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Matt Qvortrup: Scottish independence movement must be more populist to win indyref2

UNIONISTS complain about “passionate” discussion of Scottish independence as they “know in their hearts” that Yes will win that argument, a leading expert on global independence movements has said.

Matt Qvortrup, a professor of political science and international relations at Coventry University, told The Sunday Herald that the SNP needed to focus more on passion and less on details to win indyref2.

“Winning independence isn’t about trade deals,” he said. “You campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The SNP is campaigning for independence in prose.”

“Winning a referendum is about hearts, not minds. You don’t need to go into details. It needs to be more sloganistic.”

Qvortrup suggested that the Yes campaign needed to become more populist, saying: “Sometimes you need to learn from the b*****ds [like former US president Donald Trump]. Play nice, you’ll lose.”

The politics expert, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the European Political Science Review journal, gave the SNP a “D or E” in terms of having the passion needed to win an independence vote.

He said that Nicola Sturgeon (below) needed to take an “over my dead body” approach to the UK Government’s denial of a second referendum, adding: “Not in a die-hard, kamikaze way, but in a positive way that says ‘Scotland is the best thing since sliced bread’. That it’s the country’s destiny. That the world wouldn’t have TV or telephones if it wasn’t for Scots.

“If you don’t have that passion, kiss it all goodbye,” Qvortrup said.

“Storytelling is what it’s all about. It’s what captures you. To win you need a story.”

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds media interviews and conducts a site visit ahead of the SNP National Conference held at P&J Live arena in Aberdeen, Scotland. Picture date: Friday October 7, 2022. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Michal

He refuted the idea that the independence debate is too passionate, saying that Unionists may complain about that because “they know in their hearts that passion will win”.

Qvortrup, who has advised governments around the world on the creation of new countries, cited examples from Ireland and Norway in explaining how Scotland should present a passionate and patriotic image in order to win independence.

Qvortrup said the Norwegian campaign had focused on “shameless patriotism, but not negatively – it was about unashamed national pride”. “The Scottish campaign needs that,” he added.

The professor further cited former Irish president Eamon de Valera and the idea of a “romantic Ireland” which he said was key to the independence debate there.

He said there was a lot of goodwill towards Scotland internationally, while England’s reputation has fallen as its government has been “nasty, petty to pretty much everybody, and a bit bullyboyish”. Qvortrup made a point of calling the Westminster government “English” and not “British”.

READ MORE: Will Scotland need to join the euro to join the EU? What the experts say

“So, Scotland has a window of opportunity,” Qvortrup said. “You just need to get the effing passion or you can forget about it.”

The politics professor further dismissed claims that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to join the EU if it did not commit to joining the euro.

Europe won’t make joining the euro a red line, and Scotland would undoubtedly be allowed to join without having to adopt the single currency,” he said. “Spain might drag their feet but they’ll be happy joining other EU members in making life difficult for London.”

Qvortrup’s new book, I Want to Break Free: A Practical Guide to Making a New Country, is due to be published later this month. It can be preordered on the Manchester University press website.



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