“There are times when a country needs troublemakers. This is one.”
— Ian Hamilton QC , who returned the Stone of Destiny to Scotland
National Collective was the cultural movement for Scottish independence during Scotland’s Referendum from December 2011 to September 2014.
Starting in a spare room, we set out with the aim of imagining a better Scotland and inspiring others to campaign through art, written and spoken word, events, local groups and social media. By the end of the campaign we had over 4,000 members, including the support of many of Scotland’s most prominent artists, writers and thinkers.
In 2013, we stood up to the world’s largest oil trading company after receiving legal threats from their CEO after he donated to the No campaign, and won.
In the summer of 2014, we organised a mammoth 30 day national grassroots pro-independence festival that took place across Scotland during July. The Yestival tour showcased the grassroots cultural movement for Scottish Independence and included communities in the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, central Scotland, Western Isles, the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland, the North East, Angus, Perthshire and Fife as well as all of the country’s seven cities.
That same summer, we also our put on our first ever Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme at the Scottish Story Telling Centre titled ‘National Collective presents…’.
We published our first book in collaboration with Wordpower titled “Inspired by Independence”. It was a snapshot of the cultural campaign for Scottish independence. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that it was “a beautiful addition to my bookshelves” and the contemporary historian David Torrance described it as “a rather splendid piece of publishing”.
Later that year, we organised #YesBecause day, a social media event designed to encourage people to explain why they are voting Yes in 140 characters on Twitter and demonstrate the unfettered reality of the Yes movement. For 24 hours it was trending in Scotland, UK and in the top 3 Worldwide, reaching over 10,000,000 people across the planet with 101,238 tweets.
Although the Yes movement didn’t achieve its primary goal of Scottish independence, we made substantial progress against all of the odds with an unprecedented 20% swing to Yes and a political engagement powered turnout of 84.59%.
During Scotland’s Referendum, National Collective had more followers on Facebook and Twitter than the Scottish Tories, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens. Our innovative people powered digital campaign punched well above its weight, reaching millions of people in every part of Scotland via political messages, infographics, videos and website updates, at a time when online campaigning was still in its infancy.
Despite being a sectoral campaign and largely self-funded, research by Heriot Watt University found that 30.8% of pro-independence campaigners were active in National Collective’s campaign during Scotland’s Referendum.
National Collective organiser Andrew Redmond Barr wrote an account of our grassroots campaign in the book “Summer of Independence”, described by Ian Hamilton QC, who returned the Stone of Destiny to Scotland, as “a remarkable book”.
Individually, our members now continue to make their mark by using their skills and experience to help shape Scotland in their own way.
The List’s ‘The Hot 100’
In October 2014, Scottish cultural bible The List magazine awarded us second place in their ‘The Hot 100″, beaten to the top spot by Peter Capaldi – the newly announced Dr Who.
What People Said About Us
“National Collective were without doubt one of the highlights of 2014.”
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland
“National Collective changed Scotland.”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture
“A genuine powerful cultural front with a place in history.”
Pat Kane, musician, journalist and political activist
“National Collective, loved all you fuckers!”
Irvine Welsh, novelist and playwright
“The success of National Collective had nothing to do with the arts-world names that it attracted. Any campaign can do that. It wasn’t trying to appeal to the arts establishment or bid for Arts Council grants. What was endearing and new about National Collective was the involvement of unimportant people who were invited to contribute their poetry, thoughts, art, photography, humour, knitting, or whatever, without being subjected to withering criticism.”
Ian Macwhirter, Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution
“There was an explosion of creativity surrounding the referendum campaign in the run up to 18 September, as people took to the streets and social media to make their diverse voices heard. The artist-run National Collective helped channel this energy, organising numerous events under the Yestival banner over the summer and making major contributions to the debate. By acting like they live in the early days of a better nation, they continue to inspire.”
Stewart Smith, awarding National Collective 2nd place in List’s Hot 100, 11th December 2014
“A cultural force, enlisting a large number of artists, musicians, writers and performers.”
Cole Moreton, The Telegraph, 11 May 2014
“The most significant cultural voice to emerge in the referendum debate so far.”
Andrew Whitaker, The Scotsman, 16th July 2013
“National Collective have been the inspiration of the independence debate so far. Out of one idea – independence – they’re drawing complexity, imagination and grassroots engagement.”
David Greig, playwright, The Sunday Herald, 27 April 2014
“A significant challenge to Scotland’s old media order.”
Kevin McKenna, The Observer, 30 March 2014
“National Collective have done some really creative instant graphics. There is a creative energy about the Yes campaign, which I like.”
Andrew Wolffe, design and brand agency Wolffe, The Sunday Times, 9 March 2014
“Look at the artists around indy-backing National Collective, you see happy, beautiful, young and genuinely creative people. People with imaginations. Imagine that.”
Rab McNeil, Holyrood Magazine, 17 February 2014
“The joyous and plain brilliant group of (mainly) young artists and creatives who have made this campaign fun.”
Robin McAlpine, The Common Weal Project, 30 September 2013
“The National Collective asked a country’s most creative minds to “imagine a better Scotland” – and now the idea is taking hold.”
Cal Flyn, New Statesman, 26 September 2013
“Whatever your thoughts on the independence referendum, the National Collective, slogan “Artists and creatives for Scottish independence”, and its many supporters, is an impressive exercise in momentum-building, advocacy, organisation, and, for some, inspiration. In the cultural/political sphere, one can only see its membership and, perhaps, clout, burgeoning in the coming year.
It has provided a forum for some articulate thoughts about Scotland and its possible future. One wonders, too, whether it represents the foundation of something new in Scotland, and long-needed, a collective, grassroots voice for and from the artistic world not tethered to existing institutions.”
Phil Miller, The Herald, 21 September 2013
“National Collective have created projects which have really worked and engaged younger audiences. “
Blair Jenkins, Yes Scotland, 11th September 2013
“National Collective is trying to find a new, positive, Scottish form of expression. Its website is replete with bolshy videos, literature and artwork.”
John McDermott, The Financial Times, 26th July 2013
“A lively mix of political and cultural comment and songs and poems.”
Andrew Eaton-Lewis, Scotland on Sunday, 1 September 2013
“Pro-independence voices within the Scottish arts have allowed their imaginations far freer reign than any political party would dare allow. Key amongst these voices is National Collective, which has, with fresh eyes, raw talent and unconventional thinking, enlivened and improved the quality of the independence campaign immeasurably.”
Sean Bell, PopMatters, 26th July 2013