The YES movement working together. It does happen!
The YES movement is as broad and deep as Loch Ness. This is its power but it can also be its weakness.
Over the last (insert time period when you first thought “hold on a minute, aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side?”) I will go for “wee while”, we have seen many figures and organisations in the movement bash up against one and another.
All too often in the gaze of Twitter, but thankfully not too often, in the full light of the general public.
But as the year draws to a close I want to highlight what the movement can achieve when it works together.
On the 30th and 31st of December, Independence Live will run a two-day virtual event showing twelve hours of brilliant content: IndyREPLAY#1
Four organisations (and one super productive person) have donated content for the event:
All of those organisations have donated the content for free with all the proceeds going to two Scottish Charities that invest in Scotland’s future: Tiny Changes and the Rock Trust.
So far the indy movement has donated over £800 for those two charities.
The Good Guys
Of course, we have to look way beyond a newspaper, four organisations and a Phantom Power to REALLY see who is behind this.
It is politicians. Campaigners. Singers. Songwriters. Poets. Authors. Journalists: everyone who makes this movement so powerful. There is a wealth of content befitting a wealth of talent in the movement.
The more people who attend the more impact we have. We can:
Show a great example of the movement working together (even if it is just to those on Scottish Twitter)
Put some great content in front of YESers and soon to be YESers (or as others call them “current no voters”)
Raise £1000s for Tiny Changes and the Rock Trust.
The two cheques will read “From the independence movement”
Hopefully, you can tell how united the movement is by how many people will retweet this post AND join the IndyREPLAY#1
Thanks so much to AUOB, Believe in Scotland, Phantom Power, the Scottish Currency Group and Voices for Scotland.
If there is a more tireless, selfless, dedicated campaigner for Scottish independence than Kevin Gibney, then I am yet to meet them.
So I am delighted that my small team at Gallus Events will be working more closely with Kevin and his team of volunteers.
Kevin and I have two shared goals: to help turn Sottish natives into digital ones and to achieve Scottish independence.
And we both believe these are goals are closely aligned, in fact, they are inseparable.
Independence Live will continue to offer support to citizen live-streamers, as well as their prodigious work with Indy Live Radio and the WhatsOnGuide.
The digital output from Independence Live will be beefed up in 2021, especially in offering training and support in multi-media to campaigners and organisations in support of Scottish independence.
We will be running virtual events for independence supporting organisations, as well as taking advantage of our skills, to run our own events to further our two aligned goals.
To help turn Sottish natives into digital ones
To achieve Scottish independence
We are all aware of the support that Independence Live have given the movement for years. It has been amazing and the Gallus Events team strive to have as much of a positive impact.
Since September Gallus Events have supported:
Believe In Scotland
The Scottish Currency Group and
Voices for Scotland
In part, to plan, produce and execute virtual events.
With the support of Independence Live, we will continue to offer that support.
Totally Gallus Events and Independence Live
Next year we will run our own virtual events:
“Brought to you by Totally Gallus Events and Independence Live. All funds raised will support the multi-media campaign for Scottish Independence”
As 2021 develops we will share more of our plans and details of how we will be actively supporting the independence campaign. This is a not for profit venture and our accounts will be open and available to the movement.
Look out for our first event launching this week!!!!!!
The article in The National stated: “Leading independence campaigners back new Yes Scotland group”
And guess what. Nothing happened. Another false start.
Since January (and to be frank well before that) the idea has been blown about the movement, from pillar to post. From one place to the next.
A good idea, with a lot of support, including cross-party support.
Something that we pretty much all agree on. The YES movement needs some more structured support. We need a movement that is grassroots led. Let’s do it!!!!!!
Almost everyone agrees on this.
But what seems to have even more consensus, is that we should leave it to someone else.
Well, that ended in November when AUOB took up the challenge. They actually did something.
Something bold, brash, and gallus; something that every single one of the AUOB team knew they would get pelters for: they acted.
Raising your head and your hand in many movements paints a target on your back. But they did it.
An assembly created online
The AUOB committee knew that if they wanted to create a body for the YES movement during COVID times, they would need to come out of the comfort zone.
So here we have a group of campaigners doing something that they KNEW they would take flack for, and also doing it in an environment that they weren’t comfortable with.
These are street campaigners, not digital natives. But they knew that this had to be an online event: the platform was a virtual one, not one constructed out of wood and bricks.
So for some support, they approached the founder of the Virtual Events Campus and one of the leading authorities on virtual events to ask them to help. And I did.
In the same way, I have helped the National Yes Registry, Believe In Scotland, Voices for Scotland, Scottish CND and The Scottish Currency Group. I helped them to run an online event.
And within a couple of weeks, AUOB organised an online event that had the declared aim of doing something. Not talking about it. Not writing about it. But doing something about it.
A few weeks later a 15 person committee had been elected. Its task is to set up a national YES body.
Once this is done, the individuals will, we assume, then resign, and seek reelection (or not) to positions on the new organisation.
This is action.
This is what we need to do.
It is something that so many people in the movement have shied away from.
AUOB put their shoulder to the wheel to get things going and those 15 committee members will graft away over the coming months to create something that will help us win independence.
Finally, the movement, as a whole, is moving.
Imperfection or inaction?
AUOB decided to move at speed to set this up. And in doing so they did a lot of difficult things very quickly.
As someone who has set up several departments in big organisations, created several small businesses, and organised many events at short notice, you know you make a trade-off when you move at pace.
But with a BREXIT cliff edge approaching, a Scottish election on the horizon, and very possibly another referendum, how long should they have waited?
A few more days to source a better free voting app, a few more weeks to fully engage with every campaigner, a few more months to coordinate and communicate with every other group?
Waiting isn’t an option anymore. And our other options are running out as well.
When it comes to this grassroots YES organisation – we have two choices.
One. We pick apart the process and “call out” the individuals on the holding committee for all the things they: are/have said/have done or who they read/have shared a platform with, or how much their house cost. Ripping it apart before it has even begun.
Or two. We acknowledge those who took action when many of us didn’t. We challenge it, we offer our help and advice.
And when it is fully formed we make our decision.
If you want a movement that is perfect, you will wait and wait until the years pass you by. I for one and not that patient.
In September 2012, while Scotland and England were preparing to sign the Edinburgh Agreement, the Catalan independence movement forced the Catalan Government to take radical steps towards independence.
Yes, it’s like comparing apples and pears when looking at Scottish and Catalan independence, and of course there are many, many differences.
However, the purpose of this short piece, is not to compare one with the other, but to tell the story of how the Catalan movement took the decisive step in 2012 to push for independence.
They organised, they pressurised, they coalesced: they moved. They did not sit and watch their elected leaders do nothing.
There can be no more pertinent story for the YES movement in Scotland to hear.
Catalonia and Scotland’s independence movements were re born in 2012
In June 2012, Catalan independentistas, welcomed the first ever poll that gave Catalan independence a lead, all be it a small one, with 51.5% responding, that they were in favour of Catalan independence.
The mood of the country seemed to have switched and after the massive and unprecedented La Diada celebrations on the 11th September, the demand became tangible.
A poll, simply numbers on a pie chart. It is numbers on the street that really matter. Evidence backed up, in colour.
Over 1.5 million people marched in Barcelona to demand that the Catalan President Artur Mas listen to the movement.
The messages were clear: head to Madrid and demand concessions for Catalonia or lose office. Independence is bigger than you and your party.
The last seven incredibly rocky years for the Catalan independence movement started that 11th of September.
This was no simple coincidence: both movements paid close attention to the machinations that were taking place in the UK and Spain that year and the Catalans demanded what had been offered to Scotland.
And so it has continued. Over those seven years, Scotland and Catalonia, have looked at each others journeys. During the ebbs and flows it is easy to reflect on specific moments and wonder……
Would the Edinburgh agreement ever have been signed if David Cameron had woken up one Summer morning, to find a poll putting YES ahead?
Would Catalonia be independent, if Spain had allowed a similar referendum in 2014?
But back to 2012
That year the Catalan independence movement faced off against a conservative leader of a political party immersed in the establishment.
Of course many will see the similarity with Scotland in 2019. How does the YES movement persuade a conservative leader of a political party immersed in the establishment to make a radical move?
To many independence supporters in Scotland a radical move (or any move) in the next two years by Nicola Sturgeon seems impossible.
The SNP’s “waiting game” appears to be an unshakable political position.
So what have we to learn from Catalonia?
A movement moves, it doesn’t wait
Such was the display of strength by the Catalan independence movement, that on the day after the La Diada, the Catalan President, for the first time, came out in favour of independence. It was a seismic shift in Spanish politics.
Until that decisive event run by the ANC and Òmnium,Artur Mas has let Catalan independence gather dust on the Spanish political shelf.
It was an amazing slight of foot for a politician.
Almost overnight he changed his mind, or more precisely, he had his mind changed by 1.5 million people.
President Mas, from respected establishment politician, to radical, Artur, man of the people, ready to head to Madrid and demand concessions for Catalonia.
A conservative and a Conservative political beast, plotting a radical course towards independence. It shock all of Spain.
It took this radical, brave and daring transformation of a political leader to supercharge the demand for Catalan independence. But the spark came from the two professional, civil, non political, organisations that supported independence.
Oh, to have only one of those organisations in Scotland!
What does this Catalan story tells us?
Well, maybe it is that anything can happen. Maybe it’s that one poll can make all the difference. Maybe it is that one march or demonstration can matter.
However, I believe there is one definitive and definite lesson for Scottish independence:
A movement has to move, and it can not continue to be led by a conservative leader of a conservative political party.
The YES movement should not wait for politicians.
The YES movement should not be led by politicians.
The YES movement is bigger than any politician or any political party.
It means the UK (as it stands at the moment, led by England) acting unilaterally in many areas where once they sat with European partners.
It is England first.
And it puts the interests of Scotland and Northern Ireland in a distance last place.
So how does this impact Scottish independence?
Well, the simple fact is that if you won’t be missed, no one will bother too much about you leaving.
The idea that Westminster will close Holyrood and starve Scotland of democratic representation doesn’t fit into the narrative of English exceptionalism.
The Westminster elite know that Scottish independence is coming. They can slow it down, but they simply don’t have the power or the public support to stop it. English nationalism simply won’t allow the idea that England needs Scotland.
England clearly doesn’t need the EU and to most English nationalists, England does not need Scotland.
There is a new narrative in town: unions don’t work. They chain the beast that is England and it is better to break all unions. Bye, bye Scotland. England doesn’t need you.
This blind belief has come home to roost over the summer.
MORE money for the Jocks? Are you having a giraffe?
With a metropolitan narrative of Scotland as a subsidy junky (you do this by looking solely at what is spent, rather than the difference between income and expenditure) there is clearly little appetite to put more effort into a cause, that only leads to MORE money leaving England.
Despite the temptation for many Scottish nationalists to spend time correcting this subsidy junky narrative, the truth doesn’t play into our hands.
English nationalists need to know (ignorant of the facts) that England doesn’t need the other nations in the UK, and that should be just fine for us.
Scotland, the sooner rid, the better.
This belief in the unconditional power of England, is what sits behind English nationalism, and in the short term, it will see its way to lessening the fight to stop Scotland leaving the UK.
English nationalism won’t allow a space where it has to admit that England needs Scotland.
We will have to wait a couple of years for Scottish independence because the break up of the UK will be the second course for the disaster capitalists.
Westminster can only deny Scotland an exit until the disaster capitalists have fed on the carcass of the UK brought to slaughter, by the folly of Brexit.
Then and only then, will Westminster concede the inevitable.
There is no disaster, only change
According to English and British nationalists, Scotland leaving the “precious union” will not bring any financial disaster for rUK, but of course it will bring about change. It will be the disaster capitalists running the UK government who will have to react to that change.
With Scottish independence, England will have rid itself of the spongers from the North, in much the same way as England has jettisoned the EU gravy train in the east. When Northern Ireland rejoins the Republic, the spongers in the west will disappear too.
England will be ready to flourish again.
So how will it do that? Simple, give the neo-liberals a free run.
The first phase in the great UK mega sale, is Brexit. The second phase is the break up of the UK. And no UK government is going to pull that menu away from under the noses of the disaster capitalists.
By 2021 the UK government led by disaster capitalists one and all (what role for arch neo-liberal Liam Fox?) will be ready to listen to Scotland’s demands, legal arguments, opinion polls, or even possibly a referendum result.
And listen they will because the prizes available after the breakup of the UK are just too large.
The chance to open up the defence industry? Too good to miss. Just imagine the bounty for private firms as they fight over the contract to move nuclear weapons, store them and build a base?
How can those disaster capitalists pass up the chance to re-evaluate the infrastructure of rUK, when its biggest neighbour becomes independent?
Imagine the size of the government fracking contracts to replace the flow of oil and gas from the north?
rUK loses a lot when Scotland leaves.
However, the break up of the UK keeps 90% of it under control of the juiced up neo-liberals. And that is more than enough to feast on.
Scottish independence is in the interests of disaster capitalists and it plays into the narrative of English nationalism.
MPs who display these two traits will be in a position of power in the coming refreshed UK government, and those Ministers will not stand in the way of Scotland’s independence.
The next few years will be tough but Scottish independence is coming, not because the UK Government doesn’t want it, but because it does.
Follow Catalonia’s lead. Take the universal, undeniable right of self determination to London’s streets.
Typically people will read this and say, “but Scotland isn’t like Catalonia, we don’t and can’t march with the numbers they can” Well, I have had enough of that, it’s not about numbers it is about desire. With a desire to make a truly global impact with our campaigning events we can make a difference.
Once again the “Catalan question” received global coverage and once again the vehicle for that explosion of coverage was a huge rally. Above is a news report from Aljazeera. Here’s the coverage on the BBC, Reuters and The Washington Post and the list of international reports is pretty much endless.
This marks an unusual spike in coverage for the Catalan right to self determination. Every 11th September the world is reminded of the call from Catalonia during the La Diada celebrations. It was’t only the date that made this rally different it was the location: not the Catalan capital but the Spanish capital.
Around 120,000 demonstrators peacefully took over the Madrid streets on a warm Saturday evening. Just normal people, plus representatives from political parties and civic organisations from all over Spain joined the rally to highlight the desire of Catalonia to be able to democratically vote for self determination.
The demonstration had extra impact this year as the twelve pro Catalan independence leaders, currently on trial for the ridiculously archaic charges of “rebellion and sedition”, are being held only a few kilometres from the start of the rally.
Madrid proves a new canvas for the red and yellow picture
The Catalan right to self determination is not a regional issue, it is a national and an international one and taking such a huge demonstration to the Spanish capital has powered the issue further into the international and national consciousness.
Catalonia is being denied the opportunity to hold a legal referendum on its future and a similar position is likely to arise in Scotland. The Catalans are ploughing a furrow that we could easily follow. If, if, we had the desire and the leadership to do it.
I have no doubt that many civic organisations across the UK support Scottish independence, or at least the right for a sovereign parliament to call such a vote. And I believe that London holds 10,000s of people who would support Scotland’s cause. We could take London by storm. But firstly we have to work out who would rally the “we”
And I am still in quiet shock from reading this back in November:
“30K will get the organisation started and branded – complete with public engagement research (so we know that undecided voters will be open to what they see when they look at our messages and branding)”
And the movement continues to have unanswered questions about this organisation.
So if that is the “who” would coordinate the movement, let’s look at the what.
I would suggest a much more successful PR campaign would be to aim for a similar event to yesterday’s march in Madrid.
It really shouldn’t be beyond our movement to organise an event like this. But we just don’t seem to understand the value it can bring. Incidentally, it could be done for the cost of the SIC set up and branding.
The Catalans not only understand how to use events to supercharge their demands but they crucially have an infrastructure to support the event.
Scotland is clearly lacking the understanding and the infrastructure to organise a truly impactful event. I hope we are not also lacking the desire.
The McCrone report has shown many things: the selfishness of the British state, the ability to hide the truth from the Scottish people and the continued potential wealth from north sea oil being the most obvious. But it has also shown the weakness of the YES movement.
The McCrone report another missed opportunity for the YES movement
I’ve tried to look at the McCrone Report as something other than a quite extraordinary example of the UK’s narrow minded and selfish approach to Scotland. But it is impossible. It is there in black and white.
The likely (not potential) revenue and benefits from North Sea oil would, had they been earned by an independent Scottish nation, have transformed the country. This is unarguably the case that you have to draw from reading the report. But I am happy to go further.
If this report had been widely publicised in the mid 1970s, it is no great stretch to say that Scotland may already be independent. It was “secret” and guarded in the Scottish Office for the most obvious of reasons: because successive unionist governments believed that it could lead to Scottish independence!
If you haven’t already taken the time to read the report you really should. I can’t think of a more concise takedown of the British State.
So if it is this powerful (and again please read it, don’t take my word for it) why will it make no more than a ripple on those soft “No” voters? Well, that’s what I wanted to consider here.
The YES movement habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth
Many in the YES movement seem to spread defeatism on their toast in the morning. Where we could see an open goal, some see the clear opportunity to punt the ball high into the stands.
One of the reasons this report won’t have any real impact is that many in the YES movement don’t see the forest for the trees. This isn’t really about oil: it is about the UK government using Scottish resources to solve UK issues. End of.
Sure there are a myriad of sub texts in this story and oil and climate breakdown are very important issues to discuss. We all have our views on those two related topics, but why on earth would you highlight those issues when you have a major, undeniable win right in front of you?
Some of the interaction on Twitter between indy minded people who actually agree with each other have to be seen to be believed.
It is almost if some see any issue as a way to bash or discredit someone or something they don’t like. This seriously weakens the ties that should be pulling us together.
No strong organisation/s to pull all those loose strings together
A massive amount of credit must go to The National for leading so strongly with the McCrone Report. However it was a massive missed opportunity that this wasn’t a coordinated campaign.
When the movement acts out of sync we have little impact. We can and do bemoan the most bizarre media structure in Scotland and with so few indy supporting media it is crucial that they try and amplify the killer messages.
It is only when we coordinate our efforts that we stand a chance of being heard outside our indy echo chamber.
So what were the alternative media doing the week of the publication? WingsOverScotland has one article (pretty much stating my main points) and in general playing the same tune as The National.
“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource over time, or replay the envious glances across the North Sea to Norway and its sovereign oil fund. There’s no doubt that the lies, distortion and hypocrisy of those who simultaneously argue that oil is insignificant and then salivate at the prospects for propping up the British economy (again) are remarkable, but there are some real problems with framing the case for independence in this way.”
So that’s the top indy supporting media outlets. What about our collective yes bodies?
Well, Scottish Independence Convention continues to talk about itself and nothing much else. You won’t find the McCrone Report on their home page or Twitter feed. There’s nothing on Business for Scotland either. I am sure I could go on but I hope I have made my point: to highlight these important stories in isolation is to speak quietly in an empty room. And this happens all too often.
What’s old hat for you might not be the case for many voters
What came across from many indy supporting Twitter accounts was that the McCrone Report was old news. Well, not for everyone:
You can get a good jist of this attitude from our established commentators. Here’s a section of that Bella article again:
“There’s no need to repeat the epic mismanagement of this resource”
Well, I would argue that there absolutely is a need to repeat the epic mismanagement, as not everyone has heard it the first 50 times. It is when you see a message again and again that it starts to stick.
Repeating things is a powerful tool in a campaign. When trying to get a message across what we need to do is to REPEAT the most important points. Again and again. How the UK mismanaged this resource should be something we all repeat at every opportunity.
There is a real danger that we speak with the same voice and to the same people, in the same way as we did in 2014. We have to move with the times and we have to be smarter and more coordinated.
An alternative coordinated approach isn’t hard to imagine
Just imagine the Editors of all of our independent supporting new media outlets got together a few months ago and decided to “make the most of the McCrone report”. So co-ordinated articles were commissioned and set to be published the same week. Interviews were arranged to add flavour and substance to the report.
A PR campaign was started with the aim of amplifying the McCrone report to the non independence supporting media highlighting the relevance today.
An outreach to Social Media activists at the same time saw @zarkwan creating several of his brilliant images to be downloaded and shared on social media, and were available to print. @phantompower14 created a one of his killer videos.
How about all of the YES groups had a McCrone week were they focussed all of their campaigning on three central issues that they picked out of the report.
Maybe an independence supporting film maker got in touch with Alan Cumming and persuaded him to don a pin stripped suit, enter a smoke filled set, take on the role of Professor Gavin McCrone, and deliver the report, in its entirety to camera.
Just imagine an actual coordinated campaign with people working together, setting aside differences and aiming for one thing: independence. Ideas like this were as powerful in 1974, the year the McCrone report was delivered, as they are today.
As the new format of the Scottish Convention “This Is It” passes £100,000 in donations, I urge them, The SNP, and the Scottish Government to start to plan and consider how live experiences will shape and win the next Scottish independence campaign.
I’ve recently returned from a speaking slot at the “Oscars for the events industry” the EUBEA World Festival, which took place in small, beautiful, fiercely independent Portugal. The awards were held in the historic city, once the capital and seat of the Portuguese Royal Family: Coimbra. And I would thoroughly recommend a visit!
There were shortlisted events from Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, England, Spain, Portugal and around a dozen more countries.
There was no event from Scotland. In fact, I was the sole Scottish representative on the entire three day festival programme.
Here’s how other countries celebrate their events
Entries are made primarily by event agencies and like most other sectors of the UK the heart of that industry is in London. So perhaps it’s no great surprise that Scottish agencies weren’t represented, however, it is surely bizarre that non one event took place in Scotland in the last 12 months that the organisers thought would merit a place on the short list?
It’s depressing seeing other countries use live experiences to launch, extend and amplify campaigns or to use them to share the awesomeness of their work or their culture.
Have a look at a few of the events that I have picked out and then think, why doesn’t Scotland do anything like this?
Important cultural events are marked with extravagant celebrations, bringing a whole country together in a shared and uplifting experience as demonstrated by Scarlet Sales 50 year anniversary in Russia.
Cultural buildings have a new lease of life injected by live experiences as demonstrated by Lisbon Under The Stars.
But back to Scotland
Think of a significant event, like the opening of the Queensferry Crossing and check out OUR opening ceremony. It’s an obsequious, pompous, 50p show. It seems to celebrate the Royal Family more than it celebrates Scotland, the red arrows even pump out Red, Blue and White smoke.
If you spend £1.35 billon on something don’t be ashamed to properly celebrate its completion. Be proud of it. Brush off the abuse that comes from celebrating the hard work and endeavour of our Nation.
Another example to look at is the opening of the V&A Dundee Museum of Design. The opening ceremony was “given” to the BBC. It was a broadcast with editorial decisions made, presumably in London. Is this really controlling how the world sees Scotland?
We either do it badly on the cheap or we ask the BBC to do it for us. Who is really happy with either of those options?
As you can see when the Scottish Government is in charge it lacks the chutzpah to do it properly and the BBC is clearly now a British State Broadcaster unable to properly reflect the interests of Scotland.
So what should we be doing as we lead up to a Scottish independence campaign?
Judging by the entries at the EUBEA World Festival and knowing the skills and the resources available in Scotland, we seem uniquely placed as a country, a government and a people unable to celebrate pride in our success and traditions in the full glare of the world.
So how do we currently celebrate our cultural days like St. Andrew’s day or Highland Gatherings, or the scores of cultural events that are never supported to rise about the noise of every day life? Or how do we bring to life buildings that sit empty like the Cathedrals in St. Andrews or Dunkeld (“Scotland Under The Stars” anyone?)
We don’t. Because we are not realising the true power of live experiences.
And because of this ignorance, I fear for the next Scottish independence campaign.
We are all too aware of the bias of the media and we know that, as an independent Scotland is likely this time, that it will be much more forceful in its “better together in our precious union” So how do we counter that MSM bias?
The only real option is to develop events at every level that speak to those living in Scotland and abroad. Events that shout with a loud and determined voice: Scotland has its own voice because it is a Nation.
We all cringe at the now almost ubiquitous Scottish cringe. Some people seems totally unable to celebrate anything in Scotland! And others are simply minded to denigrate anything positive.
Asking how did we get here ? should be a question for many of the country’s sociologists, political scientists and psychologists, but they probably think that we aren’t worth studying. Cringe!
However there are many Scots, and for sure, the vast majority of Scots in the yes movement, who swell with pride and want to shout our success from the top of the highest mountains. But that voice does not travel unless it is amplified.
As the new format of the Scottish Convention “This Is It” passes £100,000 in donations I urge them to start to plan and consider how live experiences will shape and win the next campaign. The Scottish Government must discover the power of live. As ever I am willing to help.
“A tremendous milestone for the country, and testament to how events can support cultural change in a country” is how one of the entries at EUBEA World closed their pitch. Exactly. So what are we going to do about it?
Just over a week later a major fundraising campaign was launched with a full media blitz. A big promotional push for This Is It included articles in print (and a front page splash) and online by The National, plus supporting blog posts by well known indy campaigners, including senior SNP figures.
It would be easy to look at the YES movement and conclude that all is not just well, but positively rosy. But many in the YES movement have concerns about “our” campaigning as we head into a tumultuous year.
So in this post I want to try to look at a few things in detail.
Firstly, the current set up and approach of “the new SIC”
Secondly, to look at our big events.
And thirdly is to look at the approach we are taking to funding our campaigns and our movement.
I won’t apologise for the length of this post as I believe these are three exceptionally important areas to cover. (I’ve added a section at the bottom of this post that lists my experience in these areas, lest you think I am spouting nonsense from nowhere)
I hope this piece opens up more conversations on our movement and gives confidence to YESSERS to question the current set up, to suggest alternatives, and to ultimately do something different.
The Scottish Independence Convention’s new fundraising appeal
I’ve been writing for a couple of years about the need for an organisation to co-ordinate the YES movement. So in this initial stance, I am in total agreement with Elaine C Smith and I do agree with her that a majority of the grass roots support the idea –
“I am always asked about a central place/facilitating organisation/resource hub that can distribute and communicate what’s going on to all the other groups……..That’s what we aim to try and provide.” Elaine C Smith.
However I have to question the current approach as outlined by This Is It. In questioning the set up and structure of the organisation I will reference two similar successful campaigning organisations in Europe.
So members pay and receive a voice within the organisation. This sounds like an obvious and simple structure for any representative body. Why is the new YES organisation so different?
This representative approach is how political parties, membership bodies, trade unions and trade associations are structured. But this is not how the new SIC is structured. We really have to ask why?
The new organisation will of course have members, but they will not fund the organisation, it will be funded by individuals who will not have a voice or any direct representation.
This seems a peculiar set up for an organisation and I believe we are right to question the proposed structure, even if its taken two whole years to get to this stage.
There may be a whole host of reasons behind the chosen structure, however, if I was asked to design a organisational structure that was funded but not held to account this is how I would design it. I believe the organisers behind the organisation have a lot of background information to divulge.
The second issue with regard to membership, is to ask why there are so few grass roots organisations supporting it at this stage?
The YES movement has hundreds of groups who support independence yet so few are represented. Isn’t this peculiar?
So YESSERS are asked to fund an organisation that seems to have little support from the heart and soul of the movement, the grass roots organisations.
I find this incredibly worrying. I believe we are in danger of having a (maybe even THE) leading independence organisation that has little representation from the movement and little if any accountability.
With this structure we are setting ourselves up for all manner of smears from the Unionist media.
Structure, processes and procedures are boring for sure, but they are important. The movement has to stop and think if this is really the way we should be going.
The body that aims to represent the YES moment in various ways should be a membership body with members having control of direction, messaging and operational objectives.
Do we not have the grand designs or ambitions to set up a similar structure as the Italians?
The Five Star Movement has 135,000 members all of whom pay an annual subscription, and if is from here that the movement is funded. Interesting the Movement refused 40.000.000 euros from the state (as a political party that received 25% of the vote ) so determined was it to not be labelled an organisation that could be bought.
There is a minimum subscription and a maximum amount so that no-one can be accused of offering or accepting money in return for influence. Every member has a direct involvement in the organisation. It’s a fascinating structure.
This shows you the extent that the organisation has gone to be accountable to the movement and to be super clean and above suspicion.
I hope that’s some interesting thoughts on the structure of the organisation and the funding, to help people analyse the new SIC in some more detail. But we have every right to ask, why THIS structure?
So if that’s how it’s structured and funded, what will it actually do?
Well, similar to the lack of information on membership and representation we are a bit in the dark. Where there is a lack of information people will fill in the gaps.
Perhaps the new organisation will have at its core support for groups that are already doing some great stuff but nowhere is that being made clear.
The only details we have is that they seek £180,000 to fund the organisation for a year. An organisation that will carry out –
This is all very vague. It leaves open the possibility that the organisation could play drastically different roles. It’s all down to interpretation at this stage. What does any of this mean? Some details would be very welcome.
If most YESSERS are not going to have direct representation then surely, an absolute bare minimum, should be that they know what they are funding.
In the approach taken so far I believe the organisers have paid a disservice to the 100,000s of independence supporters. There should be much more clarity about the planned role for the organisation BEFORE asking for funding.
And finally I want to look at that annual funding figure as it hints at the structure and approach of the organisation. In a previous post I said it looked like “an analogue organisation in a digital age”, or all very 2014 as a prominent indy voice put it.
In spending this amount of donated money the organisation will use it to pay full time, permanent staff. They will have office space. They will employ the services of a major brand agency. They will be structured like a traditional campaign organisation would have been in 2014 when we lost.
Five years later the structure hasn’t evolved. They won’t, in short, be using the resources available to them as part of this massive, creative, powerful movement. To give yourself the task of winning independence and not having @zarkwan involved in helping you shape the brand and the messaging, or not having @phantompower14 involved in your digital content creation seems to be totally bizarre.
There are many hundreds, perhaps thousand who could help this organisation, if it was structured differently.
The organisation should be more flexible. It shouldn’t have large fixed costs like five full time staff and premises. It should operate more as a start up or a digital business. It should be super lean and super mean, because it is being funded by donations (more on the issues around funding your organisation by kindness later)
However, IF it was a membership body funded by subscriptions and other income it would then be wise to take on more fixed costs as it would be on a more secure footing. Under this approach £180,000 could be small change.
If one thing is for certain the next independence campaign will need a dynamic and fast footed organisation ready to respond. The set up of the new organisation does little to demonstrate that readiness. It also must have a democratic mandate and be totally transparent.
I think we can do better.
Our large events including Hoop and All Under One Banner
I’ve written in detail about how our independence events can be better. I’ve also noted how impressed I am with the dedication of the volunteers who run these big events.
I’ve been an events organiser for over twenty years and I’ve written as constructively as possible about our events. It is no mean feat to be able to bring thousands of people out on the streets.
I have however lamented that there is no professionalism and no central resource to fund and run these events. To give you some perspective, The ANC spend 300,000 Euro on PR for their large La Diada celebrations! That’s the annual one, that has 1million demonstrators.
The Five Star movement place events at the absolute core of their movement and have done from its inception in 2009.
Our current approach to live engagement means we can only but dream of organising events that actually achieve any strategic goals. If you want to read more about the how our events can be better check out most of the posts on this blog.
It is clear that how we conduct ourselves at our events will have a big impact on how the movement as a whole is regarded by those open to the possibility of voting for independence next time round.
Our events, in all shapes and forms, will have a considerable impact on our campaign and I believe they therefore deserve some more scrutiny.
The two issues that I would like to address here are –
The events that represent the entire movement are not co-ordianted by the movement and
There is little accountability or transparency at these events.
I have to make this point clear. I am not for one second saying grass roots organisations should not organise events, exactly the opposite in fact, but I believe they should have some central resource to help them.
However I do believe that large events should be co-ordainted by a central body or a representative body, not by individuals acting for the movement. And I think I’ve been clear, I don’t think it should be structured like the new SIC seems to be.
The reasons for me are clear –
They are too big and too important to leave to volunteers.
They will never have the impact and the support if they are not supported by the whole movement.
They can never stand up to scrutiny and they lack transparency if they are not properly organised.
It is time to ask how we organise the events where we showcase our movement to see if we can do things better.
How we fund our movement or “the curse of the crowd funder”
As we approach the end of the first week of funding for This Is It the fund raiser passed its first target of £30,000 and is now sitting just over £40,000. So according to the website this is enough for –
“30K will get the organisation started and branded – complete with public engagement research (so we know that undecided voters will be open to what they see when they look at our messages and branding)”
So it looks like its a done deal and the fundraising has done it’s job.
If you want to raise funds for something before you actually have to do much, then crowd funding is the way to go. But to fund an entire movement this way is madness.
We have to find a more secure way to fund the YES movement.
We should not be funding our entire movement on frequent acts of kindness, fundraisers and passing buckets around, well, not if we want to have a successful campaign. We will be in professional campaign mode soon and we have to be professional and that means being secure in our finances.
In Catalonia “paying for things” is part of the independence culture. You pay for membership to have a say in the direction of the movement. An event is run form the money that is raised selling the t-shirts that everyone wears. Campaigns are paid for by the merchandising that is sold.
This is a mature approach to funding a campaign. Again I question why this approach is regarded as “grass roots” in Catalonia and Italy but not in Scotland?
If we want to move to a more secure footing for our movement we have to ask some important questions. What does it actually mean to be grass roots? Should volunteers be doing so much? Is it wrong to ask people to pay for things? Who should lead the movement? And what role should we have in the organisations that represent us?
In August I spent a few days in the south of Italy with members of the Five Star Movement. I wanted to get to the heart of the organisation and how it was structured in the hope I would see more options for what we can do in Scotland.
I talked through our peculiar Scottish issues mentioning the role of volunteers and the grass roots approach, “Grass roots are the volunteers right, they are the engine, but every movement needs dedicated professionals to run it, unless, maybe it’s not serious?” said Paolo.
I assured him he would never meet more serious and dedicated people than those in the Scottish grass roots independence movement but he couldn’t take the step to understand why we didn’t want to professionalise or to make regular financial commitments.
He was also confused when I told him that many people who led in 2014 seem poised to lead again. He told me that this would not happen in the Five Star Movement. This is because they believe that no one is irreplaceable and that people should move over after a period of time.
I nodded and said we have a lot to learn.
I hope it is not too late for the movement to look again at its structures.
I’ve been organising events for over twenty years. During that time I’ve set up several departments in large membership organisations. I wrote a book about organisational structures in not for profit organisations. I have also set up and run a couple of small commercial organisations. I currently run Gallus Events Ltd. which manages Europe’s largest blog for Personal Assistants in Europe, several events and does consultancy all over Europe. I ran my crowdfunded event in 2017.
An independent Scot's view on the search for an independent nation