EVERY Sunday at 11am, a group of locals head to Arno’s cafe for coffee and cake. They discuss their week, recent news, sport and then do the quiz in the Sunday National.

The group of 14, or more on a busier weekend, take up three tables, rearrange the furniture, and fervently keep scores throughout the quiz – half points too.

The only way you would have known they were committed independence activists was by Ally the dug’s rain jacket.

Gordon Ferrie was one of the original few who came to the cafe one Sunday with his wife Jan, paper in hand. He and David Stokes were having a coffee and did the quiz together. They thought “let’s do that again next week” and since then, the morning has grown.

The owner is Dutch and politically neutral but smiles watching the group’s hilarity and chatter as he takes their orders and serves the (delicious) cakes. “He seems to like us,” Gordon said.

The group even once emailed The National to get Dutch/Scottish questions added to the quiz for Arno – “I didn’t know any of them,” he pointed out and they laughed.

Gordon said: “We have a coffee, cake and craic before the quiz – which involves a real group effort.”

David joked that “the whole point of it is holding back Gordon” from giving half points to anything close to the right answer.

The National: The catch up on Sunday is looked forward toThe catch up on Sunday is looked forward to (Image: NQ)

“We’re pretty lenient,” chimed Ian Roberts, who dubs himself and his wife as “the English contingent”.

He added: “Sunday mornings are great; we have an hour or so and just have a laugh and catch up."

Ian and his wife Marjory joined the group after moving from Bulgaria back to the UK. When considering moving back to England, the negatives associated with Brexit were too disastrous, so they decided on Scotland as there could be a chance of rejoining the EU as an independent country.

Friendly teasing, sarcasm, and innuendos litter the conversations as well as care, intelligence, and respect. A few are SNP members, sit on their constituency association, or had a hand in setting up Yes Carrick – one of the latest Yes groups to form and host events in the Tory-entrenched south of Scotland.

Debate was sparked when asked what their thoughts were on the de facto referendum. “Trying to get consensus …” Gordon said and then blew out air as if to say “impossible”.

He added: “My thoughts are something that works as quickly as possible and doesn’t rely on having to trust the Westminster government, at all, because it is really frustrating. I get the argument that’s on the table, it’s got to be the legal independence to re-join the EU or become members of the UN.

The National: Debates were had whilst Ally kept watchDebates were had whilst Ally kept watch (Image: NQ)

“What we have agreed on is it has to be one question, basically that – ‘If you vote for SNP –’”

David interrupted: “Surely, it’d be ‘if you vote for an independence party’? Because we’ve got to get all camps on board.”

Gordon nodded as if the idea of parties standing together was still fresh and he did mean that: “Aye, you’re right, David – that’s what we’re discussing tomorrow night.

"There’s also a proposal that it’ll be a single-issue manifesto.”

“Yeah, I think it’s important that we accept that we don’t play games here – because the question of independence is bigger than the party,” agreed David.

Gordon continued: “Another one of the proposals is looking at the next General Election and adopting a straight, first past the post majority. The proposal that’s been put forward is to use a simple majority of seats, but others say it should be votes."

Martin Durnan offered: “If we are going to use the General Election as first past the post, it’s gotta be a simple majority of seats, it can’t be votes – we’re stuffed – a tweak to that would be that we take that vote to say we want a referendum.

READ MORE: SNP agree draft resolution for indyref2 conference in March

“It cannae be seats. First past the post is inherently unfair and you can get every seat in Scotland with 31% of the votes so that is by no way the population saying ‘we want to have independence’, so it’s got to be votes – therefore –” said David until Martin repeated: “It’s got to be seats, if you do votes you’d be as well to stick your finger straight in your eye.”

As the conversation drew to a respectful stalemate, David shouted “Division!”, laughter erupted, and they sipped their coffee.

The National: The atmosphere was full of friendship and funThe atmosphere was full of friendship and fun (Image: NQ)

Branches, associations, groups, and parties are all having this debate, in an attempt to navigate the legalities of obtaining a referendum without a Section 30 order from Westminster, and then submit that in writing as a resolution to SNP conference before the deadline on February 17.

The cafe itself is filled with local art and organic products. Looking in the window from the quaint Ayrshire street, you wouldn’t think the locals were discussing the constitutional path of our nation’s future.

The quiz began with Jan Ferrie, Gordon’s wife and another of the original few, shouting to the group to get the blether wrapped up and focused.

“Question one, the fictional character Lara Croft attended which Scottish school?”

“Gordonstoun,” Alison said and the group rumbled agreement.

“Can I say Glenalmond?” offered Gordon, “For half marks?” Jan teased and the group laughed.

READ MORE: 'The world is watching': SNP MP lays out six points to 'underpin' indyref2 debate

Protestant reformation, Pictish stones, football managers, films, books, Scottish spies, kings, saints, politics, transport and food were all included in the quiz. Darvel FC even got a shout-out.

The two geography teachers in the group were put in the spotlight when question 12 asked: “Which archipelago has more islands, Orkney or Shetland?”

“Ooooo,” was the reaction and the group split to discuss, “Well, the good thing is it’ll either be Orkney or Shetland,” joked Helen.

A vote was held, with majority votes for Shetland.

Jan went through the answers (Shetland was one) and that week’s score was 18 and a half points.

“That’s not too bad actually,” and a well done was offered round. One by one, they finished their coffee and headed out to enjoy their Sunday – a few went to David and Alison’s veg honesty box to get some turnips.

The National: A Sunday morning well spent by locals in StraitonA Sunday morning well spent by locals in Straiton (Image: NQ)

When asked how long they had been doing this weekly routine, multiple answers were put forward, “God, it feels like forever” from Helen, “A few years?” from Christina, and Jan detailed, “Two years past autumn, we started after lockdown in 2020.”

When asked whether any Yes community could start doing this to involve undecided in the community in discussion, the simple and resounding answer was: “Yes.”

Thank you to owner Arno, and the group: Gordon and Jan Ferrie, David and Alison Stokes, Barry and Dorothy Cowan, Ian and Christina Beaton, Martin and Lena Durnan, Paige Paterson, Ian and Margery James Roberts, Helen Copeland, Alison Wood, and of course, Ally the Dug.