The Vitality of Yes

YES March & Rally for Scottish Independence.  Image by Ivon Bart

Photo by Ivon Bartholomew

At the end of this remarkable year, what stands out most clearly for me is that the Yes campaign has changed Scotland in ways that will continue to shape our politics and indeed our lives. People stop me in the street almost every day to talk about their own experience of the referendum campaign. The word they use most frequently to describe the process is ‘awakening’. The word most often used to recall how it felt is ‘uplifting’.

The referendum has given us a stronger sense of who we are and what we value. I believe democracy itself is stronger now in Scotland. So what are the signs of this change and of the vitality of Yes?

Perhaps most importantly, many of those who were previously disenfranchised and disengaged now feel quite rightly that they have an equal part to play in determining the future of their country.
And while that future is still under discussion, the direction of travel is clear. People want the important decisions that affect their lives to be made in Scotland – how we create new jobs, protect the vulnerable, share our wealth. I accept that a majority voted this year to try to achieve these new powers and these better outcomes while remaining part of the UK. Time will tell if that is possible. I don’t believe it is, and I believe that many more people will come to that conclusion in their own time.
Young people are now much more engaged in serious political debate – not just the brilliant young speakers who emerged on public platforms all around the country, but the many others who turned out to campaign, to converse, and finally to vote.


Photo by Jannica Honey

The Scottish independence movement has broadened and deepened in dramatic fashion. The SNP will always be central and prominent, but lots of people joined the campaign from all sorts of non-political backgrounds and the issue became much bigger than party politics. In that sense alone, Scotland has changed forever.

Those many thousands of Yes Scotland volunteers and supporters are still possessed of conviction and determination, the belief that change is necessary and possible. People felt – some for the first time – a confidence in their country and a renewed commitment to the wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

There is a mass movement now convinced that real change can happen if we work to make it happen. That is why the Yes parties and groups seem to have all the enthusiasm and the energy, and almost all of the ideas.

More people than ever before now believe that Scotland has the resources, the wealth and the talent to flourish as an independent nation. There is a new self-confidence around, more than strong enough to survive the disappointment of defeat in September.

The referendum has left a great legacy for Scotland, a population that is energised and enthused by the prospect of a better nation. And that is largely attributable to how the broad and diverse Yes movement conducted itself.

We talked passionately and peacefully for more than two years about what we cared about as a society, what kind of people and country we are. We talked about stuff that matters.
People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds got involved. It brought folk together, giving them a sense of community and of being part of something bigger. It was a team game. Everyone in the Yes movement played their part.

The people embraced the grassroots campaign and took ownership of it. Very significantly, power has now shifted to the people and politicians of all parties will have to adapt to that shift. There will be no more of the old deference, no more leaving things to the wisdom of either the experts or the elected.

The positive tone and democratic conduct of the campaign were important. I know it was the generous, open and inclusive nature of Yes that brought in people whose starting position was sceptical towards independence. That spirit has to be maintained.

Another big feature of the campaign was perseverance. People did not lose heart when the polls didn’t shift much in 2013, at a time when no one outside the Yes campaign (and not everyone inside it) believed we could get to 40% let alone 50%. People trusted their own judgement that there was movement towards us as a direct result of their own campaigning. From this experience, I think the belief in conversion through conversation is now hard-wired into the broader Yes movement.


The many parts of the campaign created many different spaces for participation. It was a social as much as a political movement. There was a lot of confidence and creativity – and diversity. It became a campaign characterised by self-expression just as much as self-determination. And people enjoyed it!

It is already clear that the grassroots nature of the Yes movement will continue, that the sense of purpose and direction holds strong, and there is a determination to keep that energy going.

We cannot make progress by leaving half the population behind, which is why continuing dialogue is essential. And from my own experience before and after the referendum, I know there were many No voters who came close to voting Yes. We have to continue to find common ground with them.
The dream of Scottish independence that was once a marginal preoccupation has now become not just a mainstream aspiration, but something very close to a majority view in Scotland. Perhaps it already is, if recent polls are to be believed.

I’ve spoken to lots of folk since the referendum – journalists and academics, Yes voters and No voters, observers from other countries who looked on with great interest and a degree of wonder. I have certainly met people with widely differing explanations as to why the result went the way it did. But in all those many conversations, I have yet to meet anyone who believes there will not be a second referendum.

I wish everyone in the Yes movement a very happy Christmas and New Year. We should be proud of all we achieved in 2014, and look forward to next year with great hope and determination.

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  1. doreenmilne says:

    Great piece of positive writing. Thank you. A very guid 2015 to you and yours.

  2. JBS says:

    And a happy Christmas and New Year to you, too.

    Independence for Scotland…the genie’s out of the bottle…it’s not going back in…

  3. Jacqui Calder says:

    It’s been a privilege.

  4. ScottishLass says:

    Lovely to hear from you again Blair……you were such an influential component of the Yes movement…would be a pity if we lost your ongoing support and input. Stay close and a Happy Christmas and New Year to You and Yours xxxx

  5. Frank M says:

    Thank you Blaire and a Happy Christmas and a great New Year to you and everyone at Bella and in the YES movement. We look forward with tremendous hope and courage. Aye! Frank M.

  6. Frank M says:

    Sorry – should be ‘Blair’. I put it down to age.

  7. Craig says:

    Wish the ‘No’ voters a merry Christmas too. They might not have voted in our way, but doesn’t mean to say they aren’t nice people. 🙂

    1. Darien says:

      “Wish the ‘No’ voters a merry Christmas”

      They cost Scotland its nationhood. I don’t wish them a merry anything.

  8. Margaret Brogan says:

    Such a good reflection of what the YES campaign engendered.
    It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the fact that after the devastation of apparent failure we have got back on our feet so quickly, typifies the confidence that this grassroots movement imbued in its members.

  9. Dan Huil says:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the people at Bella and to all the folks who visit the site.
    We now have The National newspaper but sites like this will continue to be a very important and popular source of information in the years to come.

  10. Fay Kennedy. says:

    The Yes campaign has been so positive and it will continue no doubt. Best wishes for peace and progress in the year ahead to all the supporters both near and far.

  11. IAB says:

    Merry Christmas and a Guid New Year to everyone.

    If now now, when?

  12. Douglas Young (Yes Shetland) says:

    Please, please, please stop chopping us off maps and infographics, both Orkney and Shetland are missing again!

    We’re used to Westminster removing bits of Scotland but to be missing from your infographic is unforgivable.

    You’re forgiven if you fix the situation in future of course!

  13. Bothy Basher says:

    You ‘re quite right Douglas. If we don’t include the whole country, we’re no better than southern broadcasters. Although we’re all southern to you.

  14. JWil says:

    Bair said: “The referendum has given us a stronger sense of who we are and what we value. I believe democracy itself is stronger now in Scotland.”

    Except that we are still in the union.

    I hear this mantra all the time about the renaissance in Scottish politics, but being an old cynic I just wonder if there will be a reversion to type.

    I was really disappointed when Blair Jenkins was, cunningly, asked directly during an interview at BBC Scotland if he thought the BBC was biased. He said no. I do not know how he could possibly justify that. He could at least have said it was questionable and mentioned the research paper from the Dundee academic. Blair was a BBC insider at one time and it makes me wonder if he was keeping his options open and his friends on side.

    1. Clive B Scott says:

      Didn’t see the interview – I cancelled the TV licence and gave away the TV in disgust due to the appalling BBC referendum performance. Blair probably not wanting to antagonise the interviewer. I think it would be a better long term strategy to fight with the BBC, call out individual presenters, and all the other MSM at every opportunity to constantly expose their deceits, lies and Britnat propaganda. Playing ball with them is simply weak and emboldens their bullying behaviour.

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