Joan Stringer one of the original Ootnabooters told us: ‘Our OOTNABOOT initiative has reached out to hundreds of women across Edinburgh through our Saturday stalls.
These stalls have been organised at various Indy events when we handed out indy information and specific Wfindy leaflets and merchandise. However, we found that this did not often result in longer conversations about independence or hearing from women themselves what they were thinking about Scotland and its future.
It was obvious we needed to evolve
The idea for the Ootnaboot questionnaire grew from one of our meetings in which we talked about more ways to reach out to women. There was also a concern that many women seemed to be unaware of the positive measures the Scottish Government have already taken to help people with day-to-day living costs, particularly policies helping those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis. As a result of these discussions, we developed our first questionnaire.
The questionnaire has since varied over time…
…but usually involves six or seven questions addressing how aware women were about things like baby boxes, free prescriptions, Scottish Child Payments and free public transport for under the twenty twos. The final question asked them how they would vote if there was an independence Referendum within the next two years. We have found that the women we talked to generally are very willing to get involved, answering our questions and sharing their opinions and concerns.
How do we do it?
Normally (weather permitting) up to six of us would spend two to three hours on a Saturday morning to do our survey and run the stall. We do this all over Edinburgh, Wester Hailes, the Meadows, Pentlands, Muirhouse, Gorgie Dalry and Fountainbridge. Often other groups generously asked us to join them including Yes Marchmont and Morningside, Yes Fountainbridge, Pensioners for Independence and Yes Pentlands.
As regards the questions themselves, our results show (2022)
…that women were reasonably aware of the universal Scottish benefits relating to women (e.g., baby boxes and the free period products championed by Monica Lennon) and knew about the free prescription charges introduced by the Labour-Lib Dems government over 11 years ago. However, by far the lowest awareness related to Scottish Child Payments, arguably the most important benefit for those especially hard pressed economically. Many were also unaware of the recent introduction of free bus travel for under 22’s and the extension of free school meals to cover the summer holidays.
The response to the final question ‘how do you think you might vote if there is an independence referendum within the next two years’ was:
YES 63% NO 13% UNDECIDED 24%
Obviously, this is a completely unscientific result but still very encouraging in terms of support for independence. The results also indicate that while many have still to make up their minds, they are genuinely willing to talk about their doubts and concerns and clearly open to persuasion.
I think that everyone who has taken part enjoyed our Saturday sessions chatting to people, sharing information, and generally being more of a presence in the community. We also found that the sessions keep us upbeat and positive, especially when joining with other groups and accompanied by the music from Aye Notes and the Indy choir.
Ootnaboot is a timely reminder that helps keep independence in everyday conversations
Overall we found that the questionnaire seems to act as a timely reminder of the achievements introduced by the Scottish Government and an opportunity to set up a positive conversation around independence.
Writing this in January, 2023, our enthusiasm is no match for the freezing weather. However, we do plan to resume and when we do it would be great to have more volunteers. We appreciate that Saturday mornings can be busy but if you can spare an occasional Saturday, you would be more than welcome.
We also think you would enjoy it! ‘
Joan Stringer Ootnabooter