Why we need to see some real flesh on St Andrew's bones

THE culminating event of St Andrew's Day/Night/Weekend – held in the atmospheric, chilly moonlit grounds of the cathedral and St Mary's Quad in St Andrews – was powerful proof that vision also requires explanation.

Europe's leading light designer, Ross Ashton, had been commissioned to create Britain's most complex light and sound installation this year.

The performance was a stunning mosaic of vivid images drifting across the ancient walls beneath a real, cloud– circled moon, synchronised to a surround-sound musical soundtrack.

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In St Mary's Quad, projected pictures described Scotland's journey from the Ice Age to the present. In the cloisters the story was the journey of St Andrew's bones to Scotland and the subsequent history of the Fife town.

It was a thrilling performance, and now that I've been online, its epic scope is also apparent.

I'm not sure, however, if the 20-strong audience last night entirely grasped it.

To be fair, the rolling nature of the display meant a "fresh" 20 people were doubtless walking in as we left the cathedral grounds. But few locals seemed to know the show was on, still fewer paid to view it and no-one we spoke to understood what they'd seen.

Perhaps there's a moral. In art, religion and politics, vision also requires explanation. The vision behind today's Independence Referendum legislation is no exception.

Alex Salmond's choice of St Andrew's Day to launch the white paper is, of course, symbolic.

St Andrew is Scotland's patron saint. He was also a man whose life was completely transformed by the greatest communicator the world has ever known.

Jesus had vision. But he knew it didn't explain itself and used parable, miracle, example, conversation, conversion, description and the power of physical presence to convert strong, capable men like Andrew to his cause.

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Don't misunderstand. I'm neither comparing the First Minister to Jesus Christ nor Scottish Independence to the Prom-ised Land. Not for a minute. I'm simply pointing out that modern Scots also need vision and transformation right now – in every aspect of our religious, personal, political and professional lives.

The need for vision was heralded by an unlikely group of evangelists this weekend just yards from St Andrews Cathedral, where members of the Chartered Institute of Management were discussing how to encourage green shoots of economic recovery.

Hardly mentioned, surprisingly, were cost-cutting, balance sheets and revised business plans. The top concern was how to learn quickly and profoundly from the current market failure. There was recognition of the fact that the days of greed and leverage are absolutely past. And most of the day focused on how business leaders can restore trust and motivation. On TV, the irrepressibly cynical Thick of It stereotyped the voluntary sector as worthy deadheads, while among the "real" managers in St Andrews, social entrepreneurs were the most frequently cited models for the future.

All of this has an impact on the current constitutional debate.

Firstly, it fleshes out a very different version of "management" to the passive, "it wisnae me" excuse for management trotted out by so many boards of directors lately. A shift to pro-active management matters politically, because the SNP are perceived as managers, elected to make a better fist of running Scotland.

Up till now that "managerial" role has seemed to be at odds with the nationalists "visionary" role. Managers – it's been believed – should be benevolent book-keepers, not madcap missionaries.

But if they have no overall sense of direction, no strategy, no long-term vision, why are we electing politicians or indeed employing managers?

The function of management has been misunderstood.

Whether they run companies or run a country, managers are not just glorified traffic police. They are leaders who must engage hearts and minds and have the courage to spell out their vision in detail, not sail along on a sea of generalisation, or tartan-tinged clich.

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Bosses trying to manage change often create chaos intentionally. Otherwise, it seems, the communal attachment to the comfort zone is too great for new mindsets to arise. In that case Scots voters, managers and politicians are in the biggest learning zone we may ever experience.

Academics suggest that, until the stress of all this uncertainty produces a "cognitive freeze", we have more than usual room for mental manoeuvre.

Today will doubtless focus on the number of questions and precise wording of Alex Salmond's Referendum Bill.

But Scots need much more from their political leaders. How do they plan to take advantage of the present uncertainty and create overdue change in the stolid Scottish mindset? What have they learned from the last six months? Are they updating their strategy or simply reheating last year's model?

Scottish politics is currently so defensive and negative that we know more about the shape of post-independence Scotland by unionists poking holes in its arrangements than by Nationalists painting their own detailed picture.

The SNP strategy seems to rest not on logical or practical detail, but on a faith-based belief in the superlative abilities of the Scottish people.

The SNP's vision must be translated into well-explained, practical examples of current obstacles avoided, and new possibilities realised before independence will gain active support .

And active engagement in some strategy is vital to get Scots off their frightened, collective backside.

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Separation by Stealth will serve us no better than Stealth Taxes or Calman's Stealth Status Quo. The world has changed and is still changing. Even managers – the very agents of capitalism – are trying to adapt and learn. Scots can no more sleepwalk to independence than they can sleepwalk to prosperity within the UK. St Andrew's Day 2009 must see vision return to Scottish politics.