Going Forward

In this letter to the independence movement, the newly elected Executive Committee of the Scottish Independence Convention explain why the move to create a national campaign organisation can get independence consistently beyond 50% in the polls and give Nicola Sturgeon the backing of the majority of the Scottish people when calling for a referendum.

What’s a pro-independence campaign organisation for and what would it do?

The Scottish Independence Convention is a coalition of Scotland’s national pro-independence organisations, the pro-independence political parties and, through the membership of regional forums, of Scotland’s local grassroots pro-independence groups. It is just about to launch a fundraiser to start a national campaign organisation. But what is that organisation for and what would it do?

Be more than the sum of our parts

The independence movement is brilliantly alive with a flurry of grassroots activity all over the country. But sometimes we need to come together as one.

Coordination from a national campaign organisation should be about helping people build on each other’s work, reinforce what each other are doing. It is about providing campaigners with insights and information which can help them be better at what they are already doing. It is about being able to listen to what people say they need – and then giving them it. It is about giving people strategic direction which helps them to focus on what is going to have the biggest impact in the place they live. It is about never being ashamed to say that we all have more to learn, that none of us alone have all the best ideas. That together we can do more than we can individually.

Set the agenda, change the story, get people to look again

The work of the grassroots of the independence movement has been amazing and has kept the momentum going where other campaigns would have just packed up and left – but unless we do a better job of setting the national agenda, changing the story we hear in the media all the time and finding ways to encourage undecided voters to have another look at the case for independence, we will struggle to make the breakthrough we need.

People don’t trust newspapers or television news like they used to – but it is still the media (and social media) which starts most of the conversations most people have about politics. At work, at home, at the school gate, in the pub or the cafe, at the golf club or the sewing bee, on the football terraces or at the gym, most political conversations still open with ‘did you see…’, as in ‘did you see that stuff about how Scotland’s economy is below the UK average’ or ‘did you see that thing about how there’ll be no food after Brexit’. This is not the end of the conversation, but it’s where it starts.

The independence movement needs to be more on the front foot at making our stories the starting point for these conversations, because it is the conversations undecided voters have with each other which is the most important thing. We need to find ways to set the agenda, to change the story and to get people to look at our case again.

So how will a campaign organisation do that?

Get our visual communication right

As you know, in the modern world of social media the way we communicate with people is very often highly visual. The mood you set, the tone it contains, whether it implies authority or down-to-earthness or inspires fear or hope, whether it catches the attention or merges into the background – this can be the difference between being seen or not, being trusted or not, being liked or not. You know instinctively when it works – and you know instinctively when it doesn’t. The SIC has appointed a leading design company to work with the movement and with undecided voters to come up with a name, a design style and a full set of templates and materials to help us get our visual communications right. It will provide local groups and the national organisation with a toolkit to help us reach voters who don’t stop at street stalls, join marches or read political blogs.

Our goal is to help us connect with people who don’t like politics but are ready to look again at the case for independence.

Create a strategy

Sometimes people might worry that ‘strategy’ means central control. It doesn’t – it means looking at all the possible things we could do and working out which ones are most likely to achieve the outcome you want. Sometimes we think we know what motivates other people, but often we’re wrong. People are angry at the injustices of Britain, worried about the chaos of Brexit, afraid of an isolated or insular future. They feel these things, but feeling something doesn’t necessarily make you act. Strategy is about how best to understand people’s feelings and to work out what you can do to convert those feelings into action.

It means doing public attitude research, challenging your own assumptions, coming up with creative ideas, putting together messages and images and stories that make people think again, about initiatives and ‘stunts’ which link people’s worries to a clear case for voting for independence. It is about understanding their fears and finding ways to mitigate them. It is about finding out what it is the undecided or unsure voter needs to be confident to make a different choice this time. It involves hard work and creativity – but it is how campaigns are won.

This campaign organisation will offer this strategic capacity to the grassroots movement across Scotland.

Be better at communication

What you say doesn’t matter – it’s what people hear that matters. People may well feel insecure or worried or disrespected in modern Britain, but that does not mean that shouting ‘Britain is horrible’ at them is enough to make them choose independence.

Clever communication is about telling people stories about their lives which gently move them towards an understanding that this is not as good as it gets, that there is a better future for them. It’s about helping them to understand truths, but without barking statistics at them. It is about capturing their imagination with pictures of what could be. It’s about finding the language that lays bare for them the anger and frustration with the status quo that they already feel. No, the independence movement is never going to have the support or sympathy of the Scottish media. But clever communications tell stories that survive the attacks of our opponents, that live beyond us because people themselves remember the stories and tell those stories to others. It is these stories that change how people think.

With your help the independence side can start setting the terms of the debate.

Always be prepared, never take it lying down

The independence movement is under constant attack from powerful vested interests. Shouting ‘not fair’ is not going to stop them. Our only defence is to be ready for their attacks and to take them head-on with calm, clear, careful thinking. If they shout ‘England is Scotland’s biggest export market’, we need to say ‘look, a decent proportion of that is electricity exports which England definitely needs so don’t kid on you can manage without it’. We need to unpick the slogans they throw at us. We need to research and prepare answers to their allegations. We need to work to build up our own, better stories. We should never be caught on the hop without an answer. Rebuttal is not about saying the other side is lying, rebuttal is about telling an alternative story that is stronger and more persuasive. It’s time to do this.

If successfully funded this campaign organisation will find the best ways to offer rebuttal quickly, clearly and decisively.

Get things done

Campaigning is hard. Setting up events or initiatives or news stories takes time (as our volunteers who also work fulltime jobs know full well). Listening to what people tell you they need means you have to be on the end of a phone, that you have to get out and talk to people. Leaflets don’t print themselves, training doesn’t organise itself, media initiatives don’t just happen. We need people who are paid to dedicate the time into doing these things for and with others. You don’t win campaigns without people dedicated to winning campaigns. We need people whose responsibility it is to get things done. We need a campaign organisation.

The team

Our fundraising campaign is about raising the money to do these things. It is not about repeating the mistakes of the past – paying salaries that are far too high, wasting money on things that don’t matter, being too cloth-eared to the grassroots of the movement. It is about getting our visual communication tools right. It is about having a coordinator to do the work to develop strategy, a media officer pushing stories into the mainstream and social medias, a researcher making sure we have all the answers we need, a support officer to work closely with local organisations to listen to what they need and support them, an admin officer to get things done. We hope to be able to have a team of five people working every day to make Scotland an independent country.

But it can only happen if you support us by giving a donation. Stay tuned for news on this very soon.

With thanks,

The Executive Committee of the Scottish Independence Convention:
Elaine C Smith, Convenor,
DaveThompson, Vice-Convenor (Christians for Indy and former MSP)
Rosemary Hunter, Treasurer (Women for Independence)
Mary McCabe
Iain Black (SIC Researcher, Yes Edinburgh North and Leith)
Maggie Chapman (Scottish Greens)
Jonathon Shafi (Radical Independence Campaign)

Comments (23)

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  1. Willie says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the comments about clever communication.

    Many no voters are no voters because of inbuilt prejudices and fear fed by the onslaught of MSM propaganda.

    Gently taking people with you as part of a coordinated campaign will change minds – and what better time than now as we crash towards an uncertain future.

    Indeed, post Brexit, and freed from the pesky social protections imposed by Europe, how many here in Scotland will now be asking just how much lower things could go.

    We’re not much talking about the Great Repeal Bill these days, but out of Europe it’s not difficult to think how the current austerity ( backed by universal credit and it’s ilk ) might just be the warm up as employment protections, pensions, health care, social protections and human rights get rolled back in an orgy of Brittanic neo liberal Arbeit Macht Frei fervour.

    Or what about the many this week in the West of Scotland who will this week be asking themselves about the cancellation of the trialling of a new drug developed to help
    promote recovery in patients with cardiac failure.

    Scheduled to be undertaken under the auspices of the Clydebank Jubilee Hospital, a specialist centre for cardiac treatment, the trials which were also being undertaken in Poland Hungary and the US have now been cancelled because of Britain’s impending EU exit.

    Certainly should make folks think about Boris Johnstone’s Union Jack wrapped bus that promised hundred of millions of pounds extra funding every week for the NHS.

    Yes sensible considered communication with those who were persuaded to vote no is something we should all be doing.

    And no, we are not short of worked examples to talk about and a very constructive piece from the Scottish Independence Convention team.

  2. Derek Suttie says:

    I agree with what was said . We need to be better prepared and far better at answering questions. We need to get on the front and set the agenda.

  3. Chris Ballance says:

    GREAT! The strategy is absolutely right – there is some 15-20% of Scotland who have no interest in politics and don’t want to engage, but could be very receptive to the idea of independence if it is perceived to be inevitable and to be what most people like them think. They’re the ones who could potentially take us from 50% to 60% support. The strategy is quite right to focus on them – and quite right to provide national tools for small local groups to use.
    I’ll donate!

    1. Thanks, yes,I believe this is what a lot of people have been waiting for

  4. Crubag says:

    I think spaces for more discussion are a good thing. The organisation will however have to develop (or endorse) policies if it is to have the necessary content.

    Possibly it can accommodate more than one idea on a topic at once, e.g. the SNP approach to currency, and the Common Weal proposition, though there will still need to be an editorial decision about the policies get put forward.

  5. Robin Kinross says:

    Could someone explain how the Scottish Independence Convention sits with the Scottish Independence Foundation? (https://www.sif.scot/)
    Seems odd that neither mentions the other.
    Maybe Elaine Smith can sort this out?!

    1. The SIC has been around for a very long time and is a stakeholder umbrella group, the SIF is brand new and aims to seed fund indy groups.

      1. Robin Kinross says:

        Thanks!
        So:
        SIF = base
        SIC = superstructure
        A bit of mutual acknowledgement would seem to be a wise move.

        1. Not really no, SIF is a fund, SIC is an organising membership group. SIF have representation on SIC board. There’s no tension – where would you like there to be acknowledgement?

    2. I just noticed that SIF’s logo is on the SIC graphic attached to this article. Ok Robin?

      1. Robin Kinross says:

        Yes, that helps.

        Given that their names are so similar, I suggest that both have an explainer on their websites, pointing to other organizations that are doing complementary things.

        1. Willie Wilson says:

          I am the founder of SIF. We have been up and running for nearly 6 months and have already distributed nearly £50,000 to the Indy cause, by seeding projects like Lesley Riddoch’s ‘Nation’ videos, Business for Scotland’s Ambassador training scheme, AyeMail’s distribution of kits to 200 local YES groups, Michael Gray’s Scotia project and National YES Registry’s Gatherings 1 & 2. In almost every case, our seed money has led to a crowdfunder which raises many times the amount given by SIF.

          Although it was our firm belief that our first priority is to nurture the grass roots of the movement, we agree that in due course a coordinating body is also required. Thus SIF has provided substantial seed money to underpin the imminent SIC fundraiser campaign. SIF has already done some significant coordinating by pointing groups towards others trying to do similar things, allowing like-minded people to collaborate and avoiding wasteful duplication. SIC will also do this and perform many other functions. SIF looks forward to close collaboration with the SIC .

          1. Robin Kinross says:

            Thanks for this –

            When the SIF came into being earlier this year, I thought it was a great idea – local and specific initiatives are surely a great way to go – and donated something.

            Now with the re-emergence of the SIC, I had to think hard to make sure it wasn’t the same thing as I had already supported.

            I suppose I’m not alone in being at first confused by two similarly named organizations. That was behind my comments. But I can see that both are needed, and distinct in what they are doing.

  6. Stan Reeves says:

    Can someone explain why AUOB is not affiliated to SIC?

    1. Kenny says:

      Why wasn’t Stuart Campbell invited to be involved? He’s the most successful fundraiser in the movement, one of its best writers and, with the Wee Blue Book, he showed his ability to produce game-changing material and distribute it to every corner of the country. Most (all?) other registered orgs from 2014 were invited. Why not Wings?

    2. Grant Buttars says:

      I would imagine it’s because AUOB isn’t a membership organisation.

    3. Tom Kane says:

      I think that’s a big deal, Stan. AUOB shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as a grassroots organisation. They have achieved something inspiring and moving. They now lead a movement… All Under One Banner… They are not in the list of SIC supporters. If there’s a problem between SIC and AUOB that really needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.

      We are lucky to have both of these well run organisations on the side on independence.

      We are entering decisive times for the independence movement… Timing is going to be important, for all independence activities, as well as demonstration of commitment. We need to commit to bringing out the best in each part of the movement. All Under One Banner is a tremendous phrase and what an impact they have had in a year or so. I was chuffed to be matching with them an the 6th… And have been amazed at how little coverage has been offered to 100,000 people walking down the Royal Mile for independence…

      But everything started with the Scottish Constitutional Convention… If the SIC has inherited it’s mantle… It needs to sort this out.

      Also very sorry not to see Stuart Bathgate in co-opted SIC ranks… Nobody has done more to challenge indecent standards of journalism than Stu… What a powerhouse of investigative journalism he is…

      An open letter from SIC… Well good luck! But definitely AUOB should be in there… And Wings respected.

      1. Tom Kane says:

        Sorry… Re. Stuart Bathgate… meant Stuart Campbell… The rev…

  7. SleepingDog says:

    Will there be open coordination with other independence or related structural transformation groups within the UK/British Empire and without?

    What anti-infiltration measures are in place to counter the usual forces interested in monitoring, subverting, controlling a centralized political organization?

  8. Swiss Toni says:

    This post epitomizes the existential problem of the Yes campaign which presents itself as a radical, left wing grouping.

    This may motivate the activists but it turns off the majority of voters who are moderate/conservatives and support the free market economy.

    Talking down to, patronising or insulting people with a different point of view (e.g. “many no voters are no voters because of inbuilt prejudices and fear fed by the onslaught of MSM propaganda” ) is a recipe for failure.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Absolutely spot on!

    2. Stan Reeves says:

      Yes, we all have our irritations with aspects of the political process, but best just to keep them private and focus on selling the dream of a modern european state.

      1. Jamsie says:

        Yes and we will still be one even after Brexit.

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