JUST when it seemed that the Yes movement was becoming too fractious due largely to inactivity and the lack of a date to focus on, along came a conference at the weekend which may yet go down as a milestone on the road to a second independence referendum.

Campaigning group Believe in Scotland pulled together a virtual conference that lasted from Friday evening until yesterday, attracting 180 delegates from 130 Yes groups across the country. It is being seen as the start of a new campaign by the group.

Launched only in January, Believe in Scotland (BiS) is best known for producing the Scotland the Brief publication.

They had been having a series of Zoom meetings with Yes groups who asked BiS, founded by Gordon McIntyre-Kemp and fellow activists, just under a month ago to try and organise a special event for the nation’s Yes movement.

Hosted by MacIntyre-Kemp, speakers included National columnist Lesley Riddoch, the SNP’s deputy leader Keith Brown, the Scottish Greens’ co-convener Lorna Slater, and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove. There were 17 speakers in all, plus entertainment.

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MacIntyre-Kemp told The National: “We felt there had been the wrong narrative about independence within the Yes movement. People were frustrated by Covid-19, and were frustrated by waiting for another referendum, and who didn’t understand why there was not a campaign running.

“The Yes groups we spoke to said they didn’t have any national support or co-ordination and they told us they wanted us to do that, including a national conference that wasn’t just Zoom meetings.”

BiS sourced software which allowed the virtual conference to go ahead with a platform and chat rooms to allow delegates to participate and network.

Pointing to the polls that have shown 54-55% support for independence, MacIntyre-Kemp said: “We believe it is possible to hit the 60% mark after Brexit, depending on whether there’s a deal or not, so we wanted to discuss how we do that.

“During the conference there was a key discussion on Scotland becoming a leading country in calculating national wellbeing – not socialism versus capitalism, but a development of thinking about wellbeing becoming our economic approach.

“There was universal support for rolling out the Believe in Scotland Ambassador programme, which within the next few weeks we will launch as an online training facility for activists right across Scotland, with people learning from their homes on how to use social media and talk and debate with people, as well as showing best practice in the Yes groups.”

The interviews with Keith Brown and Lorna Slater were well received. MacIntyre-Kemp added: “They were pressed on pensions and how Scotland could get its pensions up to the EU average and though neither could speak for their party, both were keen to stress that in an independent Scotland, why wouldn’t we look at improving pensions to the EU average, which would mean doubling them.”

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An important part of the conference was the delegates’ contributions. Discussing the current Westminster Government, Jane Philips stated: “This is something I have long thought: they are capable of dirty tricks and have lots of power and resources behind them, but they are not as clever as they think they are.

“This is evident in all areas of their foreign and domestic policies – and in their approach to Scotland. Their incompetence and contempt, which they are too stupid and arrogant to hide, is helping drive up support for indy.”

Possible campaign tactics were discussed. Ruth Watson stated: “I think being visibly pro-indy is important but, as pointed out by others, having significant, co-ordinated events is newsworthy and inspires other to be a part of it in their own way, whether a flag in a garden, a Yes badge on a coat, a poster in a window. “

There was also much discussion on the way ahead for the Yes movement and what group or which person should lead it.

Speaking from the virtual floor, Dave Murchison wrote: “I’ve always believed a campaign body should have different spokespersons for different areas. Such as a pensioner discussing pensions, a nurse discussing NHS etc. Feels their views would come across as more genuine and “in-the-know” rather than a politician speaking.”

As the event drew to a close yesterday evening, many of the delegates thanked BiS for the opportunity to participate. Margaret Torrance of Yes Linton stated: “You have re-kindled my enthusiasm for working for the movement – thank you very much Gordon!”