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.
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.
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 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.
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.