Yesterday I had the pleasure of addressing the crowd at a massive pro-independence rally in George Square in Glasgow. I’ve spoken to small audiences before, but never had to speak in front of thousands of people in the very heart of Glasgow. It was an experience I’ll never forget. It was a fantastic day, meeting friends and fellow campaigners, and the dug posed happily for photies in return for lots of dog treats. He had a ball, but then that animal works a crowd like a pro. During and after the rally there were far more pics tweeted of the dug than of me, so now my shoes and legs are far more famous than I am. Mind you, he did also mistake a marcher for a lamppost, much to my mortification. Sorry about that unwanted souvenir!
Well over 5000 women, men, children and dugs marched from Botanic Gardens down to join the more than 1000 already in the Square in order to show that despite the claims of the Unionist parties and press that there is an appetite for another independence referendum. There’s not just an appetite, there’s the ravenous hunger of a dignified people starved of dignity.
We are hungry because we’ve been fed a diet of lies by Westminster since the referendum of 2014. There’s no substance in a lie, no nourishment. Lies don’t sustain jobs, they don’t create the home rule that Scotland was promised. The Better Together campaign had a two pronged strategy to win the 2014 referendum for the Union, they threatened us with Project Fear, and they promised sweeties with the Vow.
Yet one by one all the promises and commitments that they made have turned out to be false. They told us that Scotland would get the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, and we got English votes for English laws and powers over road signs and some tinkering around the edges of the income tax system and the social security system that the Scottish secretary openly boasted was a trap for the Scottish Government. The Unionist parties don’t want to respond to the demand from Scotland for greater Scottish home-rule, all they want to do is keep on playing their party political games. They can’t help themselves.
They won by promising jobs would be safe if we voted No, but the jobs went anyway. They won by promising that Scotland would be a respected and valued leader within the UK whose voice would count, yet they’re imposing Trident on us even though all but one of Scotland’s MPs voted against its renewal. This is the same government whose Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary said that the possibility of Scotland’s MPs having any input into the UK government would be the biggest crisis since the abdication, but she’s quite happy to impose weapons of mass destruction on a Scotland which has overwhelmingly rejected them. That’s not respect, that’s arrogance.
They won by promising that our EU membership could only be safe if we remained in the UK, and now we’re being taken out anyway even though Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a much larger margin that it voted to remain in the UK. Brexit isn’t just for five years, it’s not like the many General Elections where Scotland doesn’t get the result it voted for but will have a chance to revisit the question in five years time. Brexit it forever. Brexit isn’t just a life sentence for Scotland, condemning us to a cold dark Tory future, cut off from the rest of the world in a xenophobic inward looking nationalist and right wing UK, it conemns our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations to the same despair.
They won by telling pensioners that it was only by remaining a part of the UK that their pensions could be safe, but just today the news came out that the Tory government is considering abolishing the so-called triple lock protecting state pensions. The UK can afford to spend over £200 billion on Trident, it can spend over £50 billion on a railway line from London to Birmingham, but it can’t afford to protect state pensions.
The next time there’s a referendum, and there will be a next time, all that the Yes campaign is going to have to do to counter any promises made by the Unionists is to retort “but you said that the last time and it turned out to be a lie.”
Yesterday’s march wasn’t organised by the SNP, by RISE, the Greens, or Solidarity. It was organised by a coalition of Yes groups which have kept going since the depressing days of late September 2014 and have been reorganising themselves over the past few months. The rally was a demonstration that a second independence campaign will not belong to the Scottish Government, it will not be Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum, it will belong to the people of Scotland.
Some on the snider side of the independence movement criticised the rally for its flag waving, although if one of them would like to suggest a symbol other than a Scottish flag that represents the entirety of the Scottish nation and everyone who lives in this country then I’m sure we’d be all ears. Scottish flags at independence demonstrations are not about triumphalism, they’re not a statement that Scotland is better than any other country. They’re simply a statement that Scotland is as good as any other country, that Scotland can aspire to normality, and that Scotland is, in fact, a country which has the right to determine its own future.
“No one is converted from No to Yes by waving a flag,” they said. And this would be true. It also misses the point. The point of yesterday’s rally was not to convert former No voters, it was to enthuse and engage existing Yes voters, to demonstrate that the Yes movement remains live, vital, and energetic. It was about giving Yes campaigners the energy, and excitement that we’re all going to need in order to campaign over the months ahead. And it succeeded in doing so in style.
Now the hard work begins. All across Scotland we need to get ourselves organised, we need to spread the message in our local communities. A better Scotland is possible. We have two choices in this country, we can sit back passively and hope that those Westminster masters who have betrayed us and lied to us on more occasions than it’s possible to count will actually come through for us one day. We can sit in the hopeless pit of Westminster despair while wringing our hands and complaining about the evil Tories, or we can do something about it. We can take our own future into our own hands. If we want a better Scotland we need to do it for ourselves. And we have the talents, we have the skills, we have the enthusiasm and the energy. We have what it takes to make Scotland a country that is fit for a dignified people. We can do this. And we will.
Audio version of this blog, courtesy of @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/creating-a-country-that-is-fit-for-a-dignified-people-wgd-31st-july-2016
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