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Art Cave launched to push for Yes vote in 2014 referendum

It has been one of the most notable movements of the independence debate - an organised group called National Collective which has galvanised artists, writers, and musicians in their push for a Yes vote next September.

UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT: Ross Colquhoun founder and organiser of the National Collective says he got the cave idea from a tweet by a critic.
UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT: Ross Colquhoun founder and organiser of the National Collective says he got the cave idea from a tweet by a critic.

Now National Collective, driven by its use of social media, is to have its first permanent home in the offline world, with the opening of a new studio, gallery, gig and debate space in Edinburgh.

National Collective, an autonomous body not formally run by the Yes campaign, but strongly in favour of Scotland's independence, was founded by a small group of artists and writers based in Edinburgh in 2011.

It now has more than 1400 members and describes itself as the "non-party movement for artists and creatives who support Scottish independence", with groups based in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, Inverness and Aberdeen, where they hold events and organise meetings, concerts and other activities.

Ross Colquhoun, one of the founders and organisers of the group, is to open The Art Cave at a venue in the old Crabbies factory in Great Junction Street, in Leith.

It is hoped the location will form a hub and centre of debate for artists and those interested in the cultural ramifications of an independent Scotland.

The space is funded by Colquhoun, 29, a graphic designer and artist, and colleagues Peter Alvar, a photographer and writer and musician Christopher Silver, all members of the collective.

The name of the new base, Colquhoun said, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a tweet by an opponent who demanded that "National Collective should go back to their art caves."

"The tweet got us thinking about what it would be like to have an art cave," he said. "What would it look like? Where would it be? And what could we use it for?"

The premises are, he said, "quite literally, underground."

Although the collective has organised several events in different venues, members had been discussing opening a space for the organisation for some time.

It will be used by the National Collective for planning, printing, film screenings, rehearsals, performances, and talks as well as exhibitions, meetings and workshops. The type of events planned include a film club, an art market, print workshops, and "cultural activism workshops".

The Art Cave will open in January.

Mr Colquhoun added: "It will be the first permanent space for us - we have had events at Mono in Glasgow and the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh, and there are some regular spaces that we have used, but we thought it would be a good time to have somewhere more secure.

"In terms of the long-term future of the National Collective, none of us is really sure, but this studio will to all intents and purposes take us up to the referendum. How we use it will be up to us, but we have a lot of ideas."

The debate over the future of Scotland in the cultural sphere has so far largely been dominated by artists, writers, playwrights and poets advocating a Yes vote in next year's referendum.

Figures such as the leading playwright David Greig, the actor Alan Cumming, the singer and songwriter Eddi Reader, the writer Alan Bissett and others have been vocal in their support for a Yes vote next year.

The Better Together campaign told The Herald last week it is gathering a group of artists from various strands of the arts to argue the case for the Union next year.

In September 2012, JK Rowling said devolution had been "fantastic for Scotland" and had given the country "a great deal".

Also last year, the author CJ Sansom used the notes of his book Dominion to say the SNP was "dangerous".

The singers Susan Boyle and Sharleen Spiteri, lead singer of Texas, also have backed the Union.

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