IT has been a year where the Yes movement had to do what everyone else did, which was act safely and conduct business online as much as possible.
The decision was taken by All Under One Banner early in the coronavirus crisis to cancel their marches, and in total some seven marches and rallies did not go ahead. Other marching events planned by the likes of the Scottish Independence Movement (SIM), Yes 2 and Forward As One also did not proceed.
What did proceed was the prosecution and jailing of Manny Singh, formerly of AUOB and now with SIM, on charges of failing to comply with Glasgow Council’s licence restrictions for the huge march in the city in May 2019. Another former AUOB activist, Gary Kelly, now with Yes 2, is still facing two criminal charges of failing to comply with licences dating from the Aberdeen march in 2019.
The intimidation of both men and the Yes movement generally should not be forgotten.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year for the Yes movement was the cancellation of the major events surrounding the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in April.
Some small commemorations took place, but in common with AUOB and other groups, the Arbroath organisers acted with public safety first and foremost in mind.
That has been the correct safety-first attitude across the Yes movement. Yes groups have either ceased or drastically curtailed face-to-face meetings and campaigning – at times, it has seemed that the whole movement has gone online.
Every group or organisation that has contacted The National has emphasised that they will get back to marching, rallying and campaigning as soon as it is safe to do so.
We can safely predict a massive upsurge in Yes activity once the pandemic is officially under control – even more so when the date of the second independence referendum is known, and that will surely be in late 2021, or 2022 at the latest.
Tribute should be paid at this point to the Scottish Independence Foundation which has funded many grassroots activities over the past two years and will continue to do so. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of online activity using Zoom and similar methods has grown exponentially over the course of the last nine months.
It would be impossible to chart every Yes online event, but several stand-out activities must be mentioned.
AUOB conducted one of the largest online conferences ever held in Scotland with around 2000 people participating in its virtual conference and follow-up in November.
It featured, among other prominent pro-indy people, National columnist Lesley Riddoch interviewing SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford – SNP MPs and MSPs have been prominent in many local and national online events in recent months. Out of those AUOB events has come the plan for a new national Yes membership organisation, details of which will be announced early in the new year.
The Voices for Scotland group, set up by the Scottish Independence Convention, has organised numerous online conversations with prominent activists, but their best was the Big Indy Night In earlier this month – a stunning event featuring speakers and musicians showing the breadth of the Yes movement as we prepare for 2021.