BELIEVE in Scotland is best known for providing the independence movement with in-depth articles, eye-catching leaflets and widespread billboard campaigns in 2019.

However, in the last few years, the group has become the behind-the-scenes engine of the Scottish independence campaign – and those involved are now ready for everyone to know it.

On the ground, 127 local Yes organisations have joined the group, with 17 regions created. Each of the 17 regions has elected representatives to the Believe in Scotland Campaign Steering Group, which has now met three times to drive the campaign forward.

They have each agreed to join and campaign under the umbrella of Believe in Scotland and have signed the code of conduct, which maintains political party neutrality. Believe in Scotland has already centrally arranged £5 million of insurance for stalls and events to protect volunteers and is in the process of providing a shared database with local group access.

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Their materials have successfully summarised the breadth, structure, and quality of Scotland. More than 2.6 million items of independence campaigning material have been distributed in partnership with local Yes groups and activists.

So how did a material-producing website become the leading independence campaign organisation machine which has moved the polls and protected indy support during lockdown, and what’s next?

In January 2019, Believe in Scotland was launched, spun out of Business for Scotland, one of Scotland’s largest think tanks focusing on private-sector economics and policy. Business for Scotland provided information and fact-checked economic election promises throughout the UK elections in 2016 and 2019 as well as during Brexit.

With the business network financially behind it, a goal to shift the independence polls through consistent, concise information and grassroots activists yearning for organisation and vision – its campaign had begun. The pandemic hit, but it didn’t seem to have stopped the group before it started. Believe in Scotland, like many other groups across the world, adapted.

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The group set about building a unique social media following of around 400,000. Believe in Scotland also owns and operates the two largest Yes pages on Facebook, which are the only ones to boast more than 100,000 likes each. The We Believe in Scotland page has 148,000 likes and it also runs the largest and most active Yes Group on Facebook called simply Believe in Scotland, which has 30,500 members.

The campaign’s 17 local pages are in their infancy but are growing and other social media platforms are also receiving investment, giving the organisation a combined reach of one million people through social media on a single day during its August Day of Action.

As the first fully inclusive and democratic grassroots-led Yes campaigning organisation, the campaign is funded almost entirely from individual donations and memberships. The Believe in Scotland Stakeholder membership programme was launched in 2019 and costs just £5 a month. A free subscriber membership is also available. In total, there are 16,000 members. It also offers social media and local press officer training to activists, with 43 local Yes group social media officers undergoing social media training in this week alone.

The 2021 Autumn of Action saw the polls move from 47% to averaging 53% at the campaign’s end, with one poll registering 55% Yes. However, independence campaigning stopped for the Holyrood elections and Yes support inevitably dropped again.

Believe in Scotland has pledged to not stop campaigning until independence is reached.

The group has stated: “Going forward, there can be no stopping, no pausing.

“From now on, we campaign until independence is achieved and we will not wait for the political parties to act – they must follow.”

The group embodies ‘actions speak louder than words’. On October 22, its next Day of Action will mark one year to go to the Scottish Government’s suggested date for indyref2. October will also see a new national billboard campaign, building upon the success of the six billboard campaigns already put in the field in the last year.

October 30 will see the post-lockdown relaunch of their Independence ambassador Skills training programme and Yes groups will be provided with two new leaflets on Brexit and the NHS. The group estimates 300,000 new leaflets will be delivered through doors by groups in October.

A major new fundraising effort by the group to get ready for a major Yes push in the new year will also be getting started, and their sold-out book, Scotland the Brief, is to receive an upgrade in the form of a second edition, out in November.

There will be up-to-date arguments for the next independence referendum and a new look. The launch will be in Glasgow on November 30.

So, how is this being received on the ground? Grassroots activists can’t sing the group’s praises enough. Kevin Johnson of Yes Helensburgh, who kept street stalls going throughout lockdown, said the group and the information is more palatable to undecided voters as it is not done by a political party.

He added: “I would say it’s critical to the Yes movement for having the information. It gives us the confidence that the information is also credible.

‘IT’S well-researched, a valuable tool for the grassroots movement and the graphics for their posters are really good at catching the eye. We find when we put things on the street boards to spread the message along the street where we have our stall, people who don’t want to approach the stall read the boards and take a picture and we find interaction that way can reach those soft Nos and undecided.

“We had a meeting last Tuesday, and there were 90 people in attendance. Believe in Scotland gives us updates on how things are going and gives people the opportunity to express their issues, their concerns, and their positive messaging to the rest of the grassroots.

“It’s bringing a large majority of Yes groups together so we can function as a unit, so they have the resources, materials, and opportunity to have discussions with others.”

Kenny Lowe, Yes Eastwood convener and one of the admins on the social media pages, has said it’s all about reframing the argument this referendum, from the negative to the positive and the ambassador and the media training have assisted him in doing that himself.

“I’ve found myself changing the way I speak when I campaign from how political parties have framed it and it’s received by people in a much more open way. With this and the resources being produced, it’s doing things far in excess of what anyone else is doing for the Yes movement.”

In 2014, the official campaign was Yes Scotland, launched on May 25, 2012. It was an alliance of the SNP, Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party. There has been speculation over the return of the campaign or if another will rise to being the official campaign of indyref2.

Johnson believes that whoever leads the next campaign would have to aspire to the roots that Believe in Scotland already has in the Yes movement. He said: “No one can control the grassroots; they will do what they do and use the material that is suitable for their area.

“I think everyone is beginning to mobilise and depending on the judgement from the supreme court, I think campaign launching will begin soon. I think Believe in Scotland has a really good opportunity to be the main lead. There can only be one.

“Personally, I think as it’s been so helpful and resourceful with the Yes groups, and fundraising for us – it has helped push the confidence of the independence movement.

“I think whoever becomes the main lead, they would have to aspire to some of the things that BIS already has. The Yes movement is already entranced in Believe in Scotland already, so it has a good chance.”

Lowe echoed this, saying: “I’d rather it not be party-led, I’d rather it be an organisation like Believe in Scotland. That’s why I put a lot of hope into it being the leading group or at least one of the leading groups.

‘THEY’VE got the ideas, the finances, and the general way of doing things better. Yes Scotland seemed good at the time, but now Believe in Scotland seems like a much better-structured group.”

The work being done on the research side is not going unnoticed either. Its research team, Scotianomics, has been the leading voice in promoting and publishing research on the wellbeing economic approach in Scotland.

This culminated in the delivery of one million copies of the Wellbeing Economy newspaper to homes in Autumn 2021, in partnership with the SNP and The National. At last weekend’s SNP national conference, Believe in Scotland witnessed a major step forward for its wellbeing economy advocacy when Nicola Sturgeon cited the approach in her address.

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The First Minister said: “In short, with independence, we will show how we can break with the low-productivity, high inequality Brexit-based UK economy.

“And use the full powers of independence to build an inclusive, fair, wellbeing economy that works for everyone – that is the prize of independence.”

Believe in Scotland aims to reach the undecided and target the soft underbelly of the No camp.

It has no aim of hitting the Yes bubble, as the time for that is over. The time now is to get the message out to those in Scotland who are not reading this.

It needs people to join the 127 Yes groups already working with it, join its vehicle of organisation, pledge support, assist with action, and help Scotland get to Yes.