I REMEMBER in the days following both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, seeing countless ‘names’ – politicians, commentators, celebs, you name it – appear utterly dumbfounded that they’d got it all wrong.

There were threads all over social media, columns, blogs and TV debates questioning how nobody had seen it coming. And then there were the pledges – the promises to make sure they didn’t fail to pick up public mood again, a new effort to be on the ball.

And yet here we are, nearly four years on since the independence referendum, and the dismissal by so many commentators and so-called experts of tens of thousands of people hitting the streets of Glasgow to show support for Scottish independence is astonishing.

Mark Smith: The four ways that the independence marchers have got it wrong

The police estimated 35,000 people attended the All Under One Banner (AUOB) march at the weekend. The selling point of the demo is that it’s non-party political and it’s open to all. You have to hand it to AUOB organisers as it really does appear to be open to all, even if that means some of the more insidious elements of the independence movement sneak along, or controversial figures like Tommy Sheridan keen to hop aboard any platform with a big audience.

But, by and large, the AUOB events have a carnival, family atmosphere. They’re filled with normal men, women and children who dare to hope for something better in the future. The figures on the annual AUOB march have risen year on year and it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the significance of these numbers. The police are often said to be on the conservative side of estimations, whereas the campaigners on the wildly optimistic side. The true figure is always somewhere in between. If the police said 35,000 and campaigners were way up in the region of 90,000, it should give you an idea of scale. We’re looking at the biggest demonstration of public opinion on the streets in Scotland since the Iraq war in 2003, and Tony Blair will testify that those numbers don’t just disappear.

Mark Smith: The four ways that the independence marchers have got it wrong

What also needs to be understood about these marches is that they’re very grassroots. Local groups from around Scotland have been networking and organising since the referendum – they never stopped. These groups are a mixture of party and non-party affiliated, they hold regular meetings and talks across Scotland, they’re served by a new media outlet, Independence Live, which livestreams as much of it as possible to make it accessible to more people – the archive of footage it has is nothing short of remarkable – and they’re even investing in the creation of an app that will become a key networking tool in the event of a second referendum campaign. Cambridge Analytica, eat your heart out.

These groups aren’t waiting to be told what to do. They’re not taking their cues from those at the top. They tasted a sip of something irresistible in 2014 and they can’t let it go. They don’t know how to. And that hope, that optimism, is infectious.

Of course, the problem with a grassroots initiative that perhaps isn’t too shiny and sophisticated in its presentation – we’re talking about people holding meetings in local pubs and halls here, not expensive media-friendly events with expensive suits and nice lighting – is that it flies under the radar. There’s an arrogance among those outside of it that it is insignificant, that it means nothing, that it’s a bit of a joke to see the little people putting all their efforts into a fruitless endeavour.

But unlike them, I’ve been on these marches and gone to these meetings. I’ve seen 50-100 people pack out a small hall in Rutherglen on a winter’s night to hear intellectual arguments and theories about the mechanics of introducing different currencies into a new system and funding basic economic infrastructure.

These little gatherings are happening all over Scotland, frequently. Campaigners have spent years building their knowledge and tactics. The AUOB marches are not designed to change hearts and minds with a single display – campaigners already know that persuasion is done at the local level. These marches are usually just a giant get-together to boost internal morale.

Mark Smith: The four ways that the independence marchers have got it wrong

When you know the background, it makes perfect sense that the numbers are going up, and it gives an insight into why the independence movement is so confident it can win a second referendum within the next few years.

There are some arguable parallels between the independence campaign, Brexit and Trump in that there are large groups of voters, often working class, who have lost faith in the systems meant to serve them and who are ready to rip them apart in the hopes of building something else.

These people don’t deserve to be mocked and belittled. They should be listened to. Those who find it so easy to swipe tens of thousands of people on the streets aside may well be the ones in a few short years promising they won’t get it all wrong again, but you can’t say you didn’t see it coming when it was literally right there in front you.

Take a lesson from recent history and stop treating normal working people with disdain. They deserve better, and they know it.