This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Much of the row about the latest set of independence papers has been centred around the principle of Scottish Government officials spending their time on them – rather than the content.

But citizenship and nationality is a key part of the positive independence case that will be put forward by the SNP and the Scottish Greens if there ever is a re-run of the 2014 referendum.

The First Minister said today he was keener to talk about the blueprint for an independent Scotland rather than the wobbly process of making separation a reality.

Being able to become a Scottish citizen will be a big deal for some who support independence, while retaining British nationality and identity will carry plenty of meaning to those who support the UK staying together.

In simple terms, at the point of Scotland gaining independence, the Scottish Government says it will make “an open and inclusive offer of citizenship to all people who live in, were born in or have a close and enduring connection to Scotland and are British citizens at the point of independence”.

Other groups will be able to gain citizenship post-independence.

The First Minister acknowledged that identity and citizenship, as well as being a positive part of the independence case, is likely to cause division.

He said that people will “feel strongly” about being able to keep their British citizenship and has no problem with them being able to do so.

But Mr Yousaf admitted that “for some people, they may not want Scottish citizenship”.

He hoped it “would be a minority” that will reject becoming a citizen of Scotland, but the FM said that “for whatever reason feel strongly about that”, they will be given the option to opt out of it.

He added: “Given the context in which we’re having this discussion in, post-independence, I think we should give people that option.”

The FM has insisted that his plans “would not require anybody to choose between being Scottish, British, or any other nationality”, but that does not guarantee it will not lead to even further division in Scottish politics.

The fact that people who qualify for Scottish citizenship would be able to opt out of retaining their British citizenship or their newfound Scottish identity speaks volumes about the state of our politics.

Opting out of Scottish or British citizenship will be a big deal for many Scots with strong views on the constitution.

Identity politics can be toxic – Scotland saw this first-hand during the 2014 referendum.

Scotland’s political landscape has become increasingly tribal since that first vote.

For many, the SNP and unionist parties are now backed like sports teams – supporting your team whatever turmoil they are going through – unwavering loyalty to the cause. Even if they are mince.

Party loyalty has always been a big part of the process, but tribalism and division is now the norm in Scottish politics.

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Speaking on his personal position, Mr Yousaf told journalists that despite not having given it much thought, his instinct would be to become a Scottish citizen and tear up his British passport and identity. 

It is very clear that Mr Yousaf’s citizenship strategy for an independent Scotland is aiming to capture as many people with a connection to Scotland as possible – following the Irish model.

But the First Minister didn’t bat an eyelid over the prospect of people from the rest of the UK moving to Scotland after the country gains independence and obtaining Scottish citizenship to regain their EU rights lost in Brexit – assuming Scotland is allowed to rejoin the bloc.

In fact, Mr Yousaf said he would actively “welcome” that move.

The First Minister pointed to pressures in key workforces in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, such as the NHS and social care, as reasons why he would welcome people moving north of the Border.

The Herald:

But identity politics are at play.

The framing of Scottish passports being burgundy to keep pace with EU guidelines is perhaps stealing a cheap shot the UK Government tabled after Brexit with their blue passports.

The concept of ‘new Scots’ is a welcoming and positive approach to those who have made Scotland their home.

Greens co-leader Lorna Slater, a new Scot who has lived in Scotland for more than 20 years, has set out her enthusiasm for the policy, insisting it “says a lot about the kind of country we aspire to be”.

She added that attitude is “one that is welcoming, tolerant and generous”.

Ms Slater said: “We want to include people, make them part of our community and let them know that they have value.”

The Scottish Government is placing the positive and “inclusive” case for citizenship of a future independent Scotland against a backdrop of the UK Government facing severe criticism for its attitude to immigration.

Mr Yousaf pointed to “barriers and excessive fees” put in place in other countries – a dig at the UK Government about as subtle as an earthquake.

A big part of the charm and attraction of the case for Scottish independence is a positive civic nationalism, set out in the 2014 referendum by the Yes campaign.

That is still a huge draw if Scotland ever has a second referendum, even more so with the potential to regain EU rights lost after Brexit.

Maintaining EU rights and access was a key part of the No campaign in 2014. It is set to be a vital part of the push for Yes in any second vote on independence.

Both sides can talk until they are burgundy in the face about the economic and practical case for independence or staying in the UK.

But winning over people on an emotional level is crucial if Scotland is to ever become independent.

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