Others (here and here, for example) have dealt more than adequately with the whingers and naysayers in the Yes movement who have been echoing Unionist negativity about the latest in a series of marches organised by All Under One Banner (AUOB). I have little to add. But I would like to give a personal perspective, if I may.
I attend these marches because I think it is important, not just to campaign for something, but to be seen to campaign for it. Like justice, democracy has to be visible. It has to be perceived to be working. Marches, rallies and demonstrations are as much a part of engaged, participative democracy as being a member of a political party. They are as much a sign of a healthy democracy as high voter turnout. They are an affirmation of people power.
And that, it seems, is what troubles those who denigrate events such the AUOB march and rally in Dumfries. Whether the criticism comes from within the Yes movement or from British Nationalists, the common denominator seems to be an aversion to overt expressions of popular political sentiment.
Whenever possible, I like to travel to these events a day early and stay overnight afterwards. (That’s what your donations are spent on.) In part, this is because I really don’t like being under any kind of pressure. I’m rather obsessive about punctuality and can be unduly stressed by deadlines and appointments. I much prefer to avoid such stress – not least for health-related reasons that I won’t go into.
Quite apart from this, I use these trips as an opportunity to meet with and talk to people all over Scotland. And not only Yes activists. Typically, I’ll visit a few pubs and I’ll chat with locals about this and that. The fact that I always wear a Yes badge means that the conversation invariably turns to the constitutional issue.
One of the positive by-products of the Yes campaign is that talking about politics in the pub is now regarded as perfectly normal in Scotland. It is only rarely that someone shies away from discussing independence. And those that do invariably turn out to be hard-line Unionists. Most people are happy to give their opinion and ask questions and generally take an interest.
This too is a sign of a healthy political culture.
Over many months of undertaking these excursions, one of the things that I have found most noticeable of late is that almost nobody outright rejects the idea of independence. As recently as a few months ago, in any group of half a dozen people sitting in a pub chatting about independence at least one would be quite vocally, if not vehemently, opposed. Now, it is extremely uncommon to find such an attitude. Even among those who are not Yes yet, there is an acceptance that independence is an option. They are prepared to talk about it. They are prepared to listen.
I would contend that the normalising effect of the Yes movement’s high public visibility has played a large part in this attitudinal shift. There are other factors, of course. But, unless your mind is barricaded by bigotry, it is difficult to dismiss the independence cause when tens of thousands of people just like you are taking it seriously enough to march through the streets of Glasgow and Dumfries and elsewhere.
It all comes down to a matter of trust. Everything that I have found while participating in these marches and engaging with others in their vicinity confirms my absolute confidence in the people of Scotland. I am supremely content that the people should be politically active. I am totally content that the people should be the ultimate political authority. The people are sovereign. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Not so those who criticise and condemn massive public displays of popular political engagement. Their discomfort seems to be occasioned by a distinct lack of trust in the people. The whingers and naysayers are elitists. On the Yes side we have those whose support for independence is conditional on political power being reserved to their particular clique. On the British Nationalist side we have those whose opposition to independence is motivated by a desire to keep political power in the hands of a British political elite.
Whatever else the AUOB marches may be about, they certainly represent an explicit rejection of this elitism. I’ll keep going to these events as often as I can and for as long as it’s necessary. Because that’s where the people are.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.