I had another very enjoyable day yesterday in the company of 2,000 other independence supporters as we marched through Stirling. The weather was almost ideal for such a strenuous activity. Not too hot – except for the periods when the clouds parted sufficiently to let the sun beat down on us with its full intensity. The gentle breeze that cooled the marchers became a blustery blast as we reached the rallying point at Bannockburn. The wind was sufficiently strong to present some difficulties in the handling of larger flags and banners, but the people doing the handling have had a deal of experience in this so deal with it they did and we were soon treated to the magnificent sight of giant Saltires spread out below Bruce’s monument in the brilliant sunshine.
It is easy at such moments to be filled with hope for Scotland’s cause. Indeed, were one to simply stop thinking about the matter at this point one would be absolutely convinced that the well-worn line about independence being inevitable was totally credible. Enjoy that moment, because if you’re disinclined to switch off your critical faculties the realisation will soon dawn that this grand scene isn’t entirely representative of reality.
Coming back down to earth means recognising that while the host gathered on this historic field is impressive, it is not nearly as impressive as it needs to be. Inspiring as the sight may be, it is but a fleeting distraction from a considerably more prosaic actuality. Aye! You’re right! This is me banging the old ‘unity’ drum yet again. Just don’t expect me to apologise. Don’t hurl the word ‘negative’ at me as if merely being realistic were some horrendous offense. If you find realism offensive than you probably shouldn’t be reading my blog.
I am firmly persuaded that the restoration of Scotland’s independence has to be driven by the people. In order to ensure that we get the kind of referendum that is required, the Yes movement first has to regain its past strength and more, then find a way of converting that strength into power. Power sufficient to influence the politicians to whom we have entrusted the task of initiating and pursuing the process by which the accursed Union will be ended and constitutional normality restored. We cannot simply trust those politicians. Nor can we expect them to take on the British establishment and prevail without the manifest support of the people of Scotland.
Politicians tend to let us down. Either they don’t do what we elect them to do or they do what we want but make a complete arse of it. This is too important to gamble with. This is our nation and the legacy we leave to future generations of Scotland’s people. We must be part of the process by which independence is restored. An involved and active part. Not a supporting role as extras in the crowd scenes kept in the background while the politicians claim our presence as visible support for whatever they find expedient. We must take from those politicians the ability to use our demonstrations as they will by proclaiming our own purpose loudly enough to drown out their media-amplified voices.
The harsh reality is that if the Yes movement was on course to be the force it needs to be in time to take back at least some of the power we have handed to the politicians, then the numbers marching through Stirling needed to be ten times greater. Compared to what we’ve had of late, yesterday’s gathering was impressive. Compared to what we need, it was inadequate – almost paltry.
It’s easy to cite the pandemic as an explanation. As Nicola Sturgeon has taught us, Covid-19 has been a heaven-sent excuse for just about anything. I don’t doubt that the pandemic and its impact on our lives has had some effect on turnout for events such as the #AUOBStirling march and rally. It would be foolish to deny that Covid-19 has left many people justifiably reluctant to join large crowds. Not to mention those who cannot attend because they tragically succumbed to the disease. But it would be just as foolish to discount other factors. In particular, the ghastly factionalism which has infected the Yes movement. The bare-fanged, claws-out tribalism that has spread like a malignancy through the Yes movement leaving precious few untouched. The ‘other disease’ which has afflicted the Yes movement – and is crippling it!
When, the day before the Stirling march I Tweeted that I had booked my bus and was looking forward to the event – more to promote that event than because I thought people might be interested – most of the responses were positive and supportive. One response, however, nicely illustrates the problem I’m referring to. In their Tweet this individual said they wouldn’t be attending the march because it was organised by AUOB and they were not prepared to have anything to do with anything involving that organisation. Apparently, they dislike the people who run AUOB. I should point out – because it must by this juncture be necessary to do so – that this person purported to be an active supporter of Scotland’s cause. You would not guess this from their attitude.
In the last few weeks I have attended events organised by Scottish Independence Movement (SIM), Now Scotland/White Rose Rising and All Under One Banner (AUOB). And I don’t like anybody! SIM is headed by Manny Singh, FFS! I’m pretty sure even he himself would acknowledge that he’s not a likely candidate for any personality contests! I mean no offense to any of the organisers (although they’re unlikely to give a shit), but if their likeability were a factor I probably wouldn’t attend any of these events! The fact is that I don’t care about who is organising the event. I care only about its purpose. I care deeply about the cause it is supporting. I care far too deeply to go off in an infantile huff because somebody has offended me or hurt my feelings.
I have no hesitation in pronouncing the person who posted that Tweet a pitiful idiot. Doubly so because they chose to flaunt their pitiful idiocy in public.
I feel precisely the same way about all the pea-brained piddle-wits who put their partisan prejudices before Scotland’s cause. The people who put party loyalty before national interest. People I regard with a mixture distaste and despair. Distaste for their inane knee-jerk sniping. Despair of there being any possibility of putting a stop to it.
Alex Salmond seems to take a more optimistic view,
We’ve had, I think, a total of 40 National front pages announcing the referendum was starting – but it’s never started. So the day it genuinely starts then of course all supporters of independence will come together.Alex Salmond: All indy parties will work together when indyref2 campaign starts
I suspect the remark about how “supporters of independence will come together” when a genuine campaign starts was made more in hope than expectation. And I note with more than a tinge of regret the fact that the first part of the above quote seems designed to fuel the inter-party conflict rather than quell it. I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to avoid referring to the failures and failings of Nicola Sturgeon. One can hardly discuss our present predicament without mentioning the woeful dereliction of her role as leader of the independence movement or the regrettable aspects of her leadership of the SNP. But it’s one thing for some obscure blogger to note these things in the context of a reasoned analysis of the state of Scotland’s cause and quite another for a prominent figure such as Alex Salmond to remark upon them in any context other than private discussion. If the intention was to pour oil on troubled waters then it probably wasn’t helpful to put a match to that oil while pouring it.
The only ones who can put a stop to the tribalistic conflict are those who are engaged in it. And they won’t They won’t because they are incapable of doing so. Neither can stop unless and until the other does. And probably not even then. The leaders of the parties whose supporters are engaged in this utterly pointless tit-for-tat might be able to call a cease-fire. But neither (none?) of them seem to have any interest in doing so. Alex Salmond’s quoted remarks are a pish-poor effort at calming the situation supposing that was even the intention. Nicola Sturgeon has been just as pish-poor in the role of peace-maker as in the role of de facto head of Scotland’s cause. Neither is serving Scotland’s cause as we would wish.
At which point I put forward a proposal. I do so with no expectation whatever that it will be taken up by any never mind all of those engaged in the mutual slanging-match which does so much to perpetuate and aggravate the catastrophic divisions within the Yes movement. And it has to be all. Every single one of them must desist simultaneously and permanently if there is to be any chance of the Yes movement healing in time to be the effective political force that it must be if we are to have any hope of getting and keeping our political leaders on track for independence.
To this end, I propose that we choose a date for the cessation of all hostilities within the Yes movement and particularly the gruesome quarrelling of Alba and SNP supporters. I repeat, ALL hostilities by ALL participants! This is not one of those tiresome #WheeshtForIndy pleas. Rather, it is a plea to get back to making a noise for independence. A noise which will be music to the ears of all participants in the only fight that really matters – the fight against the Union. The fight to restore Scotland’s independence.
White Rose Rising is urging the launch of the Saltire Strikes Back campaign on Sunday 31 October, to coincide with the start of COP26 when the eyes of the world will be on Scotland. And on Scotland’s wee corner of social media! This is a response to Boris Johnson’s threat to stamp a Union flag – the emblem of British Nationalism – on Scotland for the duration of the climate crisis conference as well as to the plague of Union-jackery being inflicted on Scotland by the supermarket chains and various manufacturers at the behest of the British political elite. Importantly, the intention is to do this in a way that neither distracts nor detracts from COP26. I suggest we make that same date an ‘armistice day’ – an abrupt and total cessation of all internal hostilities within the Yes movement.
Administrators and moderators could help by openly and unapologetically censoring comments which breach this armistice – with unquestionable justification. Everybody can support the idea simply by using the hashtag #ScotlandsCause to indicate that they are putting the fight to dissolve the Union ahead of all other considerations. (We’ll take our chances with The Apostrophe Protection Society.)
I don’t know if this will work. In fact, I very much doubt that it will. Sniping is easy and satisfying. Less intellectually diligent people will be extremely reluctant to give up such cheap and instant gratification. But I honestly don’t know what else to try. I understand all too well the perilousness of Scotland’s predicament and that we must try everything we can to make the Yes movement fit for the battles ahead. First, the battle to ensure the politicians get on with the job we gave them and to ensure that they do it properly. Second, the battle to support the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament as they take on the not inconsiderable might of the British state.