I must say I always thought it was a bit strange when Kezia Dugdale said a few years ago that Scottish Labour would never support independence or a second referendum. You may not like the idea of an independent Scotland, you may not want to facilitate it, but “never” is a risky word. Stuff happens. Things change. The ground shifts.

As it happens, six years on, Ms Dugdale appears to have a more nuanced position nowadays and in some ways it’s understandable. When she made her “never” comment in 2017, the SNP was strong and rising and Labour was weak and falling and Ms Dugdale probably felt she could afford to give no more ground. But now that Labour’s in the ascendance again, its supporters can talk about doubt from a place of relative strength. It’s easier to admit to a chink in your armour when there are great big holes in your enemy’s.

The details of what Ms Dugdale said are interesting. Speaking at the Edinburgh book festival, she said she now understands the case for independence better than she did and that she could not argue for the union with the same strength she did in 2014. She also said that, if presented with a binary choice between “an independent Scotland in a progressive Europe” or “little Boris Brexit Britain”, she knew where her cards would fall, although none of that meant she was ready to vote Yes. Her conclusion was that she’d “moved” but we had to keep talking about the big issues and not just through the Yes/No lens (and she’ll be voting Labour at the next election by the way).

Here’s the really crucial bit though: Ms Dugdale also made it clear that she thought her views on independence and referendums were effectively theoretical. Asked if there was likely be a second referendum in the next decade, she said she believed neither a Conservative nor Labour government would concede one, which again makes it easier to admit to your doubts. Lots of us are able to contemplate voting Yes in some theoretical sense when the vote is in the distant future but that’s hardly the point. It’s only when the pressure’s on that you discover how you really feel; perhaps Ms Dugdale will feel differently when and if that happens.

I have to admit I was also a bit sad to hear the former Scottish Labour leader talking about the so-called “binary choice” between an independent Scotland or little Boris Brexit Britain because that has always been a false either/or. Again, Ms Dugdale may just have been suggesting it in a theoretical sense, in which case fine, but unfortunately you do see some nationalists framing the argument in this way as if the only alternative to “Boris Britain” is independence. In fact, Boris is already gone and the days of the Tory government are numbered and it’s surely a basic principle of democracy that you do not abandon a system simply because it’s been misused by populists or you don’t like the current government. Reform the system. Vote for someone else.

As for the rest of Ms Dugdale’s remarks, I can see where she’s coming from; in fact, I think in many ways I have “moved” in the same way she has. The year 2017 was a different place; Nicola Sturgeon seemed unstoppable, a second referendum seemed like a real possibility, and it also seemed like the SNP might win if it happened. So is it any wonder that in those intense days, our opinions were more intense too? We shouted a lot; we listened not so much.

What appears to have happened to Ms Dugdale since then is that she’s been exposed more to the opinions of nationalists (not least because she’s married to one) but more importantly she appears to be willing to listen to their arguments more, and this is a good thing. I remember speaking to the writer and Yes campaigner Alan Bissett about this and he said something similar about where he'd ended up in the years after the referendum. A lot of the heat went out of the argument for him after 2014, he said, and he became much better at listening to people with different views and had more respect for them too. This is also a good thing.

I’d like to think that I have shifted in the same way Ms Dugdale and Mr Bissett have and that I do not see independence – or unionism for that matter – in quite the way I did ten years ago. Back then, you sometimes got the impression that after a Yes vote we’d either be sitting by the pool in 24/7 sunshine with an unlimited supply of spondulix or all our money would vanish and we’d spend all eternity under the thumb of cruel alien overlords. The arguments were too extreme, too binary, but when all your friends and family are doing it, it’s hard to resist.

Thankfully, it sounds like Kezia Dugdale has moved on from that period, and I have too I hope. I still have all the concerns I had in 2014 about the level of debt in an independent Scotland and how the border would work and so on, but equally independence is no longer quite the Frankenstein’s monster it seemed in 2014: even if there was a Yes vote, Scotland would not have independence in any total sense; our ability to be autonomous would be limited just as it is for every other nation and a close relationship with the rest of the UK would continue to be necessary. In that sense, I might be poorer (who knows) but the country would probably carry on working (or not working) as it always has.

I also agree with Ms Dugdale about how we proceed from here. For a start, her stated priorities continue to be tackling poverty and inequality (and I suspect she still thinks the best way to do that is without the costs of nationalism and by pooling our resources). She’s also right to say that the best way forward is to talk about poverty, inequality and all the other big issues without seeing everything through the Yes/No lens.

Are we there yet? Absolutely not: the Yes and No goggles that were grafted onto our faces in 2014 are hard to take off. But if there really is movement on the No side with the likes of Kezia Dugdale and movement on the Yes side with the likes of Alan Bissett, then that is a sign of progress. I suspect that when push comes to shove they would vote the same way they did in 2014. But the bigger point is that if a few nationalists are becoming more respectful of the fact some of us feel British and want to remain so and some unionists are becoming less alarmist and dogmatic about independence, then we may, slowly, bit by bit, be edging into a better place. I think so. I hope so.