Professor launches online study into motivations of Scottish independence activist groups


Dr Iain Black hopes to learn more about the development of activism during indyref and the increased democratic engagement

A LEADING marketing associate professor is carrying out research into last year’s independence referendum to gain further understanding of what motivated various groups of Yes campaigners to get involved in the democratic process.

Dr Iain Black, a professor at Heriot Watt University for more than two years, who has been researching sustainable consumption, has launched an online survey targeted at activists who volunteered their time and effort into helping the Yes Scotland campaign.

Dr Black himself got involved in the pro-independence campaign last year which gave him a strong insight into the development of the social movement, he told CommonSpace.

“There are very interesting lessons to be learnt about how the population of a country were empowered and energised and how this movement grew.” Dr Iain Black

“Being part of the Yes campaign with Yes Edinburgh North and Leith allowed me to be at the heart of the social movement that developed and researching this was essentially too good (and too important) an opportunity to miss,” he said.

“This is particularly the case as my sustainability research has been moving from understanding how to persuade people to consume sustainably to understanding the role of consumers and citizens in influencing government and policy.”

He noted the Scottish population’s heightened engagement with politics via non traditional campaigning methods was something worth studying.

“There are very interesting lessons to be learnt about how the population of a country (including large sections of people traditionally disengaged with politics) were empowered and energised and how this movement grew, continues and has changed the volunteers and the politicians that represent them.

“I have work currently under review that examines reciprocal social and individual identity changes that occurred during the campaign – manifesting itself in the way volunteers and parties became more left wing, more social justice-oriented and stronger supporters of a greener future for our country.”

Dr Black, who has previously worked at the University of Edinburgh and Sydney University in Australia, hopes to compare and contrast the various campaign groups who worked under the Yes Scotland banner during the referendum campaign.

Many notable groups were forged throughout this period such as Women For Independence, the Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective and Common Weal.

“The survey looks to examine who took part in the campaign, to capture in detail what they did.” Dr Iain Black

“The survey looks to examine who took part in the campaign, to capture in detail what they did, as the existing evidence suggests that they were taking part in ways outside traditional campaigning.

“Crucially, by going into detail into the psychological characteristics and motivations of the campaigners, we can try to understand who got involved and why some did more than others and take understanding beyond the typical demographic-based examination.

“From an engagement perspective it will be particularly interesting to examine the differences between those active in the different Yes groups and seeing, for example whether those active in WFI differ from those active in RIC.”

Dr Black previously gave a lecture on de-consumerism hosted by The Common Weal at St Andrew’s University in April, and co-authored a paper on the topic along with Professor Deirdre Shaw of Glasgow University and Oxfam’s global research and policy advisor, Dr Katherine Trebeck.

His survey can be found at and is advisably completed on a tablet or desktop/laptop.

Picture courtesy of Martainn MacDhomhnaill