Believe in Scotland responds to the Herald’s ill-informed and inaccurate column

Last Saturday more than 1,000 Yes activists reached out to their local communities to put the case for independence in a way that connected with those who have not yet made up their minds on the most important issue facing Scotland.

Hundreds of thousands of voters were engaged through street stalls, mass leaflet drops, social media and our Open Minds newspaper distributed through doors all over Scotland.

Believe in Scotland’s Day of Action for Independence marked a return to active campaigning after long months of lockdown and was a huge success. The Yes movement joined in by staging hundreds of events throughout the country and everyone who took part should feel proud of what was achieved by the first of a planned series of events in an Autumn of Indy Action.

To watch the Yes movement spring into action after such a difficult time in lockdown, with an unprecedented coordinated action involving 112 groups active for the first time in over a year was uplifting. The feedback from those involved has been universally positive; it seems to have been just the shot in the arm the Yes movement required.

Those who took part in our Day of Action deserve admiration and thanks. They certainly don’t deserve snide carping from the sidelines

Those who took part deserve admiration and thanks. They certainly don’t deserve the snide carping from the sidelines we’ve seen on a few platforms since then, particularly in a column by Neil Mackay published by the Herald. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion but there are a number of factual mistakes in Mr Mackay’s column. Let’s take just a few.

Claim 1: The Day of Action was a damp squib

This is simply not true.  More than 1,000 people took part from 112 Yes groups across Scotland. They distributed the bulk of the 600,000 individual items of campaigning materials available to them, including 200,000 Scotland.. a Wealthy Nation leaflets, 200,000 UK Pays the Worst Pension in Developed World leaflets, 75,000 Independence and Scotland’s Wellbeing leaflets, 75,000 Scotland's Renewables Potential leaflets, 40,000 Open Minds newspapers, 1,500 car stickers, 3,000 badges, 2,000 Mini Scotland The Brief books, 500 Maxi STB books, 500 mugs, 600 packs of 6 postcards, plus some leaflets and books from other groups.  By any standards the day was a huge success and we have already received orders for tens of thousands of leaflets from groups who have run out.

Claim 2: ‘Some well-intentioned souls set up little stalls in town centres and mostly seemed to talk to other well-intentioned souls with similar political beliefs’

Where is the evidence is for such condescending statements?  Yes groups were reaching out to undecided voters in their own communities. They were opening up conversations on independence. ‘More than 120 little stalls were set up in town centres’ ... this was indeed one of the  actions we encouraged. It was part of a plan to engage voters outside the Yes bubble and provide them with the facts they need to make an informed decision at the next referendum and we did that.

Claim 3: A few rather dreary images appeared on social media – folk standing in small Saltire-bedecked groups trying to smile bravely in forlorn streets

This statement is the most detached from reality in the whole article. The facts: #BelieveinScotland hash tag was top trending in Scotland most of the afternoon and evening, alongside the others we also used, #StillYes & #Yesbecause. More than 5,000 tweets used our hashtag on Twitter last weekend. We gathered over 150 images from the hashtag which are in our gallery. This can be accessed here:

We reached more then 500,000 people on Facebook during the day - this is just on our own channels. An educated guesstimate would be a reach of more than a million when you add The National's site and those of Yes groups.

We reached 300,000 on Twitter over the day, but when you consider other campaign pages had been retweeting the same posts from activists throughout the day we would suggest that most people in Scotland on Twitter would have seen the trending posts, or hashtag at some point over the day. So Mr Mackay's ridiculous comment doesn't exactly bode well for the state of investigative journalism at the Herald.

Claim 4: Activism within the independence movement today mostly means telling other people you support independence, and managing to deter soft No voters with insults and over the top patriotism

This was the direct opposite of what was happening during the Day of Action. No one was hurling insults. Instead we were engaging undecided voters in open and informed conversation. We don’t engage with ‘over the top patriotism’.  Indeed the Scottish independence movement is inclusive and the antidote to the over the top neoconservative Brexit Britain patriotism that is destroying the UK. It would, however,  be impossible to encourage people to Believe in Scotland without explaining the many great aspects which make the country worth believing in. A rejection of old-fashioned nationalism is at the top of that list.

Claim 5: 'Its unfair, though, to pick on ordinary folk doing their best for what they believe in – these campaigners are simply trying, in their clumsy fashion, to keep their spirits up, and further their cause'

Yet picking on ordinary folk is exactly what the column does. Even the words ‘in their clumsy fashion’ are added to undermine the day’s excellent efforts. Mr Mackay and others that make such stock out of supporting the independence cause sell their reputations cheaply if they misrepresent the sterling work of the grassroots independence movement as anything less than worthy and much needed at this juncture in the path to independence.

The column hasn’t a good word to say about anyone or any way of campaigning for independence. It’s dispiriting and dismal and designed to stop any activists doing anything, ever

Claim 6:  ‘Independence is now caught between its flag-waving grassroots, which will win no more support no matter how hard it tries, and a lame and fatigued Sturgeon government which cannot risk stirring the passions needed to take independence over the line

Mr Mackay’s attack on the SNP takes various forms but can be boiled down to this quote. His column dismisses the Scottish government AND the grass roots. He dismisses the Greens – they have only ‘minority support’ - and indeed other pro-indy politicians. The Scottish government is too cautious, the grass-roots too ‘patriotic’  … the column hasn’t a good word to say about anyone or any way of campaigning for independence. It’s dispiriting and dismal and designed to stop any activists doing anything, ever.  This is doing the work of the Unionist cause - when the author should be pointing out the damage Brexit and the UK government’s incompetence is doing to Scotland.

Believe in Scotland will continue to work positively and tirelessly to bring Scotland’s its independence. It will motivate the Yes movement to do likewise and organise events aimed at inspiring activists and persuading undecided voters. It will work with the Yes family to deliver the messages that will take the vote over the line. It will always reject the philosophy that it is better to criticise than to actively get involved.

Believe in Scotland’s founder Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said: ‘Neil MacKay’s column was an unwarranted, ill-informed and unprofessional  attack on a superb Day of Action. It contained many assertions for which there is no evidence and that could easily be disproved if the journalist had done any research. As a result it came to conclusions that were simply wrong. We remain determined to put forward the right arguments to convince those who do not yet support independence and we’re delighted to have the support of the Yes movement in doing so.’

By Richard Walker