Seeking a better Brexit will help us win friends and influence

I was asked earlier this week why “we are bothering to try to save the UK from itself”, with our continued efforts to find a sensible compromise to the chaos of Brexit. This question, posed to me by a friend in the Yes family, is a valid one. And it got me thinking.

There may be a temptation felt by some to say “Why bother? Do what you want south of the Border – your self-imposed decline is Scotland’s gain”.

But I firmly believe that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are right to remain focused on calling for a co-operative alternative for the whole UK.

We must strive for better than Theresa May’s frying pan of a bad deal or the fire of a no-deal offering.

And make no mistake, this is a bad deal. It takes Scotland out of the single market, out of the customs union and places us at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland.

We must challenge the lie that there is no alternative.

There are of course alternatives, most obviously a soft Brexit that allows us to remain in the customs union and single market. It may well be that a further referendum takes place.

Labour’s failure to find a clear position on these options – and failure on anything Brexit-related – only highlights the need for the SNP to be the adults in the wayward nursery that is Westminster.

Trying to find a solution will gain us further respect and admiration at home, down south and across Europe too. And Scotland can never have too many friends.

So both the immediate situation before us, and our broader interests as a nation, are served best by this approach.

For our campaign – engaging, inclusive and democratic – has to be an advert, an example of the independent country we want to offer the people of Scotland. And that means reaching out to members of other parties.

I was interested in John McDonnell’s statement this week that he could never be a friend to a Tory. Many MSPs and MPs are regularly asked by constituents if, outside the parliamentary chamber, we “get on with” politicians from other parties. The truth for many of us, is that we do.

Of course, as in many walks of life, there can be real personality clashes and you feel it better not to engage with someone at all, but if you do that simply because of someone’s party badge it would be a pretty grim existence.

I have a good friend in the Labour Party who was formerly a councillor and a provost. I used to write speeches for him. We got on well, to the surprise of everyone, including our party colleagues.

The idea of shunning each other because of our respective party loyalties seems preposterous.

Equally, for those of us who support independence, we simply cannot afford not to engage with those who have voted differently in the past.

We cannot win without persuading those still to be persuaded. A failure to do so would mean settling for a bleak future.

This article originally appeared in the Sunday National.