The Grass Roots movement needs some full time support
Huge events with hundreds of thousands of people – like the La Diada in Catalonia – have no equivalent in Scotland. We think its epic to get a few thousand to Holyrood. Now is the time to change the culture of unfunded amateur activism argues William Thomson.
Failed political campaigns the world over and filled with missed opportunities. Those involved in the campaigns rue the lack of amplification of their great ideas. They bemoan an uncoordinated approach. They see wasted resources spent on duplicating efforts. So many chances to make an impact missed. Welcome to the current grass roots Scottish independence movement.
Determination, passion and ideas are in amazing supply within the YES movement. Never a day goes by without some YES group, or group of YES activists, creating something that has the potential to enthuse, educate or motivate the movement. But almost all of those ideas or campaigns suffer from the lack of professional support. The YES movement needs a well resourced, professional, non political organisation to make sure every opportunity is realised.
So what are our opponents doing? Scotland In Union have 10 team members with four (it appears) full time staff. And of course we know they are rolling in cash. According to the most recent donations list a total of just over £650,000 was given to Scotland in Union by 168 individuals and companies dating back to 2015. This alone should tell us we need something similar.
A Twitter poll I conducted before writing this article (500 responses) supported the idea of “a professional & well resourced organisation to support and coordinate grass roots support for #indyref2” by 86% to 14%. However, even some of those who voted no in the poll seemed to be in favour of the “idea” but were dubious it could be created by the movement for the movement, a kind of “We don’t want to be telt what to do” type response. So hopefully it’s not too much of a leap to start the debate about what an actual organisation would look like and more importantly what it would do. And I’d like to start the debate with a trip to Barcelona.
I visited the offices of the Catalan National Assembly last year and I believe this organisation gives us a template for a similar Scottish organisation. I also believe that our Scottish National Assembly could be based on models that exist in the trade association and membership bodies. In brief the organisation would be a member based organisation who elect an executive to carry out the wishes of the members. The executive committee sets the agenda, targets and strategy and then paid members of the organisation make it happen.
The exact direction of the organisation would be set by members but no matter the specifics there are things that the organisation would be able to do to support the movement. The first is events.
The ANC is a campaign body but it is also one of Europe’s largest event organisers, overseeing scores of regional meetings and the million plus attendee La Diada celebrations which take place in Catalonia on the 11th September every year. The “SNA” would have a major role to play in organising and coordinating events. With access to professional organisers our marches and other events would have the right objectives and would be able to achieve them.
The second main role of the organisation would be to amplify and coordinate great campaigns from within the movement. Take for example the excellent graphics done by Colin Dunn (@Zarkwan) or videos created by @Phantom Power14. These wonderful pieces pop up in a quite uncoordinated fashion and unfortunately don’t have the impact they deserve. Week after week groups are out across the country focussing on different things missing the opportunity to make a greater impact by saying a similar message, at a similar time, across multiple channels. Another brilliant campaign has been the Keep Scotland The Brand campaign. This could be super-charged by a well resourced, dedicated and professional organisations supporting the movement.
The third role would be to carry out things that the movement just can’t do, for example scoping out an events platform and fundraising platform that didn’t suck money out of the movement.
One thing it wouldn’t do was policy. The organisation supports independence full stop. This would depoliticise the organisation.
Our movement sits without funds or resources. Independence relies on an army of volunteers and a political party. The YES movement needs an organisation led by its members to have any chance of wining the next referendum campaign. The discussion has to start now.