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The Gathering #2

The Gathering #2

The Gathering #1

The first Gathering was held in May this year and it saw the coming together of many hundreds of Indy campaigners, representing YES groups from all over the country. On the 24th of November it happened all over again. Organisers, National Yes Registry (NYR), named this Gathering Independence Reframed & Evaluating the Growth Commission, but unofficially called it How We Win!

It was a very early start for attendees from the Highlands, with many of us taking advantage of the minibus arranged by Yes Ross & Sutherland. Spirits were high as we gathered and set off from Tore at 5:30am, driving through darkness and thick fog to arrive in good time for the 9:30am start in the Albert Halls, Stirling.

Keith Brown, deputy leader of the SNP, was asked to open the event with an address about the recently published Sustainable Growth Commission (SGC) report, in which he acknowledged the concerns that many have voiced over the currency section. He also applauded NYR for opening discussion of the report to such a wide audience, and told us that this would be the biggest consultation on the report outside of the SNP.

Jim Mather, former Scottish Government minister addresses Gathering #2

Following Keith, Jim Mather, former Scottish Government minister and member of the SGC spoke of the aspirations of the report: good financial management and optimising all of Scotland’s potential. His hope for the future of Scottish politics is that parties will work together for the national interest in a partnership rather than competing to score political points with voters. He emphasised that the SGC report is not a finished article, but merely a starting point for the conversation on Scotland’s future, and saw that conversation as presenting a fun and exciting challenge.

Now it was time to get down to business, so Eddie and Jason, founders of NYR, introduced us to the new version of the IndyApp (available at https://nationalyesregistry.scot). The app has been extensively developed since its first launch, with an improved interface and additional functionality. Using IndyApp 2.0, YES groups all over the country can communicate with each other, share ideas and work collaboratively on projects. The main aim of the day was to begin a conversation on a variety of topics relating to an independent Scotland. These conversations will inform our campaign to convince the population and also bring together the grassroots contribution to submissions on the SGC report. The IndyApp will allow any member of a YES group to provide input on any of the topics.

Having previously been assigned table numbers at random, delegates were then set to work in small groups on one of 17 topics. Groups looked at subjects from currency, tax and pensions in an independent Scotland to how we can organise and share resources as a grassroots movement. We were also asked to share the values that we felt were most important to bear in mind during the campaign and to guide Scotland after independence has been achieved.

Bill Mills and June Maxwell address the Gathering

Group work continued until we broke for lunch and, while we ate, Bill Mills and June Maxwell spoke to us about Reframing the Narrative. Their work has focussed on the psychology behind framing (spinning a story to create a certain perspective) which is the basis of propaganda and reframing which combats this. We learned that people are mostly unaware of the frames that shape their views and that we are quite susceptible to repeating and strengthening the frames of others, even when we vehemently disagree with them. If we deny, for example, that Scotland is too poor to go it alone, we actually reinforce that belief in the minds of those who currently think that way. It is also the case that a solid fact will not, by itself, change someone’s frame – the fact will simply be denied and the frame reinforced. Bill and June explained that the best way to change someone’s frame is to speak to them face to face and build a rapport. Sometimes it’s better not to discuss independence at all, as it is more important to leave someone with a good impression of an Indy supporter than to challenge their attitude to the topic itself. In future, that person may well be more inclined to ask questions and listen to answers about independence; but that comes from them and there’s no way that even the best, most well-reasoned argument will change their mind until they are ready.

Armed with this new information about reframing we returned to our groups to continue our discussions. Each team worked hard to prepare a brief presentation to deliver at the end of the conference so that all could hear about their deliberations. The groups also populated a short form that would provide a starting point for those wishing to continue the work on these areas using the IndyApp.

The Yes Highland group at the end of the day.

The presentations themselves were entertaining and diverse, perhaps not polished, but that was to be expected in the limited time that was available to prepare. They were all interesting and informative, emphasising that, with independence, there is so much we could change to make our country better. The audience were inspired to learn from the Resources group that Scotland outcompetes the UK in many areas including maritime resources, food and drink exports and top universities, while boasting 25% of the wind and tide energy potential for the whole of the EU. We were shocked to find out from the Welfare group that 20,000 people have died within three months of being “deemed fit for work” and losing their benefits. This group advocated a citizen’s income as a means of preventing those worst off in society from falling through the cracks. Yes Cumbernauld amused us with their Scottish rhyming slang title of “numb and cauld”, and the presentations finished with the emotional story of Jim from the Scottish Health Service group who had battled cancer, here in Scotland, and had survived with the help of nurses, doctors, consultants and surgeons from all over the world.

The work done on these topics did not end there, rather, it was only beginning. The groups are already set up on the IndyApp and receiving members to take these discussions forward.

Albert Halls, Stirling

It was a tired crew that left Stirling that Saturday night to begin the long drive north to the Highlands. A huge thank you is in order for Ian who drove the minibus and saw us all safely back to our homes. Tired we may have been but, that day, we had all seen that the promise of a better Scotland is alive and well. That there are many out there who share our vision and when we work together we have the power to make that vision a reality.

AUOB Edinburgh March

AUOB Edinburgh March

 

It’s official, independence will bring blue skies and glorious sunshine to Scotland!

The sun was beating down on us as we massed below the castle, and it was easy to believe that greater forces were aligning themselves with our cause. The Yes Ross & Sutherland banners flew proudly in a light breeze as we stood amongst our countryfolk, awaiting the 1pm start. Johnston Terrace was crammed full. We were packed in between the castle cliff on one side and the steep drop to the Grassmarket on the other, while a look forward or back showed only more of the same until the road bent out of sight in either direction

1pm came and went. Word arrived that the march was underway and we prepared ourselves, excitement building. Standing next to us, a small band of three small pipe bagpipers and a drummer added great music to an already fantastic atmosphere. The fact that we didn’t even begin to move until it was nearly 2 o’clock didn’t faze anyone, and each slight shuffle forward was greeted with cheers. Shortly after 2 we heard that the front of the march had already reached Holyrood Park and around 2:30pm we crested the rise and stepped onto the High Street. It was simply sheer weight of numbers that had held us up, with many thousands of marchers having to set off before we could arrive below the gates of the castle.

In front, as we set off down the Royal Mile, the march stretched away as far as the eye could see and the sound of pipes, drums and chants for independence echoed from the tenement walls to either side. As always, the Saltire was ubiquitous among marchers and watchers on the sidelines alike, while flags from many other nations flew in our midst. England, Wales, Ireland, Catalonia, Germany, Canada and Australia to name only a few. Street performer Yoda had a Saltire, as did the statue of Robert Fergusson on the Canongate. Someone wearing a huge papier-mâché Theresa May head held a sign saying “Don’t Dance with the Devil”. The atmosphere was incredible! A sense of hope and confidence pervaded all, and there was a smile on every face. Even the police were clearly enjoying themselves.

At some stage we passed the inevitable pathetic handful of Unionists. Barely a dozen of the misguided individuals had shown up. Nobody cared. And no-one could hear what they had to say anyway. We left them quickly behind, our chants drowning out their feeble protest. They don’t see it yet, but it’s a good thing for them that we’ll win our independence in spite of their efforts.

Voices hoarse, we approached Holyrood. Now it was the turn of the bairns to lead the chanting, and they went to it with a will. As soon as one chant ended, a child would yell out, “What do we want?” and it would begin again. At last we burst out of the Canongate, exploding onto the square in front of the Parliament to be greeted by the sight of Salisbury Crags, bathed in sunlight and festooned with flags. On reaching the park, many marchers had climbed the hills to enjoy the spectacle and the glorious weather. In the distance, to the east, a large crowd had gathered at the stage to hear the speeches and listen to the bands. Many others chose to find a spot in the sun and buy an ice-cream from the van, watch the comedy croquet team or check out the massed ranks of bikers who had made their way along a different route.

Marchers continued to pour into the park for a good half an hour after we arrived, and we were to learn later that the estimated total number was 100,000! A truly astonishing figure. And they say in Westminster, “There’s no appetite for independence”. Well we saw on that Saturday that there is more than appetite, there is a gnawing hunger and a raging thirst for Independence that will never be satisfied by meaningless platitudes like, “Now’s not the time”. While Theresa May dances, the rich receive their tax cuts and the poor go to food banks. David Cameron’s money sits safe in his Panama account and the NHS crumbles. The UK, shackled to May, lurches towards a Brexit catastrophe as she prances. Across Europe and the World we see right-wing politics taking root as Project Fear sows division. Now most certainly is the time. Time for Scotland to stand up. Time for Scotland to have a voice on the world stage. Saturday’s march gives us all hope for the kind of nation we could be. If one hundred thousand can come together and demonstrate with passion but peacefully, forcefully but friendly, proudly but inclusively then perhaps the world – and the rest of Scotland – needs to hear what we have to say.

And so, having given us its blessing and gracing us for the whole event, the sun finally set on what was truly a momentous day. In the days and weeks to come we will be free to say, quite literally, “Vote Yes for a brighter future”.

#DissolvingTheUnion

 

See our favourite pictures from the day, visit the gallery

 

We don’t know who to attribute this to, and hope they don’t mind us posting but it is brilliant and would be a real shame not to be seen and heard by all.

 

The Gathering #1

The Gathering #1

The Gathering

A defining moment for Indy campaigners everywhere

 

On the 27th of May a group of Yes Ross Sutherland members went to The Albert Halls, Stirling to attend The Gathering. This event, put on by the National Yes Registry, brought together around 300 members from grassroots campaign groups across the country. The objectives were to allow the various groups to meet face to face, to work collaboratively on a number of topics and to get the ball rolling on several projects, facilitated by the IndyApp, a newly developed piece of software designed as a networking tool that will encourage different groups/individuals to work together on campaign ideas and co-ordinate at a national level.

The day was a fantastic success.

After registration and a brief introduction by the event organisers we heard from the key note speakers. Mhairi Black spoke in a pre-recorded video about her strong support for our efforts and enthusiasm for the aims of the event. This was followed up in person by Dennis Canavan who reminded us that Independence is not the objective but merely a vehicle to achieving the kind of Scotland that we all want to live in – a fairer, more sustainable society that can stand on the world stage as a force for good.

Then it was down to business and the attendees split up into working groups to each discuss one of 21 topics that ranged from Economy of an Independent Scotland and Currency & National Debt to Reframing our Arguments and a mysterious ‘Big Bang’. Workgroups had over an hour to discuss their respective topics and come up with a 3 minute presentation to report findings back to the conference. There were some excellent debates and the presentations, when they came, showed that all groups had taken the task seriously with some great points raised and good ideas coming through. A YES bank to support grassroots fundraising without fees, the Pensions team reminding us that UK National Insurance has all been spent (mainly on wars) leaving a black hole for our future, Benefits talked of a Basic Income and pointed out that those in receipt of benefits are a big demographic and can’t be ignored. Good News Scotland pointed out we must publicise the good things about living in Scotland to combat the MSM’s negativity. Community Groups suggested reaching out by talking, not about Independence, but about specific issues that have an impact in the community. It was great to hear what a small group of motivated people can come up with in an hour.

After the talks we all voted on our favourites and new, volunteer workgroups were allocated to the top five topics in order to build on the ideas from the first session. While those groups worked the rest of us were treated to short presentations from Business for Scotland, iScot, The Indy Pledge and others. BfS is offering a training course for those who want to improve their canvassing skills – sounds really interesting and could make a big difference! iScot magazine is a substantial, monthly publication with news and stories from Scotland – not aimed solely at Indy minded folk so it can speak to the undecideds out there. Indy Pledge is about how we behave as individuals and groups in our quest for a better Scotland – many of us in Yes Ross Sutherland have signed (and we’ve signed as a group) already so please check this out.

Following these short pitches we were able to hear briefly from the five groups working on the high scoring topics. These groups (now designated committees) will continue to work together on their projects into the longer term using the IndyApp as a forum to structure their work and remain in contact with each other across Scotland. Peter Bell, working on the Reframing the Argument committee gave an excellent presentation on what, we have discovered, is an extremely important issue – that of the language used when talking about Independence. There is too much to explain in a short summary like this but Peter Bell provides a lot more detail on this topic here – highly recommended. The Developing as a Social Movement committee stressed the need for positivity and respect for all views, reminding us again about the Indy Pledge which will be very important in creating an open and credible movement. Simple, quick messages will be easy to use on the doorstep while more detail could be provided in YouTube videos. In the first session we had heard from an Irishman, fresh from the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, who stressed the importance of creating an inclusive social movement in achieving that momentous result. The Big Bang committee is working on an undisclosed project with two functions. Firstly, it will combat a message that has been insidiously infiltrating the minds of many over recent months and years. Namely, that “Scotland doesn’t want another referendum” or “Now’s not the time”. Pedalled by the MSM and the UK prime minister it has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy unless debunked for the nonsense that it is. The second function – to stir up some panic in the Unionist camp!

What a day. What a beginning! With 300 or so committed folk we achieved a heck of a lot in a short space of time. The atmosphere of the whole day was very positive; everywhere you looked there were people with a great attitude all wanting this to work, for the day to be a success. And it was. It is evident that there is a really serious movement emerging from a group of engaged and motivated people from all over Scotland. Not just those at The Gathering, there are many thousands of us. Not politicians, just normal folk with an eye to making their country a better place by taking ownership of it. The Grassroots – and we’re getting organised. Perhaps that is the biggest take-home message of them all.