Hey everyone. It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since 30,000 shared our vision on the hill and I don’t know if I’ve quite come down from the clouds yet. If I’m honest I think probably not, I believe that might happen sometime after the end of Glasgoes Poetic festival but last Saturday I had the honour of attending the march for Scottish Independence and I am proud to say this march was one of the most awe inspiring days of my life. Not only that I managed through willpower and the sheer bloody-mindedness for which I am famous to get to the very top of Calton Hill.
The day started early for me, just like Pride I was up with the birdies and after messaging some friends to get myself fired up I left the house at just after 9 o’clock to begin what would be long but eventful day.
As I boarded the bus from my wee village at Baillieston I felt a sense of genuine optimism about both the day and the referendum which I am totally convinced we can and will win.
As luck would have it, I was fortunate to share my journey to our capital with a young yes supporter who was attending the rally with her mum and dad. This made the journey both quicker and more enjoyable and I certainly enjoyed the company of a certain Kathryn Haddow whose mother Susan recognised me from my facebook photograph.
As I walked streets which are becoming familiar with the passing of time I felt sense of pride but not in any narrow or parochial way more in the fact that I truly believed I was taking part in something amazing I was going to be part of a very special moment in the history of my nation.
On reaching the mile I was greeted by a sea of Saltaires and Lion Rampants in a Royal Mile bedecked in colour and atmosphere which stirred my blood to fight not against my neighbours whose flags were amongst a number of nations represented on a truly inclusive day but against a land of make believe called the United Kingdom which serves not the interest of the people’s of what better together wish to refer to as the family of nations but of being part of the fourth most unequal society on earth.
Some of the reasons I wanted to take part in this march include giving our people the chance to create a new more socially just society based on the principles of equality inclusion and fairness rather than one that accepts a system of power based on patronage and privilege which puts bombs and bankers before the health and safety of it’s citizens
However with 30,000 people on the march it wasn’t easy to find Shettleston SNP though I did manage
eventually and was proud to see my good friend and councillor for Glasgow Carlton Alison Thewliss carrying the banner of the branch. This was an honour she shared with one of the true gentleman of the SNP and the broader independence coalition Bob Bothwell.
I have to say though in trying to locate them I ended up sharing at least part of my journey with Yes groups from Aberdeen,Dundee, Falkirk, Motherwell And Wishaw Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire. It is the chaos of crowds like this which really do add to the magic of days such as these and anyone who knows me also knows I could never do things the easy way. Well I’m part highland part irish so I am by nature a wanderer anything else just isn’t in my DNA.
I have to say in defence of my wandering ways that when I looked at all different groups I realised just how many banners I could have marched under. As a transwoman I could have marched with the Rainbow flag of Out for Independence or Women for Independence. As a Celtic Fan I could have felt the emotional pull of Celtic Fans For Scottish Independence. As a former trade unionist I could have marched under the banner of Trade Unionists for Yes. As a poet the National Collective could have been my banner of choice. In the end though I decided that marching with the branch was the pragmatic and correct choice to make. However all those banners reminded me that I was a lass of many parts and each of our identities are more complex than some on the more simplistic side of this debate would seek to suggest.
With our capital buzzing with a fantastic atmosphere This was a day when memories would be made so I made sure I captured them and took more than a few photographs to remind myself and my friends that I was proud to be part of a day when those of who gathered in support of the independence of our nation put aside whatever differences we may have and stood for our people rather than trample on them for the sake of self interest and political gain.
It really was one of the proudest most inspirational most awe inspiring of my life and as we walked across the north bridge I stopped to ask a friendly and reasonably hot local policeman what he gestimated the crowd and his comment was at least 15,000 and probably a lot higher. This put an even greater spring in my step I was now a woman with a sense of purpose.
As we marched through the city and towards our destination. I was heartened to see the our country’s best satirical musician Alan Citizen Smart whose songs were just the tonic needed to rally the troops. The man has no equal when it comes to packing a musical punch for whatever political cause he puts his name to.
On approaching the entrance to Carlton Hill I had yet again managed to lose my branch and honestly this was not on purpose. Well as I said earlier with my Celtic ancestry I am bound to have wandering instincts and as luck would have I bumped in my fellow Shettleston SNP member Steven Tierney who was carrying a saltaire which was almost as big as I am and was attending the march with his mum and dad. Now I don’t often do emotional but believe me his parents have a son to be proud of. He is a man of principle and one of the good guys, a man I’m proud to count amongst my friends.
Finally we reached the hill and as we gathered we were treated to a memorable mix of speeches and entertainment compared by the excellent Hardeep Singh Kohli.
The first of the speeches was delivered by Elaine C Smith who told the gathering that she supports Independence not because Scotland is better than other countries but because as she says we are every bit as good. In the words of my granny you are not better than anyone but you are the equal of everyone. Elaine also talked about living in the East End of Glasgow an area where life expectancy for men is 59 years. This as she says is a truly shocking statistic and a damning indictment of the unfairness of an unequal union.
However her real fire was saved not for principled unionists who she said wanted what they believed was best for Scotland, but for those people who say they won’t support independence because they don’t like Alex Salmond.
Let me say for the avoidance of doubt this is a woman who doesn’t miss her targets and she referred to this group as childish reminding them to engage with their brain before opening their mouths. This she warned them was not about Alex Salmond or the SNP this was about so much more. It was the chance for Scotland to give our people the government we vote for and never again to depend on the goodwill of others to elect that government for us.
This is I have to say is a message I believe we have to re-enforce at every chance we get because it is my belief that if we hammer this message home it will get through and it will ultimately destroy the shallow self interest of the better together campaign.
After Elaine it was the turn of Independent MSP and long time independence campaigner Margo McDonald who said we should be nice to our opponents. I usually am Margo and trust me I will be fair to decent principled opponents but as the bible says do unto others as they do unto you. So for those who indulge in cheap shots, or the gutter politics of bullying I will make you exceptions to my rule and believe me my wrath is not something you would ever want to experience.
Next up was the man Alasdair Darling won’t debate with. Yes and we all know the reason why he won’t debate with him don’t we! It’s because Alasdair is a big feartie. I refer to the firebrand of real Labour left Dennis Canavan.
It goes without saying that this was one of my personal highlights of the day as Dennis was one of my first political heroes. In a barnstorming speech which John McLean would have been proud to call his own, Dennis mocked better together by saying that though they may have the press and the media on their side they cannot match the people power of our campaign.
He then went on to tell the crowd that this referendum will not be won in the press and media but in conversations which will take place amongst families, in workplaces, at sports events, church halls, and in chats with friends in communities all over Scotland. We have he said to take the arguments for our cause to every city, town, village street and home in this country. Our opponents he reminded us are powerful and will do anything to cling on their power. However they do not have the numbers we do. Our strength he said was in our people and it is because we have a committed army of volunteers who have the guts and determination to see this campaign though that he said is why we will win a famous victory for our country and our people.
Further speeches were delivered with fire and passion by Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie Labour Voters For Independence Alan Grogan, Journalist Ruth Wishart and Women For Independence Carolyn Leckie. Now I have known Carolyn for a fair few years and have seen her deliver a number of powerful thought provoking speeches but I have never seen her on this kind of form. To say she was sensational would I think be an understatement. Fearless and feisty, she reminded us that we will not win this referendum without women. After all we do comprise 52 percent of the Scottish population. As she said women are clever and will want answer to the issues which matter to them on issues such as poverty childcare and health. It is she says the job of Women for Independence and the more generic Yes campaign to get out in to communities and provide those answers.
Alan Grogan reminded us in case we needed reminding that the best or perhaps I should say worst attempts of Johann Lamont Margaret Curran and their friends to pretend otherwise there were still real Labour people with real Labour values who believed that independence could return the people’s party to the people of Scotland and in a quite devastating attack on the current leadership if indeed you can call it that and to be honest I don’t think you can he said that had Keir Hardie been alive today he would have been marching with us. It goes without saying that I believe he would. However there is a little known fact that the comrades do not you to know. This is that the man who was one of founders of the Labour Party and the first ever Labour MP at Westminster ended his days as a member of the Scottish National Party.
As for Patrick well wouldn’t you just know it our own green man
ripped in to better together shredding their argument by saying that were very good at making demands when it came to others but not quite so good at providing information themselves. His vision of a fairer greener more egalitarian and inclusive Scotland where we harness our own energy needs through cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels and ban those costly outdated and potentially lethal nuclear weapons from our shores certainly made me believe that great things can and indeed will start with Yes when in less than a year’s time we vote to be the change we want to see for both Scotland and humanity.
Having such talented speakers from such a wide variety of groups destroys the myth that our campaign is all about Alex Salmond doesn’t it Mr Darling? Yet you and some of your deluded colleagues still persist in peddling this drivel. However, this is not as yourself and shall we say your rather strange colleagues Ms Curran and Ms Lamont seem to think Scotland V Salmond. This is a real debate on a real issue and we in Yes Scotland have a depth of talent in our team which your self preservation society cannot hope to match and you know our democratically elected First Minister would not want it any other way.
When Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the crowd was 30,000 there was a real buzz of anticipation about the hill as Nicola reminded us about the differences the current devolved Scottish parliament had made to Scottish life.
Addressing the crowd she paid particular attention to Health and the positive difference in this area between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Having been the most successful Health Minister in Scottish Parliamentary history this is an area in which Nicola has considerable expertise, using all her experience Nicola slated the creeping and deliberate destruction of NHS England by a Government which she said knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Colin Fox invoked the spirit of revolutionary socialist John McLean in a speech which was as principled and pragmatic as it was idealistic and visionary. Blair Jenkins spoke with pride and passion of our nations potential to be a force for good in the world and Tasmina Ahmed Sheik reminded us that we are fighting not for the short term interests of the few in the present but for a better long term future of the future generations like her children and their friends.
However I have to say my one of my favourite speeches of the day came from my party leader and our First Minister Alex Salmond. For whilst Yes Scotland is very much a team effort every team needs a sprinkling of star players and Alex Salmond is certainly one of our star players. On home ground he gave a statesmanlike speech filled with fire, passion, and belief that no unionist could hope to equal let alone match. This was a man on brilliant form during a day when the independence family gathered to hear visions of a better Scotland and the First Minister certainly delivered the goods.
On a occasion which was tailor made for him he reminded our opponents that they write us off at their own very considerable risk. With the crowd on his side he went for the throat saying that only Independence can deliver the people’s victory that Scotland deserves. Our Scotland he said was a Scotland which would have a written constitution. By having this important document we would underpin our commitment to a fairer future in which sovereignty would be owned by the people who live and work in our nation. Our parliament would demonstrate by it’s actions the will of the people. It will be a confident Scotland which will play our full part in the international community and no take part in illegal wars. He also said to the cheers of the gathering that we will put bairns before bombs in an independent Scotland and there will be no place for trident on Scottish soil. This is the kind of Scotland I believe in, the kind of Scotland I can be proud of and the kind of Scotland we can aspire to be with the full powers only independence can bring.
Make no mistake the reason the unionists hate Alex Salmond is due to one very simple but devastating fact they do not have and have never had a leader of his calibre and none of them are in his class or for that matter anywhere remotely near it.
This was a day which had a carnival atmosphere from start to finish and Seeing Sally Evans and her husband Ian King was a lovely surprise. I mean I knew they would be there but it’s finding people in a crowd that size. I mean the term needle in a haystack comes to mind. However that didn’t seem to matter this was a day for making new friends as well as renewing old ones. It was a day when we not only heard from key speakers from the core of our movement, we were also entertained by a variety of talented performers who gave their time for free in support of our cause.
The list included Sheena Wellington who sang the Robert Burns classic which has become an international anthem for workers of all nations a man’s a man for aw that. Yes the same song she sang at the opening of the parliament which we wish to empower and some of the less intelligent members in the Labour ranks wish to close.
We also enjoyed the talents of Eddi Reader who proudly carried the same banner to this independence march that her grandfather had carried to a march for this noble cause back in the 1930’s. Hearing this did make me shed a few tears in memory of a dad who had he been spared would have been a certain Yes voter on our nation’s historic day.
Amber Road had us singing at the top of our voices which must have sent a shudder down the spines of the Westminster village and may explain why my sing why my singing voice had deserted me in church on Sunday morning. This is not I don’t think something about which the congregation of Baillieston St Andrew’s will be complaining too loudly. Meanwhile the band’s rendition of the brilliant is Scotland Is Ours had the hill absolutely rocking and I believe caused an earthquake in Brighton and a crash on Ed’s lilac gravy train. Well lets be honest that lot gave up the right to called be reds a long time ago and as for being called socialists I believe they regard that as being positively slanderous.
In a day packed with quality performances from both speakers and artists. I have to say that my cultural highlight on a day when we unlike the no campaign showed we have a fantastic embarrassment of riches rather than just James McMillan was supplied by Alan Bisset who performed his poem Vote Britain to remind us exactly why we shouldn’t. Alan had a tough act to follow but I think his warm up act was on good form. Well it was one Alex Salmond and as warm up acts I think that’s just about as good as your going to get.
One of the most powerful voices of the day was that of Scotland’s top Human Rights lawyer Amner Anwar who reminded those in attendance that as we move towards winter many of the country’s older citizens will be forced to make the unacceptable choice between heating and eating such has been the result of the Westminster Government’s savage benefit cuts. This he said was an outrage and should not be happening in any civilised society. This my friends is not a union dividend its a union joke at the moment the joke is most definitely on us. However it doesn’t have to be this way and you have the chance to change that and change it for better .
As the gathering neared its end I thought I’d better take a wander round the stalls and after I had mixed and mingled met up with friends and put faces to facebook friends that is exactly what I did. Well anyone who knows what I’m like a gabby wee madam with opinions on everything who will chat to anyone.
In the course of my wanderings, I stopped for a chat at the Business for Independence stall. In my chat with some fairly prominent business people I said that one of my concerns with our rivals campaign was their insistence that everything including business must big large scale operations. I said that this was a deeply flawed argument and that as I and many others have pointed out one key strengths of the Scottish business community will be the valued role of small to medium sized businesses providing high quality products and one example of this was a Glasgow based photography business the company KK Snaps was I said run by friends of mine one of whom says I’m the mad ‘adopted’ auntie she selected for herself. I wonder who that might have been? I think the name Katie Walker comes readily to mind.
The businessman concerned said he hadn’t heard of the company but would keep an eye out for it as Scotland needs to promote it’s young entrepreneurs and create a climate where their skills are valued encouraged and developed.
This will be a very busy year for us all of us in the Yes campaign as we step up our campaigning to achieve the better Scotland we want to see, the Scotland I believe we deserve. A successful Scotland with small sustainable businesses at the heart of it, where businesses like KK snaps play a vital role in the success of the Scottish economy in a country where value for money and quality of product count for far more than the size of the company.
After mixing with the business community I moved on to Women for Independence where I enjoyed a brief catch up with someone who like Katie Walker occupies a special in my heart. I refer of course to the one woman force of nature that is Shona McAlpine the golden bairn of our independence family or maybe I’m just a wee bit biased.
I also visited the CND stall and as a long term supporter of CND I signed up to receive more information on the work of this excellent group. A group who like me see no room for trident missiles and weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde or anywhere else in Scotland, Britain, or the world.
Now me being I have to report on matters cultural and I met some of the National Collective and performed a couple of my pro independence to them. Well you know I’ll perform my poetry just about anywhere well except better together cultural gatherings. Well, you can’t get both James McMillan and me in to the same telephone box.
As I said earlier in my report I made sure I put my smart phone to good use by taking a few photographs to remind me of a truly historic day. I have to say I captured a fair few images including some placards and banners which contained just the right kind of message to convince some of the doubters of the merits of our message. Amongst my favourites are Great things start with Yes. A banner which proudly proclaimed the message of my football team and my country saying Celtic Fans For Scottish Independence. My dad a Celtic fan like me, would have been so proud to see that banner. It would have appealed to sense his of duty as would the one which said make trident history.
I must admit though my favourite slogan of the day was one which purely on accuracy alone must chill unionists to the bone. It’s message was simple but devastating as it told a simple truth that they’ll never admit that truth is this Dependency is for Kids. Like it or loathe it they cannot escape it’s harsh and brutal reality.
As we left the hill we got ready to go our separate ways but we left in good spirits with a renewed vigour and determination to win this referendum gaining not only a victory for our nation but a better land than any of our opponents could ever dare to dream of.
Some and possibly many of the marchers went back to various parts of our country as soon as the rally was over whilst others like myself made a wee bit more of a day of it. After taking some me time and grabbing a bite to eat, I sat on the steps at Hunter Square and reflected on what had been a wonderful march and rally where we had shown the world what can be when people power marches for progress in a civilised way. I am proud to say we conducted ourselves with dignity throughout the course of the day.
After a brief rest I went down to an old haunt of mine namely the Bongo Club to enjoy the cabaret in aid of the Scottish Independence Convention. A cabaret which featured a great selection of talent from both spoken word and traditional music and was well worth the five pound admission fee which I consider to be cheap at the price and as some who knows her way both of these scenes I know good quality when I see it and believe this really was top of the cultural league. Though I have to say that with the appearance of my favourite contemporary poet Jenny Lindsay made attendance a bit like voting Yes next September. There was no doubt I was going to be there as in my opinion there was no other choice to make.
The spoken word event
was compared brilliantly by Alan Bisset who gave the crowd another chance to hear his Vote Britain poem. Apart from Alan and Jenny there were excellent contributions from Martin O’Connor and Kieran Hurley amongst others in a truly fantastic line up.
After the bar break I went up to the Trad For Yes event I even taught them a couple of songs and yes that does mean I had to sing to the company
This is something I very seldom do and you’ve ever heard my singing voice you’ll know why but I thought what the hell in for a penny in for a pound.
The songs of choice were the Great White Sheep which is a song about the Highland clearances and the Adam McNaughton classic Rap Tap Tap on the perils of being a school teacher. To my great surprise none of the musicians had heard either of my choices before so I can safely say brought something new to the party.
At the end of a wonderful day I left the Bongo club at around 10 PM and made my way through the streets of Edinburgh before eventually arriving at the bus station in time to get the midnight bus to Baillieston.
You know I think I must have went for a wee sleep on the journey home. Well one minute I remember passing through Haymarket and the next thing I know I’m at the Honeywell factory in Uddingston which by public transport is only about 10 to 15 minutes from my home.
This was a clear sign to wake up and think about coffee. Well I hadn’t had a cup since leaving home at around about 9 o’clock on what was by now the previous morning. I did however have a fantastic day shared with real patriots such as Stewart McDonald, and Councillor Norman McLeod, Shona McAlpine and many others. It was enjoyed by everyone from Celtic fans to farmers and I would like to thank one of the key organisers Jeff Duncan for deciding last year to organise an event which I couldn’t attend that day which was such a success it had to be repeated this year and will be again next year just weeks for before the vote which will shape our country’s future for at least the next decade.
This was a very emotional for me but it was about more than just emotions and flags. You see I believe it was a day which marked a significant turning point in the campaign and that it will prove to be the day Scotland got ready to say Yes to a better future and shed it’s ill fitting rags of union. Well those clothes are so outdated now it’s time for a change of outfit which reflects our vision for a brighter better tomorrow.
This was a day we shared our visions of a more progressive Scotland and 30 000 members of the independence family let the world know that we had an appetite for victory