IN the year the SNP was founded, 1934, on the far side of the Atlantic, the FBI finally caught up with Willie Sutton, an infamous bank robber.
"Why do you rob banks, Willie?" an agent asked. "Because that's where the money is," he replied.
That pithy response became the stuff of legend, and has contemporary relevance to the SNP. If they are to take Scotland to independence, they have to go where the votes are, just as Sutton went straight to the money. That means appealing directly to Labour supporters.
The local elections are a powerful reminder that Labour remains a force to be reckoned with in Scotland, despite many setbacks and flaws. The party's support is incredibly resilient, as the long SNP faces in Glasgow testified.
Persuading that constituency to change horses in the run up to 2014 will not be easy, especially with the Labour leadership arguing fiercely for the Union. But if the SNP can articulate the arguments to win Labour-supporting hearts and minds, the rewards for the party's ambitions would be huge.
In the wake of Friday's result, the SNP boasted that they had won outright control of two councils and were the largest party in five more.
They were right ... they were the big winners of the election.
But Labour had outright control of four councils, and was the biggest party in 10 others. The population of those seven SNP councils is 1.1 million, the population of Labour's 14 is 3.4 million. Converting even a modest percentage of those Labour supporters is the key to the referendum.
That means understanding their values, what they want, what they fear, and what would persuade them to back what to date has been an almost exclusively SNP project.
It is not enough, as some Nationalists seem to think, to berate people or make them feel foolish or ashamed of choosing Labour.
Nor is it sufficient to assert, with missionary zeal, that independence is simply a good thing per se, an end in itself, a Xanadu of wealth, happiness and renewable energy.
It needs a more subtle, diplomatic touch. It also requires properly fleshed-out arguments.
One reason people voted Labour last week, north as well as south of the border, was their opposition to the Conservatives and coalition policies such as funding a tax cut for the super-rich by adding to the misery of pensioners. Such manifest unfairness sticks in the craw of millions, as David Cameron has discovered.
Labour's historic role as the 'anti-Tory' party, and its relentless attacks on the austerity cuts as brutal and unfair, made it the main beneficiary in England and Wales on Thursday. That desire for a fairer, more equal society must also have helped Labour in Scotland.
True, Alex Salmond and the SNP have also been frequent critics of the Tory measures, and indeed have policies to show there is an alternative to austerity, but there remains a belief among a significant number of the electorate that Labour is ideologically opposite to the Conservatives in a way the SNP are not.
The first minister needs to set out a coherent and detailed vision of what independence would deliver, with evidence and argument to support it, a vision of what type of Scotland he wants to build and the values which would be at its heart.
He needs to show where his moral compass points, and just why independence has been his life's aim.
Because people – including all those Labour supporters pivotal to a Yes vote – need to know what kind of society would flow from independence. How would it be fairer, or more tolerant, or happier in its own skin?
It would be wrong to suggest that Alex Salmond's links to Rupert Murdoch stalled the SNP's bid to take control of Glasgow. In truth, many voters will not much care one way or another. But it does dilute one of the main attractions of the SNP to some sections of the electorate who have hitherto not been among the party's natural supporters: that the SNP stands for something different, that it does not represent politics as usual.
We need to believe that when the first minister says independence could make Scotland a more socially progressive place, better able to resist Tory austerity and take care of the most vulnerable in society, that those are his priorities rather than wooing chums such as Murdoch. That doesn't look like a fresh start for Scotland and suggests independence would not rid it of the same old elitist political circus.
In less than three weeks, the first minister will launch the Yes campaign for 2014. It is the moment for a change of gear, the moment to articulate a clear vision of the country Scotland is and the country it could become.
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