THE winners of the inaugural Independence Awards of 2020, run by the Scottish Independence Foundation (SIF) and The National, were announced live on The National’s Facebook page last night.

The Individual Independence Campaigner of the Year is Lesley Riddoch and the Independence Group Award went to Believe in Scotland (BiS), founded by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp.

Riddoch will receive an award of £1500 which she is giving to the Edinburgh Yes Hub. The cash comes personally from SIF board members rather than from general donations to SIF. Similarly, Believe in Scotland will receive an award of £1000.

Journalist, broadcaster, filmmaker and The National columnist Riddoch has been a long-term activist for independence, and for her, 2020 was an outstanding year of campaigning despite the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Believe in Scotland scoops group prize at Independence Awards

After receiving the award, Riddoch said: “I’m surprised and absolutely delighted by this incredible honour. Some folk may hanker after a gong or some formal recognition by the British state. That’s never been an aspiration for me.

“The only thing that can ever matter in life is recognition by your ain folk – honest, simple and heartfelt. So this first Indy Award is the greatest reward and compliment a gal could ever hope for.

“Looking back over a strangely busy year, I realise collaborating is the name of the game for me. Not having one ‘proper’ workplace since the indyref, I’ve been lucky enough to find many, working with other like-minded folk to channel the hope and determination I find everywhere at grassroots level and to showcase the incredible talent that exists in the little fingers of every musician, writer and artist in this great cultural charabanc of a country.

“A massive thanks to SIF and The National for deciding recognition shouldn’t be the sole preserve of the establishment.”

Riddoch went on: “I’ll be giving the £1500 prize to the Edinburgh Yes Hub, led by the redoubtable Mike Blackshaw. Despite underlying health conditions, Mike was the stalwart who helped me organise the January 31 protest against Brexit, put together two brilliant gigs at the Queen’s Hall with indy-supporting musicians and was a key part of the recent online #wedidntvoteforthis campaign.

“Mike had Covid during lockdown and worries constantly about rent and electricity bills at the Hub – because income has collapsed since he can’t pack paying audience members into speaker events like sardines.

“So this cash will give the Hub a much needed breathing space at the start of a big year for every group but especially the capital’s sole Yes shop/office/meeting place/hub. Like everyone I’m keen to get campaigning on the streets in 2021. But if the pandemic forces us to bide our time, I hope we’ll be getting organised to find a champion for indy on every street and in every village in Scotland.”

READ MORE: All the runners-up from the Scottish Independence Awards

Riddoch’s year began with a protest she helped organise outside Holyrood on Brexit Day, January 31, along with Blackshaw and 3000 protesters. The well-timed event succeeded in getting national and international television coverage. Riddoch said: “It was clear the SNP were not going to organise any kind of focus for a moment that’s proved pivotal in the slow growth of support for independence.

“So I found myself suggesting a DIY demo at a speaking event in the Yes Hub a month beforehand and even though other folk had greater expertise, we tried to seize the moment. A vital ‘get off your bum and do it’ approach which will soon be taken on full time by the new Yes National membership organisation.”

In February, Riddoch travelled to Estonia to make a film about the independent nation of just 30 years, funded by Chris Weir and the Scottish Independence Foundation.

A return filming trip was cancelled because of impending Covid lockdown so, realising it would also cancel the 700th anniversary celebrations of the Declaration of Arbroath, Riddoch and indy-supporting filmmaker Charlie Stuart switched efforts to make an online film about Scotland’s famous founding document.

The score was created by Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle, who heard about the project on Riddoch’s regular weekly podcast with Yesser and Dundee United supporter Pat Joyce. Working remotely, Riddoch, Weir and Doyle managed to get the film put together and online by the anniversary on April 6, just two weeks after filming began.

Meanwhile, the Estonia film has been finished with new filming by Tallinn-based Scot, Yesser and filmmaker Joe Dunnigan and will be released online in January.

In October, Riddoch was awarded a Fletcher of Saltoun Award by the Saltire Society for her contribution to public life in Scotland.

She was also part of a group, including Edinburgh Yes Hub, All Under One Banner and Yes for EU, which put videos online within minutes of the Christmas Eve Brexit deal announcement. They featured dozens of Scots with self-made posters explaining why #wedidntvoteforthis – a hashtag that trended across the UK for two days.

One of those who nominated Riddoch said: “Everyone knows Lesley as she has spoken to every Yes group more than once, she is on every Zoom, and forms little groups of protest and discussion.”

Another said: “Lesley has a keen sense of what a socially just Scotland could be and to which more Scottish people are turning towards, while at the same time feeding the narrative that we have to economically move ahead of the rest of the UK by harnessing our natural resources once we have the means to take control of them.”