Robin McAlpine: We are "in talks" to relaunch the Yes campaign

Leftists call for campaign for independence by 2021

ROBIN MCALPINE has announced that he is in talks with pro-independence groups to reconvene the Yes movement.

Speaking at the opening rally of the 2016 Radical Independence Conference the director of the Common Weal think tank said that a new organisational structure was already being designed and "serious funding" sought.

The new outfit would involve figures from the independence convention, women for independence and the Radical Independence campaign among many others in a "stakeholder" structure with full-time officers, McAlpine told the conference.

"We cannot wait for external events to converge on us and 'trigger' a second independence referendum. We must decide to call a second referendum ourselves." Robin McAlpine

Speaking to the fourth national conference of Ric, held in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, McAlpine said: "I don't want to say too much, but we have been in talks to bring the Yes campaign back together."

"We cannot wait for external events to converge on us and 'trigger' a second independence referendum. We must decide to call a second referendum ourselves."

"We should call a second referendum once Yes is consistently polling at 60 percent or above."

McAlpine said that a worsening political and economic situation in Europe meant that any referendum after 2021 may be too late, and that parties should be entering the 2016 Scottish Elections with another referendum in their manifestos.

In August 2014 CommonSpace revealed that there was no discussion on either the 2014 Scottish independence referendum or a future referendum slated for the SNP's September 2015 conference.

In January 2016 First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that there would be no second referendum in the SNP's manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Elections. The SNP leader has said that there were a number of material circumstances which could 'trigger' a second independence referendum, chief among them a UK exit from the EU when a majority of Scots voted to remain in a forthcoming referendum.

Addressing the Ric conference, veteran independence campaigner Jim Sillars urged campaigners to prepare themselves for a second campaign.

"The yes movement has to get itself back together again. We have to campaign from now until a second referendum to firm people up in their support for independence.

"Between 1992 and 2013 the SNP did not campaign for independence, the result being that at the start of the campaign support for independence was around 29 per cent. This time we are starting from 45 per cent," he said.

"We need a new organisational centre. In needs to be a seven days a week organisation with employees. It needs to have intellectual rigor." Jim Sillars

Speaking in a session of the conference dealing with strategies for achieving independence, Sillars endorsed the plan to relaunch the independence campaign.

"We need a new organisational centre. In needs to be a seven days a week organisation with employees. It needs to have intellectual rigor," he said.

Sillars said that the new vehicle would be necessary to make up for the intellectual unpreparedness of the Yes campaign on matters including Scotland's currency and the economic value of Scotland's oil.
He said: "Independence requires a hard choice. Soft [on independence] people don't make hard choices."

He also reiterated his support for the Rise electoral alliance : "They are saying unambiguously, we need a second referendum. That's one of the main reasons I'll be voting for Rise," he said.

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gjm's picture


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 14:05

Hello Peter,

All the best..

I'm from Aberfeldy, I've voted SNP since I was 18 don't think I've missed many votes and have never voted for any other party. I have a deep respect for them but the cause needs a boost and a reconvened YES campaign can provide it. The pace is too slow. Now is the time. The Independence movement needs to reach out to folk and put in the work on the things we need as a country that we do not yet have, This will win support.

I know why certain issues are left aside as they are not barriers to Independence and require a debate in their own right. I am sweirt to take my example from the often false world of economics but I believe we need a democratic central bank and this idea has many powerful enemies. The US has been a battleground over this for more than 2 centuries. The difference between the YES and the NO in terms of the power and money is still enormous. If the SNP feel obligated to move at the pace of the punters (in thrall) and are ridiculed as they go by the State, British press and other agents in Scotland, this slows progress. I think a YES campaign could do very good work and help to nail Independence down quickly and I trust McAlpine and others to do this work honestly and for the benefit of the people and the country.

I've now looked up the word, thrall, and it was maybe too strong a word to have used but not by much!

gjm's picture


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 13:03

I agree with Peter Bell on everything he says about the rights of the country and the people to be Independent and sovereign regardless of the political preferences of those who fight for our cause today. I disagree with him on the reconvening of the YES campaign. The SNP are in thrall to their central reason for existing, that is, to return national sovereignty to the people of Scotland. This is admirable and it is logical. That means they are duty bound to submit themselves to the authority of the punters and cannot act to declare Independence or a new date for another referendum unless the punters demand it.. Reconvening the YES campaign can encourage within the Scottish population this demand. It can also build support for the features of a nation that we will need when that day comes. The SNP and a reconvened YES movement will therefore work together even if they are not part of the same political set up.


Mon, 02/22/2016 - 06:57

Gordie McRobert

I must first repeat that my comments specifically relating to Robin McAlpine were inappropriate. I am no aware that the article is very misleading in a number of respects. Happily, I will have an opportunity to apologise to Robin in person when he comes to Perth on Wednesday evening.

As to your other comments, I think it would be a mistake to take an either/or approach to the SNP and a revivified Yes movement. A phrase that I used often during the first referendum campaign was, "Many voices! One message!", and I think that sentiment may be even more relevant now than it was then.

The "one message" is, of course, independence. But various people and groups will have different ideas about what independence means, and how it is to be achieved. My contention has always been that there should be space in our politics for all of these voices. Even the ones which express support for independence in terms less measured than we might consider ideal.

What is regrettable is that certain factions within the wider Yes movement appear to have lost sight of the core message. They have introduced an element of partisan dispute and sought to distinguish themselves by framing their support for independence within a narrowly defined policy agenda.

The reason that the SNP works as the political arm of the independence movement, and as a unit around which the wider Yes campaign can coalesce is that he party's commitment to independence has never been conditional on any kind of policy agenda. While the White Paper published during the first referendum campaign was necessary, it also caused difficulty for the SNP in that it could be misrepresented as prescriptive rather than as the 'serving suggestion' that it was intended to be.

Lessons must be learned from this. If we try to sell independence as a detailed scheme for Scotland's future then we will inevitably deter those who are uncomfortable with this scheme. We must be clear that independence is not about taking a particular path but about unlocking potential.

It is good that we should talk about being independent and what this might mean. But this should never be at the expense of a focus on becoming independent. And that is where the SNP has a crucial role.

RISE is an unwelcome development. It's time is not now. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, our circumstances dictate that we absolutely require a political force powerful enough to impact on the British establishment. That can only be the SNP. All I ask is that the non-SNP part of the Yes movement recognise this. And that they modulate their voice accordingly.


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 13:15

Gordie McRobert

I don't see where we are in disagreement. My whole point was that the SNP and the Yes movement are two essential parts of the effort. Both are essential.

But I have to dispute you assessment of the SNP being "in thrall to their central reason for existing". If the last two parliaments have proved anything it is that the SNP is perfectly capable of being both the party of independence AND a party of government.


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 12:12

Kathleen Caskie

It seems that this article is wrong in a variety of ways. I think Common Space has some questions to answer about its reporting.


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 10:41

I think it is now generally accepted that Common Space has metamorphosed into the voice of RISE in much the same way that the Daily Record is the house organ of British Labour in Scotland. That is a matter of editorial choice. Much as we may regret that decision, what is very much more disappointing is the descent into the mainstream media's tendency to pursue its agenda with lies and distortion.

The claim that "Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that there would be no second referendum in the SNP's manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Elections" is simply untrue. Here is what the First Minister actually said,

"Our manifesto will set out what we consider are the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum might be appropriate, but we can only propose.

It's then for people in Scotland, whether it is in this election or in future elections, to decide whether they want to vote for our manifesto and then if there is in the future another independence referendum, whether that's in five years or ten years or whenever, it will be down to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want to vote for independence or not.

So at every single stage this is something that is driven by and decided by the people of Scotland, not by politicians."

I have considerable respect for Robin McAlpine. But he is guilty of the most profound political naivety if he imagines that the cause of independence can be advanced by a reconstituted Yes campaign which, not only excludes the SNP, but actively attacks it with dishonest rhetoric indistinguishable from that deployed by British nationalists.

Realpolitik has no respect for wishful thinking. The SNP is the de facto political arm of the independence movement. There is no other party waiting in the wings to take over that role. And even if there were, it would be obliged to emulate the SNP in every way if it was to have any hope of similar success. There is no path to independence on any realistic time-scale which does not involve the SNP. You can be pro-independence and non-SNP. But you cannot be pro-independence and anti-SNP. And if you are lying about what Nicola Sturgeon said on the subject of a second independence referendum then the assumption must be that you are anti-SNP.

I can already hear the shrill accusations of "blind allegiance" from less intellectually acute readers. Such shallowness of thought is tragic on both a personal and a political level. It fails to recognise that the essential role of the SNP remains the same regardless of any notions of loyalty. The SNP is the political arm of the independence movement regardless of anybody's feelings about it. Even in the laughably unthinkable event that an old cynic like myself might have succumbed to unthinking partisan loyalty, it wouldn't alter the political reality in any way at all. The very notion of such devotion to a political party is ludicrous to me. But there can be no doubt that the SNP is hated by unionists precisely because they recognise that it is indispensable to the independence campaign even as some supposed supporters of independence seek to deny the fact.

The proposal to reconvene the Yes movement is basically sound. That movement never really went away. But we have to recognise that the power of the original Yes campaign came from the fact that it was a truly grass-roots movement. Yes Scotland was never more than a common point of reference for the multitude of disparate and self-contained Yes groups. What is required is, not the kind of hierarchical structure that Robin McAlpine appears to envisage, but simply a 'brand' around which the Yes groups can coalesce while still operating as a loose network rather than as a centrally directed organisation.

This re-conceptualising of Yes Scotland cannot hope to have any credibility if it excludes or opposes the SNP. The SNP is the lever by which we will achieve independence. It's the big stick we wield against the British establishment. It is what we, the people of Scotland, have chosen to make it. Rather than urging us to throw it away in favour of something so vague and insubstantial that it cannot even be described, Robin McAlpine should be imploring us to use the big stick. He should be advising us as to how we might best use the SNP as the tool by which we will restore our rightful constitutional status. He should be talking to us of the ways in which we can work with the SNP so as bring our government home.

He should be honest and candid about the fact that, without the SNP, the independence movement is going nowhere.


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 11:36

It seems that I may have been misled into doing Rob McAlpine an injustice. I am reliably informed that this article does not accurately reflect what he said. I apologise to him for making the mistake of trusting a second-hand account.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 02:46

I still have my "YES Scotland" campaign poster posted in my window because in a real sense, I have not had my rights to participate fully in an independence campaign respected as yet.
I didn't "lose" the indyref - it was stolen from me and the Scots by the UK police state, as mismanaged by the SNP government.
1) I, and many other unofficial campaigners (on both sides of the vote) were kept off TV broadcasting which was strictly limited to coverage of the official campaigns shoehorned into brief timeslots in the regular schedules.
To achieve the political education required, the indyref really required a 24/7 TV channel dedicated to the indyref so all those unofficial YES-campaigners could have made their own case for independence which was not in any way compromised by all the holes in Salmond's indy (S)White Paper.
The most powerful argument for Scottish independence is it enables Scots a fast track to a republic.
The parking of the republican argument - to be dealt with "after independence" - pushed by the official YES Scotland campaign and SNP orthodoxy was wrong but what was even more wrong is that it was only that view which was allowed on TV.
It would be equally wrong to have one single YES Scotland indyref2 campaign, just as solely in control, which had a different "line" on the question of the republic.
The "line" on the republic in indyref1 was wrong Yes. But what was even more wrong was that there was only the one "line", the SNP/YES Scotland line.

Independence and democracy is about a multitude of competing lines and as soon as there is only one line allowed - even if that one line becomes a RIC line, or a SSP-Cuba dictatorship style line - whatever - democracy, freedom and independence will have been lost.
As soon as there is only one "line", the democratic society we need with independence will be lost. We are better discussing how to allow a democratic society by figuring out how to counter attacks on free speech mounted by the police state under officials like Frank Mulholland, the SNP government's Lord Advocate.
In a real sense Frank Mulholland - a Salmond and Sturgeon appointee stole the indyref and he is stealing Scottish democracy today. If he is not removed from power, we are stuck.
2) In July 2014, 7 weeks before the independence referendum vote, my house was raided by Police Scotland, I was arrested, my computer equipment seized, held over night and in Aberdeen Sheriff Court bail conditions were imposed stopping me accessing Twitter, Facebook, my own website and social media generally.
3) The unfair "Edinburgh Agreement" which surrendered 100% of Scotland to the majority - as it happens to the 55% of NO voters. The alternative is partitioning Scotland into 2 states, both run from Holyrood but the independent Scottish state comprising the 4 council areas where a majority voted YES government with no devolution limits to powers.

Dave Coull (not verified)

Sat, 02/20/2016 - 23:32

I'm not sure whether to welcome this news or not. On the one hand, I suppose it's a good thing that, finally, a sort-of campaign for another referendum might be taking shape. On the other hand.....
"a new organisational structure was already being designed"
Doesn't sound very democratic.
"The new outfit would involve figures from the independence convention, women for independence and the Radical Independence campaign among many others in a 'stakeholder' structure with full-time officers."
Sounds a bit like Yes Scotland, which was set up as a "business" venture, and registered as a company, and its top brass, and its full-time officers, were all APPOINTED.
"I don't want to say too much, but we have been in talks to bring the Yes campaign back together."
Sounds like the talks could be about replicating the (failed) model of Yes Scotland.
"We should call a second referendum once Yes is consistently polling at 60 percent or above."
That is PATHETIC. That underplays the ability to bring folk round during the actual campaign. We achieved a 50% increase in support last time, despite unimpressive performances from the Yes Scotland office and official "Leaders" of the campaign. Next time we will be starting from a much higher base, with less of a mountain to climb. We don't need to start with 60% support, 54% in a couple of polls would be plenty.
If the "official" campaign is so timid, we might need an "unofficial" one.

Kathleen Caskie

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 11:49

On behalf of Women for Independence, while we're more than happy to talk to any organisation that broadly shares our goals, we are NOT currently "in talks" with anyone and, as such, this article is wrong.

Peter Johnston (not verified)

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 13:21

I don't think Yes should be reborn, Yes should be symbolic to another referendum. I do agree that a body should come together to discuss independence. But this body should be made from all walks of life in Scotland, there remit to shadow the Scottish government, producing pseudo policies and ideas on what an independent Scotland can look like. There remit must also investigate Scotland's economy and prospects for the future based on present and new data.


Sun, 02/21/2016 - 15:23

You can launch a Yes campaign but to what question? No one is asking one right now. You're never going to change opinion in the borders, or in the highlands and islands who view Holyrood in the same way Holyrood views Westminster; a far away, out of touch city, trying to dictate their way of life to them.
You'd be better saving your money for a big mobility push in the regions that already voted Yes last time round. Despite the high turnout, we needed another 100,000 or so to make it down a polling booth in those two regions. In addition, Aberdeen needs to turn Yes, so focus resources and cash up there. Open up tents and halls aimed at No voters. "Come in and have a chat, we don't bite!" Listen to their concerns. Genuinely, actually listen, rather than being in debating mode and waiting to jump in to tell them why they're wrong. Then see if they can't be pursuaded to take a booklet home and have a read through it. People will be a lot more open to viewpoints when there isn't an actual vote coming up and you aren't pushing them to commit one way or another. Given their own time, and changing circumstances in Aberdeen, they might just come round.

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.