WHAT does it take for hundreds of thousands of people to come together and work towards something they believe in? The referendum of 2014 was one such event. When the result came in, Yes voters responded in a variety of ways.

Some felt cheated, some despaired, but overwhelmingly, they wanted to keep on pushing for independence. Out of this, We Are The 45% was born. It’s just one of many Facebook groups with a focus on independence but what’s notable about it is its size – with around 158,000 members and 149,000 followers, the vast majority of which signed up in the immediate aftermath of the vote.

The real challenge isn’t getting people together, it’s keeping them that way, and that we have succeeded is a testament to everyone who posts there.

The referendum is often positioned as a cause of division in Scotland. I could not disagree more. Although this isn’t a Utopian group where people are always nice to each other, we’ve seen friendships form between people from very different backgrounds, across sectarian lines and in spite of geographical rivalries – people who might never have spoken to each other before.

Sharing discussions about Scotland’s future has made it clear that we have something much, much bigger in common.

From the start, we wanted We Are The 45% to be a space where everybody felt safe and able to participate.

Again, that hasn’t always worked – those of us who moderate it, elected by group members from a pool of candidates with relevant experience, are all volunteering our time and we can’t always be there when somebody goes off on one.

During the first few months, when tempers were hot, it was particularly tough keeping things civil. We also need to be careful to strike the right balance.

We want people to be able to talk about voter demographics without making our older members or our English members, many of whom have devoted years to championing independence, feel that they’re not welcome. In fact, we’re especially keen to get their input because they’re the people best placed to tell us all how we can effectively reach out to No voters.

One thing that has been important to us from the outset is creating a space where women and members of minority groups feel they can participate fully in discussion. Groups like Women for Independence have done great work but we also need shared discussion spaces where can be sure that everyone hears a variety of voices.

We hope that people who haven’t made up their minds about how they might vote in the next referendum can come to the group and see people they identify with and encounter a range of different perspectives.

Balancing all this can be tricky. We’re not party political but because the loudest voices on independence come from the SNP, who also get the bulk of press coverage, we can understand how people might not immediately see that.

Posting articles about right-wing pro-independence groups hasn’t generally gone down very well but as far as we’re concerned their votes will be welcome and what’s more, we need to build a Scotland for everyone – right wingers aren’t just going to evaporate post-independence and this is their country too.

Being non-party political has the additional advantage that it helps us make sure we’re posting about a variety of different things.

We generally agree that the Union is unfair but nobody wants to hear rants about that all the time. Rousing speeches can also become pretty boring after a while.

We have a diverse membership and we try to provide a balance of articles to appeal to different groups within it, from financial analysis to the latest news on rallies and events around the country, important international news that could affect independence and pieces on what leading politicians are saying.

It’s no fun being serious all the time so we also include the odd bit of celebrity news and stories about the creative ways some groups have found to campaign.

The success of The National has helped with all this, though we try to use a balance of publications too.

Throughout this we’ve been pleased to see a real community develop among our members, some of whom are really impressive in the amount they manage to contribute.

We’re excited by the amount of expertise that exists within the movement – however obscure the subjects we raise, there will almost always be somebody with relevant expertise ready to share their thoughts.

None of this bears much resemblance to the way the independence movement is portrayed in some parts of the media. I’m continually amazed by how rarely I have to step in to deal with a problematic post.

We just don’t see the level of nastiness that’s constantly being talked about elsewhere. A politician who says something obnoxious might be described as a bit of a fanny but that, whilst it might not be Parliamentary language, is essentially a political opinion. Threats of violence are, thankfully, a very rare occurrence.

We on the moderation team have worked hard to support the group but watching the way that it has developed and seeing what its members bring to the table has been a rewarding experience.

Speaking personally, I have always believed that what the majority of Scots want is open, civil discourse, that we can value expertise without shutting out new voices and that we can benefit from looking at independence not as a prize to be won but as something that we need to build, together, so that the result is something that can work for all of us – No voters included.

In times of political turmoil, we often hear people saying: “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” It’s a rotten argument – the wealthy may be able to leave but most people have no choice but to stick around and deal with what’s thrown at them. This is why patient, inclusive nation building matters – because when we do leave the current mess, we’ll be taking our country with us.

Jennie Kermode manages the 'we are the 45%' Facebook page