CommonSpace speaks to Jason Baird of the National Yes Registry about their SNP consultation, the Growth Commission and what the Yes movement cares about
GATHERING#2, the National Yes Registry’s upcoming public discussion event which will act as a conduit between the Scottish independence movement and an official consultation submitted to the SNP’s Spring conference, will focus on “reframing” a number of high-profile and sometimes controversial subjects in terms of winning a second independence referendum.
The event, which will take place on 24 November at the Albert Halls in Stirling, will follow on from Gathering#1, and will address a broad range of issues, drawn from the suggestions of regional Yes groups, and defined collectively under the banner of ‘How We Win’.
Organisers of the #Gathering2 have already emphasised that this forum will be an opportunity for the Yes movement to make their voices heard on issues previously outwith the consultation requirements of SNP party membership. In light of this, Gathering#2 will act as the vehicle for a consultation process on the Scottish Growth Commission report, which has inspired passionate debate already within pro-independence circles.
The event will only be the beginning, however, with debate and discussion continuing via a newly expanded IndyApp, with a new versiondue to launch in the coming weeks.
Detailing how the Gathering#2 will proceed, Jason Baird of the National Yes Registry told CommonSpace: “The way it’ll work is the same as we did last time: we set up tables with table-topics. I’ve already been ‘round the country doing regional meetings, and the groups have put forward topics that they think need to be covered.
“If the Growth Commission helps win the referendum, we’ll be interested. If it doesn’t, then we’re not interested. Those are really the only things the grassroots are interested in.” Jason Baird, National Yes Registry
“Last time, they put forward topics that they thought would be of interest to the movement as a whole, but now we’ve asked for topics that they think are going to be essential in order to win. We got about a hundred-odd of them, so we’re still in the process of boiling them down.
Baird emphasised that, while there may be some familiarity in the subjects under discussion, the approach to their relevance will be different and disciplined: “The thing is, a lot of them are similar to topics from the last gathering – currency, the EU, all of that stuff. So there’ll be a lot of overlap, but the topics will be discussed differently. Also, we have a different facilitating technique in place. The object of the day is not to come up to solutions to the topics, because its very difficult to do that over the course of day.
“Their role is to come at it like a normal Yesser would come at the problem, and set the parameters for the discussions that will follow. And then that, the whole day’s work, will become a post on the app. Each table will become a group on the app. It means that after the Gathering is finished, anyone can download the app, join the group and take part in the discussions that were kickstarted at the Gathering. So if you’ve specialist knowledge or inside experience, or if you’re just interested, you can start talking it through.
“The Gathering is about how we win – the preoccupations of the grassroots Yes movement. Everything is going to be seen under the terms of reframing. The Growth Commission consultation comes into it – the Growth Commission authors are coming in the morning, along with [SNP depute leader] Keith Brown. They will then do a presentation at the beginning, then they will visit each table, who will be able to ask them: ‘How will the Growth Commission interact with this topic?’
“Straight away, the Growth Commission is starting to get broken down into the topics that are of interest to the grassroots, rather than the other way around. It will assess the Growth Commission in terms of these topics’ requirements to win the next referendum.”
Explaining precisely how the points raised at the Gathering#2 will be translated into the SNP consultation, Baird says: “The way it gets converted into the document that will be handed over to the SNP at the Spring conference is a thread in the forums – anybody who is interested in that opens a committee on the forum, called an ‘action room’, compress and compile it into all the main topics, create a document, get everyone’s approval, and each of those goes to the SNP as the consultation.”
Because of the level of detail and research materials the forums allow for, says Baird, the consultation will be more than mere bullet-points: “The beauty of that is they get the compressed version, but the discussions that are had are archived in the group.”
Baird is keen to rise above the arguments over the Growth Commission and related economic policy which have followed its publication, and instead focuses on establishing points of connection and agreement within the independence movement: “It’s as much an education process as it is a consultation process. Hardly anyone has read the Growth Commission report, and hardly anyone will. We’re trying to find a way into the report on the subjects that are of interest to the grassroots. And rather than having us trawl through 500 pages, we’re having the authors come to the event.
“If the Growth Commission helps win the referendum, we’ll be interested. If it doesn’t, then we’re not interested. Those are really the only things the grassroots are interested in.
“Things like policy issues, especially things like the Growth Commission, can be quite divisive, and a lot of them relate to decisions to be made by the Scottish Government once we’re independent. There’s a possibility that’s what will get said: ‘This is all very interesting, but until we’re independent, there’s no point arguing about it.”
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