A LOT of post-2014 debate has gone into speculating about the timing of the next referendum. It’s the kind of topic beloved of strategists, journalists and Spinal Tap Yessers. However, the timing is something we do not know. What we do know is that we’re not ready for it – and frankly we weren’t ready for the last one either. So, there is work to be done.

There is both good news and bad news about our prospects at a future referendum. We are currently living through a very fluid period of politics – with the electoral turbulence of referendums and shifting voter preferences and uncertainty about their effect on independence.

The good news is that there is a functioning Yes movement, with its own media presence and organisations. New groups emerged during the referendum both nationally and locally and they remain active. The 2017 General Election was certainly a setback – with the SNP launching and then suspending ScotRef within the space of a few months – but at the same time, there is the campaigning work of Common Weal, Women for Independence, Phantom Power and Business for Scotland. Local groups are active too – they may have no definite target to focus on but they have not faded away.

Similarly, whilst public support on independence is fairly static – Yes and No bob around a little bit, with some opinion polls frozen at 2014 levels – support has not disappeared back to pre-referendum levels. Remember it was in the 20s around 2010 and 2011 and struggled for large parts of the campaign.

The bad news is that the SNP has lost some of its political momentum and the route to a future referendum is obscured by current politics and patterns. The Conservative’s Hard Unionism was popular at the two elections of 2017 and they have built their recovery on total opposition to another referendum – they need this issue as much as the SNP. How we get past this is a challenge.

So, what do we do? Well, both patience and quiet building are required. Let me suggest two things for individuals and groups to engage in: doubtless things that will be discussed at the forthcoming Scottish Independence Convention in November.

First, much of the infrastructure of Yes was built over time during referendum conditions and had a clear focus – September 18, 2014. We are now in a different position with no definite time frame but there are plenty of opportunities for activism and engagement. In short, if you’re looking for work there’s plenty of opportunities, crowdfunding and involvement so get the debit card out, join and support the Yes movement. You don’t need a referendum date to build for Yes.

Second, voter registration was key in 2014. We needed to get as many people onto the electoral register as possible but it was also connected directly to engagement. In short, all the doorstep canvassing, stalls and information events helped engage people. So, if you’re in a party or local Yes group, remember that voters are key. Keeping them registered and engaged matters. The grassroots was key to Scotland’s great democratic engagement experience from 2012-14 and repeating a little of that will help build support.


In his new book IndyRef to ScotRef: Campaigning for Yes, senior lecturer in history and politics Doctor Peter Lynch warns Yessers to be realistic and prepared, outlining what must be done to secure a Yes for Scotland.

We’re running extracts every day until Friday. The book is out now and available from all booksellers, priced at £14.99.