Scotland’s independence movement is a grassroots movement, meaning that it springs from and is maintained by the local and indigenous community. It is not the result of political campaign outreach, but the socio-political expression of the community; reflecting the hopes and the concerns of each particular local community.
During the Yes Scotland campaign of 2012-14 local “Yes groups” sprouted up all over Scotland and quickly became the backbone and the bedrock of the independence movement. This was limited, however, in that it was largely the product of a centralised political campaign and its national outreach agenda. Yes groups therefore tended to be reproductions of the same model and struggled to be anything more than top-down hierarchical structures.
Following the end of the Yes Scotland campaign Yes groups began to wither on the vine. In many places they continued in one form or another for quite some time. In some places they were to a greater to lesser extent transformed into other pro-independence local fora, and in other places they became the basis for swift recruitment into the more formal political structures of the SNP.
These Yes groups had a clearly defined function within the context of the 2014 independence referendum campaign, but since the end of that the campaign this defined function no longer exists and so – as the products of a political campaign – without a clear function, the great majority of them have vanished into the ether. Yes groups were not intended to be permanent social hubs, but short-term strategic social and political satellites of the central campaign.
Yet even after the 18 September 2014 the perseverance many Yes groups demonstrated the existence of a latent and truly grassroots movement for independence. These local groups require only local leadership and action in order to give them the dynamism they need to become active hubs of the independence movement. The chief resources are already in the communities, the catalyst may be the participation of activists from a neighbouring active group.
It is crucial that such groups are brought to life ahead of another independence referendum. Thus what is needed at this moment is a national drive to put activists on the road all over Scotland, charged with the mission of planting local community groups in every village town and city in the country.