Yes Scotland: A Year on

by Shirley-Anne Somerville

I remember sitting as a guest at the launch of Yes Scotland and listening to the scale of the campaign they aimed to become – the biggest community campaign Scotland has ever seen, working not only across the political spectrum but attracting those who had never before been involved in campaigning. Good luck to the folk putting that together, I thought.

Fast forward a year – today is the first anniversary - and I'm writing this sitting below a map which has tracked the growth of the Yes Scotland local groups. Add to that the multi-interest groups which have been set up from Trade Unionists for Yes to Business for Scotland and the launch of a national volunteer training programme, and I am proud of what we have achieved. Not just the staff, mind you - it’s the volunteers who have turned our grand plans, produced in caffeine-fuelled meetings by folk like me, into reality.

There will be numbers-a-plenty to mark the first anniversary, from the 1,200 local events held to the many thousands of branded merchandise in the first year of Yes Scotland’s existence. But for me this year has been a blur of anecdotes which show how far we have come and why I remain confident of success next year.

Like the launch of Yes Glasgow in January, an event targeted only at those who wanted to be active in the campaign and which attracted over 600 folk across a broad spectrum. The evening was kicked off by a young trade union activist, Kat Boyd and headlined by the irrepressible Yes Scotland Chair, Dennis Canavan.

Or going back to my roots for Yes Kirkcaldy in the very room I attended my first political meeting in some 22 years ago. I shared the platform that night with Allan Grogan from Labour for Independence, a group established for party members and supporters who will be voting Yes. The last question of the night was from a Labour voter who was as yet undecided. She wasn’t sure if Labour folk could or would vote Yes. A few minutes from Allan telling her how only independence would restore the Scottish Labour Party and she left convinced, having just signed up to the campaign.

Attendances at meetings like this demonstrate that people want information about independence and what it means for them. They want us to demonstrate how Scotland has what it takes to be a fairer and wealthier country. From 140 in Birnam and 150 in Cowal to the smaller numbers in village halls across the country. The interest is there and those who are undecided want to engage in a meaningful and positive debate.

But it’s not just the big events that give me confidence; it’s the conversations that are happening across Scotland.

We haven’t bothered buying in people’s e-mail addresses and mobile numbers. We don’t ask what party they support either – this is a movement above party politics. And we don’t just data-gather when we canvass. We have a conversation. Takes more time but that’s okay – we have the volunteer numbers to allow us to do that and we are confident in the vision we have and the detail we can deliver.

Like the female volunteer who canvassed a guy in the East End of Glasgow recently. He started off by saying he’d vote No. He’d like to vote Yes but didn’t feel he knew enough about it. Quarter of an hour later and he is almost there. One more chat with a volunteer and I’m confident he will vote Yes.

And that’s what is happening across the country. The grassroots campaign is not only in place but has a life and momentum of it’s own. That size of campaign coupled with a vision of Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, delivered to a voting public who are ready for change, is why we look forward with confidence to 2014.

Shirley-Anne Somerville is Director of Communities for Yes Scotland

Culture, Government


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