JANUARY 2021 and we’re all waiting.

For Covid vaccines.

For sunny days.

For anything resembling a holiday or a hug from friends.

For the new normal (cue sceptical laughter).

For the back of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in our lives.

And thus for indyref2 – which lies somewhere beyond the Holyrood elections four long months away.

How far?

Fa kens.

So it’s no surprise Yessers reacted strongly to calls for a delay in that Holyrood vote – the long-awaited precursor to a tightly choreographed dance that should end with indyref2 and our best ever shot at independence.

Partly because the uber-cautious Nicola Sturgeon thinks the process can be safe, partly because “Covid elections” have gone ahead in other countries and partly because the postponement call is championed by chancers and opportunists, some of whom complained about hospitality closures during lockdown, as Paul Kavanagh pointed out earlier in the week.

But mostly because Yessers are absolutely sick of waiting.


It’s a thing often sniffed at by the self-appointed adults in the room, as if reluctance to curb enthusiasm is a terribly childish thing.

It isn’t. For Scots – for independence-supporting Scots in particular – it goes much, much deeper than that.

We were born waiting.

Waiting for fairness.

Waiting for confidence.

Waiting for acknowledgement.

Waiting for a better moment to arrive, better people, better arguments or better prospects.

Waiting for independence.

We are heart-sick of it, because we know what we’re like. As the Proclaimers observed so astutely, we know our sense of timing – we always wait too long.

So, waiting is disliked and mistrusted precisely because Scots – or at least many of our leaders – are awfy, awfy prone to it.

But there’s an irony.

For all our dislike of the waiting game, Yessers have become very good at it with local Yes groups, All Under One Banner marches, Common Weal discussion groups, online zoom events, self-education and wider community activism offering constructive outlets for energy while the official political dance slowly unwinds.

It may seem like an irritant to those who like their politics formal, controlled and party-led. But the impatience, hyper-activism and spontaneity of the Yes movement can be seen in a different, more generous light too. Fuelled by enthusiasm not party position or cash, Yes groups have created a new type of politics with new ways of working.

A grassroots Scotland which operates on entirely different lines to the formal, bureaucratic structures that dominated this wee country.

A loose network of activists who organise in communities and workplaces, connect easily with like-minded groups and rouse themselves to tackle intractable local problems when everyone else looks away – the kind of folk who would be councillors if this country had genuinely local democracy.

As it is, the wider Yes movement has created a substitute – a multitude of informal platforms which let marginalised Scots practise civic involvement in a way our political parties and centralised system would never permit.

So, all power to impatient people.

Without them Assynt would not have been bought by crofters. Eigg would not have been taken over by islanders and West Whitlawburn would not be managed today by its tenants.

Without folk unwilling to wait till the “time was right”, all kinds of social progress in Scotland might not have happened.

As it is, Scots have learned how to tackle obstacles our own way – not with cash, government backing or professional help but by sheer, bloody-minded, self-organised, unpaid graft.

WITHOUT decent access to land, ordinary citizens have devoted decades to community buyouts – breathing energy and belief into islands and communities the mainstream and Scottish Government had written off.

Without truly local government, folk have become overnight experts in community energy, balance sheets, bidding processes and community shares, raising cash and a tiny bit of control over communities run by strangers who generally live Somewhere Else.

Without a secure supply of state support, folk have learned to tap Scotland’s most abundant natural resource – the time, energy, belief and crowd-sourced cash of its people.

Sometimes that happens too readily, letting the Government off the hook and making broken systems bearable since most hard-working communities will find the physical, financial and emotional means to opt out of them.

Scotland functions today partly through official state-funded systems like the valiant NHS and partly through this under-acknowledged army of carers, volunteers and activists – many of them Yessers.

Are they impatient for real change – you bet.

Are they right – absolutely.

But would they insist on a referendum if Covid is still on the rampage – I doubt it.

It strikes me the invention of “crazy, impatient Yessers” is a canny attempt to turn the extra energy of the Yes movement back against itself – it’s a smokescreen, a distraction, a major bit of character assassination and a provocation.

It’s also a back-handed compliment – testimony to the growing strength of the Yes movement.

So ignore it.

Because these days, where you find bundles of self-organising, creative, community energy, you find Yessers.

It is the strongest characteristic that distinguishes Yes and No voters.

Supporters of the status quo have drawn in their horns, pulled up their armchairs and left activism to supporters of independence. There doesn’t seem to be the energy, connection, curiosity, or straightforward love of Scottish culture to do more than just vote.

Think of Gordon Brown – cranking the wheel to produce a Vow he had no intention of straining himself to implement. That’s all “politics” seems to mean for a certain generation of politician. Empty words from a podium – not collaboration, debate or activism. Messages, instructions, political tablets of stone delivered from on high – edicts not enthusiasm and certainly not empowerment.

When Scotland rejected Labour it didn’t just reject a political party. It rejected a whole, rigid, outdated way of doing politics.

The party is apparently keen on constitutional change. So why are its leading lights always missing from big events organised by activists and academics in England, even though Scottish independence campaigners turn up?

Are they just awfy shy? Have they got out of the habit? Do activists not know them? Don’t they actually care?

Perhaps over time people power has been completely subordinated to party structures and moribund party branches posed less threat to sitting MPs. Either way, as unionist parties have dwindled, their instinct to act and connect has dwindled too.

Enthusiasm has gone. Impatience too.

It’s an unlovely fate which might befall the SNP without the culturally grounded, dangerously curious, change-oriented elements in its membership (and now its NEC), themselves buoyed by the anchoring effect of free-range Yes activists.

And very soon the grip of that anchor is set to be strengthened with the launch of a National Yes membership organisation before the end of January.

This has always been the Yes movement’s mission.

Not to deliver more foot soldiers into the serried, disciplined ranks of political parties – with due respect to the SNP, Greens and other Yes parties, their rank and files are big enough already.

No, the next step has always been leading not following, acting not waiting – organisation, focus and strategy by and for the grassroots.

It’s a daring move as campaigners used to working with nowt, aim to collect dues from hundreds of thousands of folk to create momentum and produce a leadership of their own. They won’t be standing candidates in elections or standing on the toes of other Yes groups. They aim to connect, galvanise, co-ordinate, articulate and empower. Grand.

The new organisation – and I don’t know its name yet either – has a steering committee of 15 folk, brave enough to leave the safety of ringside seats and forge common cause across differences of background, politics, gender, class, race and more.

They know they’ll make mistakes. They know they’ll get pelters – especially from their own side. But even so, the committee, dominated by “ordinary” Scots, has a majority of women. To paraphrase Bella Caledonia’s great slogan – these are Scots learning to get above themselves.

What better thing can we all be doing as we wait?

So, let’s not diss the impatient people.

They are not troublemakers – just twitching with energy for a new Scotland.