I get it. You miss socialising. You miss going to the pub, you miss going for Sunday dinner at your mum’s, you miss the chats by the school gates, and the gym, and the office canteen, and coffee with Bill or Susan or whoever. But how about this for an idea? When we get to the other side of all this and start socialising again, could we do things differently? It might be the answer we’ve been looking for.

The reason I’m saying all of this now is because of a conversation I had recently with a Yes campaigner. You’ll know him: Alan Bissett. He’s a novelist, performer, and famous Falkirkian, and he was one of the leading figures of the 2014 campaign and one of its most passionate agitators. Alan and I were talking to each other because of the plans (now postponed, sadly) to mark the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, but the turn the conversation took was surprising. It didn’t go how you would expect.

The thing is that, for a while now, a lot of Scots who lean towards the Union have felt like we’re living in an age of conflict, and that the 2014 referendum was partly – no, largely – to blame for that. But even if you disagree with that premise, or the cause, you might still agree about where we are now: Yes versus No, Leave versus Remain, Salmond versus Sturgeon, the human race versus Covid-19. Even the attempt to control the coronavirus is described in terms of conflict – we are at war, they say; we are fighting an invisible enemy.

But what if there’s a different way of framing this and a new way forward? When we had our chat, Alan Bissett told me he was just as much a supporter of Yes in 2020 as he was in 2014. The No vote was a disaster, he said, and Scots find themselves trapped and buffeted without any control of their political destiny. Independence needs to happen sooner rather than later, he said. It’s an emergency.

But it’s what Alan told me next that was really interesting because I think lots of Scots feel the same way, even if their actual views haven’t shifted much. What Alan said was that, for him, a lot of the heat had gone out of the argument since 2014. In the old days, he said, he would’ve gone on the attack, but he’s better now at listening to people with different views, and has more respect for them. He still argues the case for Yes, but he does it with less of an edge in his voice.

Why has this happened? It’s because Alan’s been mixing with different people. In 2014, he was living in Glasgow and working in the arts and most of the people he socialised with were Yes supporters. But he has since moved to the country and lives in a small village where he comes into contact with a more diverse range of opinion. Down the pub (when we’re allowed to go down the pub again) there are going to be lots of unionists and this fact has changed the way Alan approaches things.

The lessons he has taken away from it all are interesting. Here’s what he said to me: “I’m talking to guys who might have very different opinions to me and if you start being too forthright about it, they’re going to tell you to f*** off. They’ll probably see you as some a******* who comes into the pub and spouts off about Scottish independence. I can’t be that person. It doesn’t work. So it’s made me a better communicator and more reflective when it comes to politics. I’ve got better at listening.”

Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone – just look at Twitter. The opinion poll at the weekend suggesting a big election win for the SNP next year also makes another independence referendum more likely, which will surely get the blood boiling just as much as it did in 2014. But even so, for a lot of people, the passage of time, or a change of scene in Alan’s case, or the spread of an invisible virus, has made the debate feel much less aggressive than it was, and we should try to go with that. We should try to learn something from the moment of calm that some of us are feeling.

I think Alan has already, and I hope I have too. One of the subjects we talked about was identity and how important it is to both sides of the argument over the constitution in Scotland. Alan said he was more aware, and respectful, of the fact that many Scots feel British and want to remain British. It’s their identity, and the same works the other way round for Scottish nationalists: they feel attached to their identity and, let’s face it, even those who decry identity politics have an identity. We should all recognise and respect those facts.

We can also do what Alan has done and pull back a little from the swing and punch of Yes and No. A good first step would be to come off Twitter, which Alan has already done – Twitter is merely fuel to the fury and is not the place for nuance or respect. We could also – when we’re allowed to – socialise with a much more diverse range of people, which Alan has also done. If you’re a Yes voter, make sure that your first post-Covid coffee is with a No voter and vice versa for unionists. And don’t just wait for them to stop talking so you can make your point. Listen.

I appreciate some people will think all of this is naïve, but a more respectful conversation is more likely to produce a settled will that we can all go along with in the end and that’s what we need. Obviously, Alan Bissett hopes the settled will is going to be for independence; I hope it’s for the Union. But it’s more likely to be a broad agreement or a settled consensus if it comes from a long, respectful, reflective conversation rather than a political punch-up. If we listen to each other and slowly move in one direction, it’s more likely to last. If we respect each other, we will respect the result. I’m going to try to remember that when I come out of isolation.