On a cold Tuesday night in late November when most sane people would be sitting warm in front of the fire watching comfort telly I and many friends and comrades gathered in a ciry centre bar to celebrate a very important and historic birthday which some people said would never happen.
Before continuing with this post, I should perhaps explain that this birthday wasn’t that of a friend, relative, or neighbour. It was actually the birthday of a newspaper, a newspaper its opponents had written off before the first edition had even hit the printing press. I refer of course to The National which is the only paper which supports the cause of Scottish independence.
The fact that the paper which opponents claimed wouldn’t survived its week long trial run has now become an established part of our media shows beyond question that there is a core support for a newspaper with supports an independent Scotland and it’s my belief that developments since Brexit have the need for such a news outlet more essential than ever.
As I arrived at Yes Bar it was good to see many familiar faces from the last referendum campaign who like me realise the value of the National and acknowledge the fact it has played and will continue to play a vital role in counter acting the unionist message that Scotland is miraculously the only country in the world which is incapable of governing ourselves and prioritising the needs of our people above a remote Westminster elite who are so far removed from reality their last known address was somewhere west of Pluto.
As I made my way through the crowd it wasn’t long before I got chatting to those around me. First up to chat was Common Space editor and Sunday Herald colomumist Angela Haggarty who told me she had really enjoyed the article I had submitted to Common Space for World Transgender Remembrance Day. To say I was delighted with her feedback would be an understatement. So I think you could say I was a very happy lady.
As I mixed and mingled on a night which was made for celebration it was good to enjoy catch up’s with fellow Blue Chair regulars Aileen MacKay (see Picture 1) and National and Common Space journalist Michael Gray (see Picture (2) with his lovely and talented college Shona Craven) as I hadn’t seen either of them since before the Edinburgh Fringe. During our chat Michael informed me he had recently moved to Edinburgh, so knowing that he likes a bit of spoken word poetry I informed him that when it comes to the fringe then the Banshee Laberinyth is the place to be during the fringe and there are plenty of great nights taking place in our capital throughout the year of which my friend and fellow poet Jenny Lindsay will be only too happy to tell him about. Like Angela, Michael who also works for common space as well as The National told he had read my post for World Transgender Day and thought it was an enjoyable and thought provoking read.
Picture (1) Aileen MacKay at Yes Bar for The National Birthday Celebration)
Picture (2) Two rising stars of Scottish journalism and very much national treasures Shona Craven and Michael Gray
To get this kind of feedback on what was I have to say a very personal post meant a lot to me as I am a serious blogger with serious opinions and a real desire to see a fairer more equal society in Scotland and elsewhere. This is something I have fought for all my life and will continue to fight for until it is achieved, so have my voice valued in this way has lifted my sprits and given me renewed determination to step up the fight. for the Scotland I believe in .
This kind of encouragement is in my opinion typical of what both the National and the yes campaign from which it was born were actually about. It is not an accident when yes voters even now talk of the yes family in a way which the no campaign can never and will never be able to do. You see when we talk of the yes family then that is exactly what we mean and that family spirit was evident for all to see in the Yes bar in this cold winter’s evening.
This was a night when everyone mixed together and chatted like we had known each other all our lives. If you’ve never been to a yes gathering you may not understand but if you have you’ll get where I’m coming from and you’ll wish you’d been among us
As I said earlier in this post this was a night to chat and to congratulate those responsible for producing Scotland’s best quality daily newspaper and I passed on my birthday wishes to the original editor and founding father of the paper Richard Walker and his successor and current editor Callum Baird. In my chat with our current editor I said that I really enjoyed the sports coverage and in particular our coverage of shinty rugby union, and women’s football as these sports are often neglected by established titles in favour of more commercial sports like men’s football, golf , and racing. Our editor’s response was that the team at the National know they can’t compete in terms of resources with the so-called_bigger titles so the decision was taken to give the best possible coverage to sports which are marginalised and may otherwise go unreported
It is this style of honest journalism without the sensationalism of other titles in addition to its support for independence which has carved The National a very distinct place in the hearts of the Scottish public
In the two years since the first edition (the birthday edition was on Thursday ) this innovative paper has had columns from some of the most powerful voices from the yes movement such as Green Party co-convenor Patrick Harvie former Hue and Cry star and long term independence supporter Pat Kane, the best political bloggers in Scotland Kate Higgins (Burdz Eye View) and Paul Kavanagh (wee ginger dug) and one of the funniest voices ever to inhabit Twitter the one and only Angry Salmond.
As a fairly recent development in the print media The National hasn’t been slow in embracing new ideas as I illustrated by the fact they’ve given bloggers and digital media commentators a platform to air their views but more than that it have made a positive contribution to challenging the gender imbalance within journalism and more than any other paper it has given voices to talented female journalists. Prominent amongst this talented team of excellent women writers are Cat Boyd who was one of stars of the yes campaign in 2014 the SNP MP for Clackmannanshire and Dumblane,Tasmina Ahmed-Sheilk, her party colleague and Scottish Social Security minister Jeane Freeman MSP, former Scottish Socialist MSP Carolyn Leckie features Editor Janice Burns and one of Scottish journalism’s brightest stars Shona Craven.
In what an enjoyable and entertaining I had the pleasure of enjoying detailed and interesting chats with Janice and Shona and found them both to be brilliant company During my chat with Shona, she asked if I had ever written to the paper. When I confessed that I hadn’t she told me to get busy and write to the letters page as we need to see more women writing to the papers and expressing their opinions. Well, as she says men don’t hold back in their opinions so we shouldn’t hold back in saying what we think. As those of you who know me will know, this is something I’ve never done and I’ve no intention of starting now. It is however gratifying to receive this kind of encouragement from the likes of Shona and other journalists as it is heartening to know my opinions are respected and it gives me a wee bit more motivation to take my blog to the next level wherever that may be.
Aside for the serious business of mixing with the journalists it was also good to spend time with friends I haven’t seen for longer than I care to remember. One man who could definitely come in to this category is former Scottish Socialist firebrand Alan McCoombes who had travelled down from Dunkeld to be part of the celebration and is pictured below with his daughter Katie.As we chatted Alan told me how much he was enjoying life in the heart of rural Perthshire.I have to say he’s looking well on it I think the country air must be suiting him, it’s certainly a long way from Govan where we fitst met more than 20 years ago. It is however safe to say that though there may have been a change in our personal geographies since we first met there has been no change in our shared vision of a fairer more inclusive Scotland and the belief that independence is the best way to bring that vision to reality.
Picture (3) Alan and Katie McCoombes both say to being part of yes family.
As I left the party to make my way back to the village I reflected on a lovely night which proved beyond doubt the spirit of the yes campaign is despite what our opponents would say very much alive. You see try as they might to divide us there is a core support who actually have become like an extended family and when push comes to shove will support each other in whatever way we can and take real pleasure in hearing of other’s successes. This unbreakable bond is what made yes campaign the most unique in Scottish political history and led to formation of the National to articulate the values, views , and visions for which we are proud to stand.
Like any family we will have our occasional disagreements but that’s allowed and indeed cherished as we all have slightly different ways of doing things and our particular talents to bring to the table. I mean me and Shona had a difference of opinion over Donny Osmond but we never fell out about it. Well, just because she doesn’t think he’s the most gorgeous man ever born doesn’t mean I don’t value her opinion. In our yes family, debate is encouraged not stifled as nobody imposes their will from on high and tells you what to think
As you can probably tell, I am very proud to be part of this dynamic collection who have been a fantastic advert for Scotland and the fact we have our own newspaper to give voice our to concerns in a way that the unionist press never will is a very heartening development as it is something which only four or five years ago would have been dismissed as unrealistic and written off as an impossible dream.
We should I think be very proud of how far we’ve come in what is a very short time. We have I believe changed the political landscape of our print media and cannot be dismissed as a passing phase no matter how much some of our more vitriolic opponents may want to do so. No matter what the unionists think the National is here and here to stay and that is why when I received an invite to attend this celebration I had to say yes to a truly national party and had a lovely night with friends because I did.
Love And Best Wishes