A dangerous thought

Some time ago, and in a different context, I wrote about what I still regard as the most fundamental attribute of the Yes movement.

Yes is a diverse, open, inclusive, unstructured popular movement. It is NOT an organisation. That is as it should be. That is its strength. It is not hierarchical. It is an amorphous, informal, organic network. That is the essence of its power.

There are no leaders of the Yes movement. But there are leaders IN the Yes movement. Leadership arises as leadership is required. When that leadership ceases to be necessary, it merges back into the movement ready to be called upon if needed. The Yes movement has no need of leaders so long as it has this potential for emergent leadership.

I think this fits quite comfortably with Jason Baird’s kitten analogy while taking it into the realm of human intellect rather than animal instinct. We are not kittens. Like all analogies, Jason’s breaks down on close contact with reality.

The phenomenon of emergent leadership was, for me, brought into sharp focus at the first of Yes Registry’s Gatherings. A task had to be performed. An objective had to be achieved. And the leadership needed to accomplish this simply emerged from among the people involved, and remained for the as long as it was required. It was a remarkable thing to witness.

Jason is right. It is at least as impossible to impose a fixed hierarchical order on the Yes movement as it is to herd cats. But this does not imply chaos. There is order within the Yes movement. Even, at times and in certain circumstances, something akin to a transient hierarchical structure. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

The nature of the task at hand defines the need for emergent leadership and determines the form that this leadership takes. This thought has been very much at the forefront of my mind of late as I contemplate how the different elements of the independence cause can be brought together and made to work effectively as a campaigning organisation. Which is where I present an analogy of my own.

In this analogy, the SNP is the lever by means of which Scotland will be prised out of the Union. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) is the fulcrum on which the lever moves. The Scottish Parliament is the solid base on which the lever rests. The Yes movement is the force which must be applied to the lever. It is absolutely essential that these components work together. Otherwise, nothing much happens.

The most problematic part of all this is the relationship between the Yes movement and the SNP. Once again, I dip into my blog archive.

An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.

The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.

What I have been pondering lately is how best we might move towards this accommodation. It occurs to me that, if the theory of emergent leadership holds, then the necessary leadership should emerge from the Yes movement. The task of opening a productive dialogue between the Yes movement and the SNP will demand a particular kind of leadership. And it may be something that many in the Yes movement will be uncomfortable with.

It may be time for the Yes movement to find from among its massive number a person or persons who can sit down with the SNP leadership and speak for the Yes movement as a whole.

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10 thoughts on “A dangerous thought

  1. They may find a leader within the Yes movement who can sit down with the SNP and speak for the movement as a whole, but will the SNP be interested?


    1. They have already found one: the Rev Stuart Campbell, of Wings. He has emerged to offer the SNP a helping hand in trying to garner the greatest number of seats from the votes available. It may not be everyone’s idea of co-operation, but it does appear to have had the desired effect of making the SNP hierarchy stir its stumps just a bit. Others might yet appear who have ideas that are also worth looking at. This is no way dilutes the SNP’s role because even a loose alliance could work. The opposition parties have been using this tactic for a long time. The alliance does not need to be bosom buddies; it just needs to work until independence is achieved. In fact, that is precisely how independence movements have worked elsewhere.

      The SNP has brought this on itself by its refusal to keep the foot soldiers in the know and by sticking to UK constitutional rules which are designed to do the very opposite of what the SNP wants to do, presumably. We have a couple of months before the Brexit deadline, and, albeit Johnson (he’s not a fool) might just manage to tweak May’s deal enough to bring the MPs on board from all sides of the floor – and he is going to have to if he wants to avoid a NO Deal Brexit and deep trouble over the backstop (which I think he does wish to avoid, even if he can’t eventually, reality having thrown a sizeable bucket of freezing water over his ardour for sticking it to Johnny Foreigner). Those recalcitrant MPs will test the patience of the electorate to breaking point if they try to wriggle out of making a decision again. They voted by a sizeable majority in the House to pass the buck to the UK electorate in a referendum, and the UK electorate duly voted to Leave in 2016. Whatever happens, we are going to Brexit, and we are going to Brexit against the will of the majority of the Scottish electorate, and the SNP must honour its mandate or look extremely foolish and ineffectual.


      1. Stuart Campbell does not speak for the Yes movement. He cannot do so, as he speaks for his own political party. It may, as yet, be only a proposed political party. Nonetheless, everything he says is now tainted by partisan interest.


  2. If the SNP doesn’t act before All Saints’ Eve, who in the YES movement will? What leader will emerge? Someone needs to act before it’s too late!


  3. The Reverend (what’s that all about?) Stuart Campbell for Yes Movement leader? Is that the best that we can do, FGS? If so we can forget it. That’s a “dangerous thought” or plan: One that would suit Westminster right down to a tee. In fact they couldn’t have come up with a more effective “scuppering” plan if they’d conjured it up themselves.


    1. I’m not talking about a “Yes Movement leader’. I am broaching the idea of some kind of representative body which can speak to the SNP on behalf of the Yes movement. I do not see this as a public-facing function at all. No personalities!


  4. Mr Bell has written about ‘leadership qualities’ emerging from within YES from time to time and from place to place and from issue to issue. Not necessarily ‘a leader’ who holds office. That’s my take anyway.

    In the ’60s’ USA there was an analogous phenomenon, namely The Youth Movement which proved so hard to deal with. So claimed enforcement agencies. There was no leader, no single ideology, no geographical locus – except everywhere . No way to neuter them (us). One might from this distance also say – no positive outcome.

    YES has a single, positive, identifiable outcome starkiy in view. Leadership is represented by ideas. I would say Rev Stu works for the idea, not to become its leader.


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