March for Independence

There could only ever have been one topic for this week’s flag and I hope I can do justice to the 30,000 marchers on Calton Hill on Saturday.

Our day began with a meet at 9.15 at Motherwell Station.  I was mindful that if we each had a plus one on last year then we could double the numbers.  I was delighted that not only had our Branch members, volunteers from Yes Motherwell and Wishaw, and the Lanarkshire Forum for Independence turned out in force but that the platform was full of YES badges and T-shirts on people that I had never met before.  I knew then that Saturday was going to be a runaway success and that Saturday 21st of September 2013 was going to be a significant date on the road to Independence.

On arrival at Waverley I bumped into old friends and made new ones! There was a real buzz and a multitude of expressions of National Pride, from dresses made from saltire flags, kilts, flags, YES paraphernalia in abundance and the even the odd glengarry!

We walked up to the High Street early in the day, well before march time, to be met with a vista of European flags. Our friends and well-wishers; Venetians, Flemings, Sardinians, Catalonians and many, many more joining Scots in their march expressing their support for a YES vote next year.

Yes Motherwell and Wishaw met early at the Esplanade. After linking up with our stragglers, we eagerly took our place in line, excited, we thought, to be near the start at St Giles.  Imagine our dismay when a line of stewards walked before us and we were informed that the square was going to be emptied in front of us!  Our dismay soon turned to laughter as we joked and called to our friends departing before us! Eventually it was our turn!

The walk round to Calton Hill was a fantastic experience with good will being called from passers-by and from the tenement windows above us.  We even managed a wee chorus of Flower of Scotland on the North Bridge before going on to Calton Hill.  Once on the Bridge it became clear that not only were we far from the leading marchers – we were equally far from the end of the procession!  The huge numbers attending were only just becoming apparent to us.

I thought the contributions from the stage were amazing.  Motherwell was well represented by local band The Banter Thieves and an impassioned Elaine C Smith who captured the humanity of the event and reminded us that we are all Scots on both sides of the debate but that we all strive for a better, fairer Scotland that we can be proud of. Every speaker gave a personal and insightful take on their reasons for supporting YES; Patrick Harvie reminded us how far we have come in tackling discrimination and inequality, Margo McDonald appealed to our common sense and Carolyn Leckie made a plea for the “rights of women meriting some attention”.  A resounding rendition of A Man’s a Man lifted all our spirits as did Eddie Reader’s proud admission that her faded banner had first been unfurled by her Father years before at the start of the Independence movement. Sometimes we forget how blessed talent we are in this movement. Nicola was inspirational, her confidence in us to deliver a YES result palpable.  Alex was measured and encouraging;

“We have an unrivalled opportunity next year – in 362 days time – to achieve something that no previous generation of Scots has done, and few countries ever do. To vote this nation into a new future of prosperity and equality – and to do so in a totally peaceful, civic and democratic manner.

“Today is an expression of our confidence that the people will put themselves – not Westminster – in charge of their own future by voting Yes.

“In this great debate, the Yes campaign stands on a solid platform on which to build success. We stand not only on the shoulders of the giants of our movement, who worked selflessly to deliver this precious opportunity. Even more importantly, we stand for the aspirations that the people of Scotland already have for the future of their country. In poll after poll, survey after survey, people in Scotland want the powers over their own natural resources, the welfare state and pensions which are vital in delivering the fairer society and stronger economy we need to build opportunity for all.

“And these powers – the people’s powers – can only be achieved by voting Yes.”

Everyone will have their favourite quote, speaker or performance from Saturday. But for me, and this is very personal, being able to see my son and his young friends transfixed by Alan Bisset’s “Vote Britain” will be my favourite memory of this great day.  I hope every young voter in Scotland will get the opportunity to hear or read Alan’s powerful poem before the 18th September 2014.

This March was so important on so many levels, cementing the disparate groups that have come together under the YES banner. It was eclectic, inclusive, fun – as evidenced by the pandas and the multitude of dogs with a cause – but above all, it was inspiring.  I hope every one of the 30,000 will manage a plus one next year.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but when there are thousands of pictures to choose from that encapsulate the second March and Rally for Scottish Independence then I have much to compete with this week.

Enjoy the delight of Yes Motherwell and Wishaw as I share one of the thousands of photos that paint the picture of a great day and sums up the Independence movement!  Beneath this banner stand Socialists, Greens, the SNP, Yes Volunteers and non political Yes supporters. Our movement!


Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause

To put matters into context, in 1955 the SNP contested only two Parliamentary seats in Scotland;  Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth and East Perthshire, and Jimmy Halliday fought Stirling and Falkirk Burghs.   Jimmy then became the youngest ever SNP Chairman and served 1956 – 60;  in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
We are 12 months from a Referendum on Scottish Independence, which was unthinkable in 1955;  Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85.  We intend to publish all Jimmy’s articles in the Scots Independent from August 2004 up to 2011, all the ones we have electronic input for.  It is anticipated we will publish a book on Jimmy’s contributions over many years, but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.


Let them up easy –   Oct 2005

If we are sensible we will try to minimise UK hostility to our claim for Independence

Our purpose is to gain Independence. All our actions on all political issues ought to be taken with an eye to that supreme objective. It will further our purpose the more we increase our electoral strength in terms of seats and votes. Therefore, we must place ourselves on the popular side of as many issues as we honourably can.

We must remember also that gaining electoral success brings us nearer to the confrontation which is peculiarly ours, and which we have chosen to seek. Our escape from the United Kingdom, by the democratic means that we have consciously selected, will some day involve negotiations with the English/British Government of the day. If we are sensible we will try to minimise their hostility to our claim.

Our experience as we pursued the 1970s ‘Scotland’s Oil’ campaign surely reminds us that if England concludes that Scotland’s freedom were to involve England’s economic ruin then that freedom is unlikely to be peacefully conceded. An even more ancient lesson has to be learned from the events that brought about the Union in 1707. Then it was England’s strategic security that was seen to be at risk

from continued Scottish Independence. No more today can we reasonably expect England’s rulers to stand idly by, sadly wringing their hands while watching us go, if our going causes their country economic or strategic damage. Our representatives will some day have to negotiate themselves out of that tight corner.

Stephen Maxwell used to argued that England would have to permit Scottish Independence once a democratic mandate was achieved, because their refusal would promote such a crisis, constitutional and economic, as to damage their ability to participate effectively in their other on-going world enterprises. I think it likelier that all English/British agencies would be employed to panic, confuse and pervert Scottish voters long before an apparent breakdown in negotiations was reached. As we have already seen, between 1974 and 1979, the tactics lie ready to hand. First there would be delay and time wasting to encourage an ebbing away of enthusiasm on the part of the Scots and the gradual emergence of second thoughts. Then there would be a sustained propaganda campaign to inflame divisive partisan enthusiasms and enmities within Scotland. There would be procedural trickery at every turn, and the counter threat of punitive or retaliatory economic measures against Scotland – “What about your pension?” And, if all else failed, and if Scottish tenacity survived all this, then there would be quasi-police or military action in the last resort. It is very foolish to under-estimate the ruthlessness to be expected from those who feel their vital interests threatened.

In other words, if we by our actions appear to be presenting a threat to England’s security, we will not be allowed to proceed to Independence at all. If you bridle in angry pride at the thought of being defeated in this way, just ask how you propose to get out of the trap. There is no comparison between Scotland and any previously liberated part of Empire, because we are cursed by our geographic position. “What about Ireland?” might once have been asked. Perhaps during the Second World War there were some thoughts that Irish bases might be repossessed to deal with U-boats, but such thoughts didn’t get far because the Irish were sheltered by the American eagle’s wing – a still relevant fact of life. We have no such friends. And all too many of our most voluble countrymen have worked hard to invite American enmity. We should avoid deceiving ourselves about our power to influence events or to escape their consequences. Our chances of becoming independent, and of living thereafter in a peaceful world, are alike best served by associating ourselves with those whose view of a tolerable society most closely resembles our own.

There is good reason to recognise the identities of interest which link Scotland with her neighbours and political relatives. Practical, cultural and electoral considerations all lay upon us that same demand. If we want to be independent we must face these strategic realities. If you want Independence, do not tie your ambition to the humiliation of England. Give them always a way out, a face-saving option. “Let them up easy”, as Abe Lincoln remarked in other circumstances.