Alastair MacDonald, Yes Highland
The idea of forming a Yes Highland group came from members of InverYESs in the summer of 2016. We still had some names and contact numbers from other Yes groups, left over from the 2014 referendum.
Word spread around, as it does. So we had more than 30 delegates attending the first meeting on August 6, 2016, in the Spectrum Centre in Inverness.
Groups came from the Black Isle, Beauly, Dingwall, Badenoch and Strathspey, Elgin, Forres and Skye to attend that first meeting. Importantly, we also had a representative of the local Polish community.
The topics discussed included what we had learned from the 2014 referendum and how we might apply those lessons to the next one.
We also examined voting patterns in the region, and discussed how we might co-operate with one another over the coming months.
The group felt that Inversness was the best place to hold further meetings.
We have had about three a year since that first one. The InverYESs Hub at 45 Huntly Street is where most meetings now take place.
Visits are made between and to other groups to get a feeling of the local dynamics and the ideas cropping up in each group.
These visits have also been effective in stimulating support for the establishment of new group sin Highland and Island populations of relatively low density.
Each group has one or two delegates for example Yes Ross and Surtherland, Yes Lochaber, Yes Skye, Yes Nairn and InverYESs.
We do not hold tight to this or restrict attendance. The representatives tend to keep in touch with one another and to pass information on to their own group.
Some groups have members talented in specific ways, and so have specialised in devising leaflet designs and content with significant help from Colin Dunn.
Co-ordination of leaflet print runs reduces costs and gets wide Highland and Island area coverage for the message each leaflet contains.
Some individuals have badge-design skills and two groups have the machine to make these into badges for distribution. Individuals have learned from one another to carry saltire and other badges in their pockets to give to folk they meet and talk to in buses, trains, plane, pubs, cafes, restaurants and elsewhere.
The word spreads. International visitors are also encouraged to take the indy message back to their cruise ships and from there back to their home countries.
Other groups have organises talks with speakers from outside the region such as Jess Smith talking about travelling folk, Craig Dalzell speaking about banking and currency and Prof Allan MacInnes discussing history. Links with the local Common Weal group have stimulated Morgan Cowley to arrange a series of group analyses of How to Start a New Country and this continued into four seminars on the SNP Sustainable Growth Commission paper.
Most groups do leafleting and the specific methods used are shared and learned from. For example, repeat visits to specific areas with different topics covered in the leaflets have increased awareness and positive responses to those doing the work.
Shared ideas have led to the formation of five local area groups on Skye co-ordinated under the Yes Skye and Lochalsh banner.
New groups have been formed; increased visibility and supportive action are the intentions. Banner parading at AUOB marches throughout Scotland enabled groups to share bus transport to these events and to socialise/compare notes in the bus, on the march and afterwards in pubs, cafes and restaurants. Shared stories and photos have contributed to group positive spirit.
Further skill development within the group is continuing this weekend with many of us attending the Business for Scotland Ambassador training event in Inverness.
These events are going to be made available at other venues (see online) and additional materials are available.
Sunday National, 21,10,18