Activist surge follows indyref result

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Increasing numbers of people are becoming politically active following the no vote in Scotland's independence referendum

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23rd September 2014 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Scotland is witnessing an unprecedented upsurge in activism following the no victory in the recent referendum.

The momentum created by the grassroots yes campaign is spilling over into post-indyref political life as pro-independence parties experience a tremendous surge in numbers applying to join.

Meanwhile, there has been a ferment of activity among the campaign groups which sprang up in the past few years, with the likes of Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), Women For Independence, National Collective, Carers For Yes and Third Sector Yes assessing their next steps.

There has been an overwhelming desire to keep the mood for change alive among grassroots yes activists, some of whom have begun to coalesce around the 45 movement – which takes its name from the percentage who voted for independence.

One immediate consequence has been the numbers now filling out the ranks of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish Green Party (SGP) and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

There’s a feeling of a people which has woken up and is not about to go back to sleep

The SNP has claimed around 25,000 new members since 19 September, boosting its numbers to 50,000 and making it the UK’s third largest political party.

Around 3,000 have joined the SGP, swelling its numbers to 5000, and the SSP has reported 2,000 new applications.

Parties involved in the Better Together campaign - including the Conservatives and Labour - have also claimed membership rises, though figures were not availaible.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people have registered an interest in attending an RIC conference in Glasgow in November.

Campaign groups say this was the consequence of the unprecedented levels of political engagement caused by the independence referendum and a mood to make the referendum not the end but the starting point of a process for change.

An RIC spokesperson said: “There’s a feeling of a people which has woken up and is not about to go back to sleep. I’d say we are seeing unprecedented levels of activism. People feel empowered and this could express itself in political activism, social justice campaigning or even in volunteering.

“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. During the yes campaign, groups sprang up representing every aspect of Scottish life, from trade unionism to arts and culture. Mostly they were organised from bottom up and people’s experience has been such that they don’t just want to walk away.

“Whatever forms they take has still to be decided and things are very fluid, but the mood for change is immense.”

A spokesperson for Third Sector Yes said: “It has been a privilege to be part of the inspirational wider yes movement, which has embodied the Scotland that we all wanted to build: positive, open, inclusive, ambitious, egalitarian and outward-looking, with social justice at its heart. As third sector people we will continue to try to build that kind of Scotland, but for now we must do so within the continued straightjacket of tired, limited, market-oriented Westminster politics.

“Huge numbers of us have been inspired to question the status quo and to campaign for change; not seeking independence for its own sake, but in order to create a different and better way of doing things. In the long-term, that isn’t going away.”

The Radical Independence conference takes place in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow on Saturday, 22 November.