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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Gathering our strength


The Gathering worked like a precision machine building itself out of a confusing array of disparate bits gathered from across the geographic and social length and breadth of Scotland.

I wrote the above after the first National Yes Registry Gathering back in May. I think you can tell from my comments that I was greatly impressed and enthused by an event which brought together hundreds of Yes activists in Stirling’s Albert Hall to discuss matters such as organising and funding the movement; currency and national debt; voting systems; the economy; a written constitution and, of course, campaigning in a new independence referendum.

I am now looking forward to the second such event – Gathering 2 – which takes place on Saturday 24 November. The venue, once again, is the Albert Hall, Stirling and registration is from 09:00. Tickets for the full-day event cost £14 and can be obtained from Eventbrite.

I cannot stress enough how important these events are to the Yes movement and the cause of independence. Our strength lies, not in great wealth or charismatic leadership, but in grassroots numbers and our ability to find leadership where and when it is required. To maximise this strength, we must develop powerful networks which allow us to tap into the skills of individuals and the resources of groups and use the collective power of the Yes movement to greatest effect. The movement must organise in order to campaign. The Gatherings are a highly effective way to network and organise.

But Gathering 2 is special for another reason. As you will be aware, the SNP has been seeking to consult as widely as possible on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report. To this end, the party held a series of National Assemblies for the purpose of consultation among members of the SNP. But the party was always determined to widen this consultation and Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP has joined with National Yes Registry with the aim of establishing a framework for engaging as fully as possible with the Yes movement. As Gathering 2 organiser Janey MacDonald says,

This is the very first grassroots-run consultation to be officially sanctioned by any Scottish party of government. It’s a historic moment for Yes, and underlines how essential it is that as many of our movement take part in the Gathering as possible, to maximise the legitimacy of this unique opportunity and directly influence power. Come and add your voice.

This is no exaggeration. Gathering 2 promises to be a transformational exercise for both the Yes movement and for the SNP. It is emblematic of the distinctive political culture that we are developing in Scotland. This is how we want, and intend, to do politics. This is democracy in action. The Yes movement has, for some time now, been reaching out to the SNP as its de facto political arm. This cooperation between the party and National Yes Registry represents the SNP’s positive and constructive response.It is no exaggeration at all to say that this changes everything. And you can be part of this change. You can be there as history is made. You can help shape that history.

Which still leaves us with a campaign to prepare for the moment when Nicola Sturgeon initiates the final phase of the project to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. At Gathering 2 you will not only have the opportunity to help set parameters for the official grassroots’ consultation on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report, you will also see the launch of the newly-completed IndyApp 2.0 and be able to participate in a range of seminars and discussions. Most notably, perhaps, on the ‘hot topic’ of reframing.

Keith Brown himself will be attending Gathering 2 along with Sustainable Growth Commission Report authors Jim Mather & Roger Mullin, who will give a short presentation and be available to answer questions and take points from the various working groups.

In addition, there will be a seminar on reframing led by recognised experts Bill Mills and Dr. June Maxwell – with ample opportunity to discuss and learn about this fascinating subject.

But the most important people at Gathering 2 will be the grassroots Yes activists who are prepared to give of their time and talents to make all of this work. I urge you to attend and participate if you possibly can. You will be contributing to a uniquely important exercise in policy consultation. You will be helping to create the campaign which will lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. And you will also enjoy a most inspiring and rewarding experience.


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