheer frustration -- however understandable that feeling may be.
Nobody has even begun to explain to me what has changed since the autumn of last year to transform disaster into triumph. Nobody has explained how the generational gap has or could be addressed. Nobody has explained to me how the sceptical people of Clackmannanshire and Aberdeenshire and Inverness and Argyll have been won over. Nobody has produced, or can produce, any evidence of any kind that there has been a decisive shift in constitutional opinion.
My only operating principle here is this: if another independence referendum is to be held, it must be won. A second referendum must not be held unless it is clear that it is winnable. By all means - let's have a reasoned argument about strategy. About what to be about in the meanwhile. Through the encircling political gloom - there are reasons to be cheerful. The idea of Scottish independence is mainstream for the first time since 1707. The 2014 referendum campaign has not stabilised the Union. It has not provided a decisive answer to Scotland's separatists. The Smith Commission compromise and Mundell's Scotland Bill look incapable of doing so. The No campaign has not persuaded Scots that we are "better together" for the next ten years, or the next twenty or thirty years.
But cool your jets. It is time for hard heads. Time for reflection on what went right and what went wrong last September. My plea to you is this. Always demand evidence. Hold even the most sincere, the most touching and deeply-held emotional appeals in suspicion. Be critical. And always, always -- have patience.