With the turning of the year being a time of reflection on past years and looking forward with hope on what’s to come, my mind turned to the state of the Yes movement, its failings, its strengths, and its future. I’ll be honest: this article will not make easy reading for many and will likely get more than a few “How dare he” reactions. But as a movement & personally, being able to ask difficult questions and openly challenge our actions is not just important but essential.

So here goes, looking back over the post-referendum years, the harsh reality is that the Yes movement as a whole has wasted nine years, and we must take our share of the criticism for not being further forward. No one gets a free pass here and that includes me.  If we had done our job well, we could be independent now.

Along with others, in Jan 2018, we formed the Aberdeen Independence Movement; we formed AIM because we did not like what we saw in the general Yes movement. We thought it had lost its way, and the sad thing is that five years on, way too many of the same issues exist.

A lack of professionalism, pragmatism, vision, critical thinking, and campaigning strategy were all too missing in the grassroots movement in 2018, and how many could argue that this is still not the case today?

Before forming AIM, we had many discussions asking questions such as “Was a grassroots campaign group worth the hassle of forming?” knowing the pushback we would face from those who felt a sense of ownership of the post-referendum Yes movement. Many advised us to concentrate and use our skills within the SNP. But enough of us thought that all the eggs in the party’s political basket were a bad idea and that facing the pushback and histrionics was a cross worth bearing, as winning our nations independence is way to important to be put off by it’s my ba behaviour. 

Independence needs two distinct interwoven strands, political and civic, to be successful. For most of the post-referendum period, the political strand has been strong, but political popularity comes and goes like the tide; at some point in time, the political strand will decline, not because independence has lost its popularity, but just due to all governments having a shelf life.

When times are tough in a political sense, the civic strand takes the weight of pushing independence forward.

In good times, the two strands work together, with one offering good governance and the other offering vision.

In my view it was a huge mistake, that we are paying the price for now, that YES Scotland was packed up on the day after the referendum, but we can’t turn back the clock, but we can build something new. We can point the finger and blame past mistakes or we can create positive change, I support independence because I want positive change and that is what I plan to promote.

Looking back to 2014, the Yes movement was a campaigning machine focused on doing the hard, unglamorous work of changing minds and bringing people to our cause. We did not fixate on marches; the only marching was door-to-door with a clipboard in hand. If only the post-referendum reincarnation of the Yes movement had continued in the same vain, it did not. Understandably, it looked inward for solace & support after the awful result, I know I did. However, nine years later, it’s still looking inward, becoming a huge issue and the most significant barrier to us winning independence. Successful movements grow outwards, not look inwards.

Turning inward meant fertile ground for conspiracy and frustrations to grow. The post-referendum Yes movement is one of the closed Facebook groups—bloggers who write what you want to hear, self-gratification, it’s become something more akin to a members only bowling club. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that the Yes movement is a campaign, and its one job is to reach out and convince others that independence offers a better long-term future.

The last nine years have seen march after march, and so much energy and money wasted on chasing rainbow’s, thinking up more and more ideas of self-entertaining self-gratification claptrap, which does nothing to change a single mind.  

To think where we could and should have been as a movement is enough to make me cry. We should have had a professional, well-funded civic campaign, able to conduct research and conduct professional campaigns, with a vast bank of data collected from door-knocking. But we are where we are, and it’s never too late to get our act together and get it together; we must.

Believe in Scotland has been a ray of light in the darkness of late and gives a glimpse of what a civic Yes campaign that has refound its purpose as a campaigning machine can achieve.

Let us draw a line under the lost years and find our campaigning mojo again; I truly believe if the grassroots can become a campaigning machine, independence will be short in coming.

The Yes movement exists to campaign for independence; let’s return to it.