Meteors lighting up the clear night sky and glorious sunshine by day. The gods had clearly blessed the first March and Rally for Independence.
And what a great day was had by all 12,000 of us as we greeted friends from across the country and made our way from the autumnal colours of the Meadows to the splendour of a Princes Street Gardens still in summer bloom. The azure sky provided a saltire-style background for all the tartans of Scotland and the standards of nearly every political movement in the country. Further colour was added by our Catalan, Basque, Flemish and Venetian brothers and sisters who stood proudly with us and who will be by our side throughout the next two years.
As ever, the police watch their backs when making an official estimate of turnout – it just wouldn’t do if they were seen to have provided too few officers to control the assembled masses. So, the reported 5,000 attendees is rather more a reflection on how badly the police misjudged the likely turnout than anything else. They needn’t have bothered as it turns out – aside from a scuffle at the back of the gardens when a member of the Scottish Defence League (if there was ever a misnomer…) tried to prevent one of our number removing one of their Union Flags – the behaviour was impeccable and in keeping with the proud traditions of this most civic and civil of movements.
Representing and Speaking To All of Scotland
So 12,000 activists (11,974, I think, was the precise number that one poor soul counted with a clicker) were mobilised by the indefatigable Jeff Duncan and his tiny, resource starved team. (It is notable that neither Yes Scotland or the SNP pushed this event particularly hard, presumably to ensure that expectations are held in check at the outset of a two year campaign). It may not seem like a huge number when compared to the Catalonian rally a few weeks ago but it is worth remembering that this number – gathered in one single place on one particular day – is roughly equivalent to the entire membership of the Labour Party in Scotland – supposedly the major opponent of our cause.
The turnout has clearly rattled our opponents. But of greater concern to them is surely the range of speakers we heard; from the most popular mainstream party to all the movements of the left and radical Scotland; it is clear that the strength of this movement is in its broad appeal to all but the politically toxic, irrelevant and authoritarian (I leave it to the reader to match the adjectives to the party!!!) Far be it from me to suggest so, but I suspect Toxic, Irrelevant and Authoritarian will not a positive case for the Union concoct.
In Alex Salmond and Dennis Canavan our movement is fortunate to have two of the best orators this country has produced in recent history. Margo can still pack a punch but I suspect her major contribution will be her ability to talk to a slightly different constituency from others on the team. Back up by Patrick Harvie and Colin Fox, Yes Scotland will be able to resonate with 90% of Scots.
Scottish Labour – Adapt or Die
However, I wonder whether the real stars will be (currently) lesser lights. Because in Allan Grogan and Derek Durkin, representing Labour Voters for Independence and Trade Unionists for Independence respectively, there are clearly very able and persuasive representatives that threaten to cut the legs from under Scottish Labour’s leaders and deliver a huge block of traditionally Labour voters to the Yes camp. Already some of Labour’s elected representatives are distancing themselves from the official line of co-operation with the Tories and their wee LibDem pals. And surely the latest pronouncements from Ms Lamont can only increase that distance.
Labour’s leadership wall is starting to crumble and the likes of Allan and Derek will continue to build the pressure on it. That dam is going to burst and a political savvy leadership that swims with the resultant current will have to emerge if the Labour Party is to survive.
So, you heard it here first. I predict that by the time of the Referendum the official line of the Labour Party in Scotland will be to be agnostic on the constitution, if only as a cynical manoeuvre to ensure it is not destroyed in the process of Scotland winning its Independence.