You've probably seen Neil Mackay's rather provocative list of "issues" that the Yes movement must supposedly address in order to win. Unsurprisingly it has sharply divided opinion, with some of the criticism spilling into unpleasant personal comments. But as was the case with Peter A Smith, the fact that the abuse must be deplored does not mean that parts of the criticism can't be justified. Mr Mackay's advice is a very mixed bag - some of it is eminently sensible, such as the reminder that using insulting words like 'Yoon' does no-one any good. (I would make exceptions for ironic or satirical use, but the basic point is sound.) Some of it is misguided, such as the idea that we should all stop marching for independence, on the basis that shoving saltires in the faces of No voters does nothing to win them over. This entirely misses the point of the marches, which is not to convert No voters directly, but rather to raise the morale of Yes supporters, to boost the visibility of the campaign, and to generate a sense of momentum. And some of the advice is needlessly divisive, such as the suggestion that those in leadership positions should shun certain Yes supporters by unfollowing them on social media - which would simply alienate one part of the movement from another without actually winning a single extra vote. Paul Hutcheon may have based his entire "investigative journalism" career on the shock value of who doesn't ignore who on Twitter, but real people don't give a monkey's.
Mr Mackay's most controversial point of all is smuggled in at the end. He argues that the movement should decide that nothing less than 60% Yes support is required for change - he thinks this would be a "bold" and generous step that would impress the unpersuaded. Now, I've read this part of the article multiple times, and I still can't quite work out what Mr Mackay is getting at - is he suggesting that we should not call a referendum until Yes is at 60% in the polls, or is he actually suggesting that the rules of the next referendum should be rigged in favour of the No side to ensure that they only need 40.01% of the vote to "win"? I suspect the ambiguity may be intentional, because there is a near-consensus in the Yes movement that the 40% rule in 1979 was an outrage against democracy that must never be repeated in any form. It's unlikely there would have been as many people recommending Mr Mackay's article as a "must-read" if they had realised he was channelling George Cunningham.
And it would actually make a complete nonsense of all of the high-minded suggestions for building Yes support, because what happens if those ideas work? Suppose the banning of marches, the sending of people to Coventry on Twitter, and the introduction of a 60% rule somehow win over No voters by the bucket-load, and we score a highly impressive 59% of the vote in the next referendum? The returning officer will just turn around and say: "Sorry, under the Vote Adjustment Rules, 41 is a bigger number than 59, and you've actually lost. Try again in a generation." Supermajority requirements aren't "bold", they aren't daring, they aren't radical - they're ultra-conservative, anti-democratic, and make the status quo insanely difficult to reform.
Even if we're generous to Mr Mackay and assume he wasn't proposing a supermajority, but merely that we shouldn't hold a referendum until 60% has been reached in the polls, that would still to all intents and purposes be an argument against a referendum and against independence, because in the real world 60% is utterly unachievable before the referendum campaign actually starts. If even the initial shock of the Leave vote in June 2016 was only enough to get Yes into the low 50s, I'm struggling to see how we'd get much higher than that without calling a referendum and inviting people to focus on the choice.