Thousands Attended, Millions Didn’t

It has been interesting to watch the reaction to the massive independence demonstration that took place in Glasgow, and to analyse the way it has been reported. Naturally, there have been some sympathetic to the independence cause who have asked if such events are effective in converting No voters. Then of course we have seen others less sympathetic to independence question the numbers of the demonstration – or in some cases to mount an argument familiar to those of us who mobilised for the great anti-war demonstrations: yes, the demonstration was large, but a far larger number of people didn’t march and simply got on with their day.

That was one point of analysis offered by Paul Hutcheon, for example, on the Sunday Politics. He said: “while tens of thousands of people attended the rally, millions didn’t.” Sharing the panel, Katie Grant initially attempted to say that the demonstration was an SNP mobilisation (presumably to account for its size) before saying that while the march looked united, it was in reality full of contradictions and internal arguments about the big issues of the day, including the European Union.

 

I take the Sunday Politics reflections as examples, because they represent the key elements of a more general appraisal of the event, repeated by various commentators. But this analysis is superficial in the extreme. It profoundly misses what is going on underneath the surface. Many – including myself – expected the demonstration to be a gathering of the most die-hard elements of the movement. I expected up to ten thousand people to take to the streets. That would still a large demonstration in Scottish terms. It would merit the degree of responses garnered from the media and politicians. As it happened estimates vary from 50,000 up to 90,000. From studying the video and pictures it is very conceivable that it is on the upper end of that scale.

Whatever the exact number, it was big enough to make an impact. It forced the grassroots into the discussion about the future direction of the independence movement. It had to be reported – albeit in skin deep terms – and the Sunday Politics couldn’t simply ignore the event either, nor could the BBC. Every candidate for the SNP deputy leadership was in attendance. The First Minister – who had not reacted to previous independence demonstrations in recent years – retweeted media coverage of the march such was its size. Anyone who knows anything about grassroots pressure and its relationship with political leaders will tell you that every reaction to mobilisations from below are carefully judged by those in power above. Nicola Sturgeon, known for her careful approach to such questions (for some, too careful), judged that this demonstration carried enough weight to react to it positively.

It couldn’t be ignored. Those four words are fundamental. No matter how anyone tries to decry the event – politically, to undermine its size, to say it is ineffectual – they are unable to ignore it. Anyone who has ever organised a demonstration will know how important that is, and what future openings it can provide. I have been part of organising some very large demonstrations in Scotland. They are not easy to pull off. The timing has to be right. You need the backing of organisations, parties, unions and campaigns. You need money and media to help raise awareness of its importance.

This understanding is what is most immediately – yet notably lacking – from much of the commentary.

This demonstration was not backed by the SNP. It was not advertised by the SNP. There was no call from its leaders to join the march. This demonstration had no backing from trade unions. Indeed it had no formal backing from any political party. It received scant media coverage in the build up, aside from the pro-independence National newspaper. Even on social media it had a presence but it wasn’t omnipresent even on pro-independence channels. Perhaps there were, but I saw no promotional videos. It didn’t appear to have any significant financial backing.

Given all of this, the sheer size of the demonstration through the streets of Glasgow is all the more remarkable. It was enormous in Scottish terms. We can comfortably say that is the largest demonstration that Scotland has seen since the monster Make Poverty History march in 2005. And it is the largest in Glasgow since the anti-war march of 2003. Keep in mind: both of these events had everything that the independence demonstration didn’t: a coalition of large campaign organisations, huge media exposure and financial backing.

This was therefore an astonishingly organic moment, showing just how deep the roots of the independence movement are in communities across the country. It is genuinely incredible that Scotland’s leading political commentators don’t seem to comprehend the importance of this, or understand the social forces involved in driving such a process. I spoke to many about the event – and lots of people had no idea it was happening until they saw the pictures come through on their social media. One friend told me he knew it was going to be big. Several of his workmates had mentioned they were attending. That’s not normal – it reflects a much larger mood. This was not the fringes of Scottish nationalism that inhabit the Twittersphere. This was a mass of ordinary people who inhabit workplaces, communities and colleges.

It spoke to the story of the modern independence movement that was so popular in 2014. Another point dramatically missing from the coverage. No one asked for permission. People didn’t wait for the SNP leaders to call for action. Frankly, it was this kind of dynamic that saved the Yes campaign in 2014. I recall Blair Jenkins being asked if Yes Scotland could keep up with new groups and events being set up. They couldn’t, he said, because the campaign had developed such momentum at the base of Scottish society that events were springing up everywhere without their knowledge or support. That is what a real social movement looks like – and Blair was astute to respect this rather than seeking to control it.

The demonstration reflected the essence of this spirit. It has put the grassroots into the agenda – in the SNP, in the national conversation and in the media. But it doesn’t stop there. It has laid down a marker to the British state itself. This is not hyperbole. It has shown that should Nicola Sturgeon call for a referendum only for it to be refused by the Tories, there exists the potential for a mass movement of popular revolt in defence of Scottish democracy.

In all of the discussion about the timing of a referendum this has always been the key component. It is assumed by many that it is in the First Ministers gift to call for a referendum. Of course – it has to be sanctioned. And on balance it is likely to be resisted. But the demonstration shows that there are resources available to mobilise a counter-proposition to the obstacles erected by the British state to a referendum in the form of tens of thousands of people willing to take to the streets. Imagine if the SNP and others were to support and even to call for such action should such circumstances emerge.

This is not what the SNP leadership prefers. They don’t want to polarise their relationship with the British state, but instead to develop a more gradualist strategy based on ‘competent government’ and on being a good citizen of Europe. But the political period is a volatile one, where mass movements can have a much greater impact because political parties and institutions are increasingly unable to capture and retain the aspirations of growing numbers of people. This process is happening across the Western world and being expressed in various ways – lots of it unfortunately through the populist right.

Paul Hutcheon is of course technically right to say “millions didn’t march.” But that spectacularly misses the key element of the political crisis. Mobilised opinion – even it is polarising and is deemed to be a minority sport – can have a disproportionate impact on the political debate. I remember Euan McColm said the something similar after a large independence demonstration during the referendum itself when he tweeted that most people were shopping or having an afternoon pint. The point is this: when tens of thousands of people are willing to take to the streets, in self-organised fashion, something is broader and deeper happening. Something that is beyond the control of any political leader. Something that takes people who spend their lives being paid to write and commentate on politics by surprise. And it is that fact that makes it powerful and means it has consequences.

This is the core of the meaning of such a demonstration. Am I a fan of a sea of Saltires and Lion Rampants? No. Are there,as Katie Grant says, divisions of opinion on the demonstration? Yes. And those arguments have been had and will continue to be had. Over the impact of Corbyn on the discussion, or European Union membership, or strategy and tactics. Does it convince No voters to convert? Probably not. But in my view all of that is subordinate to what the demonstration represents in terms of the social forces it was able to mobilise on its own, from below, and in utterly organic fashion. The primary objective was clearly not to convince No voters – but to re-establish the Yes grassroots as a force in society.

Someone said to me that the march was a nationalist parade, devoid of class politics. Class politics would be on show the next day at the May Day march. And it was. This years May Day rally heard from inspiring speeches from workers in struggle, from the Repeal the 8th movement, and from the now legendary organiser and writer Jane McAlevey. But the left must never have a mechanical view of “class politics”.

The truth is that the independence demonstration was infused with class issues. It is in fact this kind of stand-offishness that has rendered the left incoherent and on the sidelines on major questions – not least on Brexit in England in particular. But the same can be said in the United States and across Europe. Actually existing class politics is not hermetically sealed from all kinds of other influences in society, and doesn’t always present itself in the form of a strike, or under a red flag.

If someone waving a Saltire is a barrier to engagement – you have already lost. Such purism only ends in the forces of the right taking the initiative – as they have done across the continent. The left must eradicate such an approach from its thinking. In the Scottish context tribalism prevents this for many on the Labour left, meaning that instead of seeing the deeper processes at work on the independence march, they see only an SNP power base. It much, much more complicated than that. There is a mass progressive movement in Scotland that can be harnessed through debate and dialogue. And the popular independence movement is rooted in progressive ideas – fired by deeply felt resentment at a political order that has failed.

Class politics is about power, and an understanding of power. In 2014 hundreds of thousands of Scots felt a sense of their own power as they stood up to the British state, the Tory party, the banks – even the US President. The demonstration was an expression of power. And guess what? People like having power. 2014 gave a taste of what was possible. In 2014 the Radical Independence Campaign carried out targeted outreach campaigns in areas where voter registration was its lowest. Why did we do this? In part it was because we knew that there was a chance for the people with least power in society to deal a blow to the most powerful. It would be part of a mass democratic revolt against austerity, Toryism and at an international level would precipitate a certain restructuring of transatlantic and European order.

A Yes vote would not only have altered the terrain of Sottish politics – but it would have sent shock waves through the Western state system. It would have sparked an immediate battle of ideas in the society: integration into the failing neoliberal order versus rupture and forging a new trajectory. In this process success or failure in the race for what kind of society we would develop would always rest on the tenacity and good instincts of the movement coming from below. And a movement who has tasted one victory does not easily back down. In other words the Yes movement was itself an exercise in power – which mobilised communities the length and breadth of the country. The demonstration has refueled tens of thousands of potential activists. It is commonly thought that demonstrations are all about external engagement. If you have never fought from the grassroots it feels counter-intuitive – but demonstrations despite their public manifestation often perform an even more important internal function. The provide identity, solidarity and energy between participants. Without this, no campaign can be successful.

There is a way to go. There are deep structural problems facing the independence cause, as well as changes in the political context. I have consistently argued, for example, that independence should not be married to EU membership or on the fate of Brexit. In this there are continuing problems and strategic dilemmas. But one thing is clear: there is a movement willing to mobilise and there to be tapped into dependent on circumstances. Differences of opinion naturally exist – but they should be embraced. Strong movements do not demand obedience – which is different from discipline – but are enriched from debate. But we should be clear – even if some in the commentariat are not – that this was an event of some significance.

Some have to recognise the scale, but say the rabble has no concept of strategy. Mark Smith finishes his column in The Herald reflecting on the march by saying:

“…if the Glasgow march has proved anything, it’s that listening to the man on the streets is not always the wisest option.”

One must point to the irony inherent in this statement. It seems to me that displaying the return of the independence grassroots when the tide has been against them to the extent that you have to devote a column to debunking their credentials is evidence of having the wherewith all to exert exceptional political leverage. And at the risk of repeating myself, without the backing of the SNP. Give me the first hundred marchers over the first hundred six figure salary political advisers – without question. I thought that was the basic lesson of the last few years in Western politics.

For now, it is over to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP leadership to decide if they should use the mandate to call for another referendum. But even that won’t be the biggest decision they have to make. A much larger one, is what to do if the British state were to refuse their request. Because should that come to pass – Saturdays display of power gives us reason to believe that it would be eclipsed by even larger demonstrations should this come to pass. That is outside the comfort zone of formal politics – and yet it would mobilise thousands to the streets. Isn’t that the central contradiction of the political moment? That is why it is the most significant marker in the development of the independence movement since the return of 59 SNP MPs in 2015. And it was delivered by ordinary people doing it for themselves – without sanction, the formal backing of their leaders, and against the political wind. And yes – this all happened while most people went about their normal Saturday.

Brighten your day.

Comments (80)

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  1. Wullie says:

    Points up how badly served Scotland is by its so-called journalists aka chancers!

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      Wullie, how right you are. Sorry I wasn’t there but a long way from Shetland.

    2. Stu Cosgrove says:

      But your fave comic the National loved it uncritically. And criticism, however mild seems to be the thing you cannot bear. Nodding along to a movement, without questioning it, always woks out well: as history demonstrates again and again

  2. Sheena Gadday says:

    A very interesting reflection that mirrors many of my own thoughts about the event. I only joined in the march because it happened to be passing while I was in the city centre. None of the friends and family I’d usually be marching with were there, which makes me think that a future event has the potential to be far, far bigger. Given the size of it, a lot of those marching would surely have been doing so for the first time and I bet, given how good natured it all was, that they have a taste for it now. I certainly regained mine after joining in. Seeing so many banners from Yes groups still operational all over the country after all of this time was heartening and gave me hope for the future of the movement, despite the howls of disdain from certain rather purist corners. The rally was weak, and featured speakers I’d rather not see on any platform ever again, but the sheer size of the gathering, that was a sign. A good sign.

    1. Who were the speakers? No-one knew before (or after).

      1. Sheena Gadday says:

        I personally only heard Tommy Sheppard (good value, particularly on the threats to devolution) and Craig Murray (polemic with pro-Russian overtones). I’m told Tommy Sheridan spoke and a set list I’ve seen suggests there were contributions from Sandra White MSP, blogger Peter Bell, Claudia Alloza (ANC), Math Sturgess (English Scots for Yes), Angela McCormick (Stop the War coalition), Colin McPherson (Germans for Scottish Independence).

        1. BrianFujisan says:

          Sheena Gadday

          Craig Murray (polemic with pro-Russian overtones).

          quantify

          1. stuart mcpherson says:

            I would guess what he means by “pro-Russian” is that he talked about how we are seeing a “Russia to blame for everything” meme being set up by our government and the Democrats (nb not with a small d) in the USA who are blaming Putin for their losing against Trump. I’ve read his site quite often and he has no time for Putin but he doesn’t accept him as the universal bogey-man either.

    2. HELEN says:

      Sheena are you sure you were at the same rally as me ”the rally was weak & featured speakers I would rather not see on a platform ever again”.The speakers & the singers were all great ,how can anyone fail to be impressed by Craig Murray ,Tommy Sheppard,Peter Bell & even Tommy Sheridan.Plenty of people run Tommy down & personally I would never vote for him as a politician ,but many of my friends & myself were converted to voting YES & getting involved in the indy campaign ,because of Tommy Sheridan. He can raise. the moral of a meeting & leave you believing you can do this .

      1. Stu Cosgrove says:

        She’s right: there were too many nutjobs and cranks speaking

  3. Cath says:

    Agree totally. I’ve been out the country for a while, so it’s hard for me to judge if this is a sudden shift or it’s been happening over time. But it’s a genuine shift, for sure.

    During the last referendum, many of us were totally new to independence and the SNP and it took a lot to “come out” to friends and family initially (that’s how it felt). So, despite the up-swelling of politics and debate, there was huge reticence about talking politics and even on the eve of the referendum, I didn’t know how many of my friends, colleagues and family were voting. Often I only found out people I thought were definite no voters had voted yes when they joined the SNP afterwards!

    The march on Saturday was totally different. I vaguely knew it was happening but had no idea of time, routes etc and didn’t go on the march itself. Yet a few of my previously non-political friends knew. They were the ones posting pictures on FB – people who last time were absolutely silent.

    After the march, I went up to a session I often play in and again, there was an unashamed party air about the place, with flags, badges, T-shirts etc. And once again, people I never spoke politics to because I assumed they were hardened unionists turned out to be firm yessers. I suspect many of them probably thought I was no as I never wore badges or went on about politics.

    I suspect that change will be a huge one, simply because this time around people will be less reticent and their friends will know their stance. If you’re on the fence or a soft no and you think those around you who are silent are all “the silent majority” of no voters, you’re much more likely to fall that way than if those around you are all vocally yes.

    1. Really interesting Cathy, thanks

  4. seonaidh says:

    The point about numbers is important as stated above. I heard/ read many years ago that MPs have a ‘rule of thumb’ regarding letters received from constituents. For every letter they receive they take it as read that there will be another 10, 20 or 50 who agree but can’t be bothered writing. Marches will be the same.

    1. Belinda says:

      And for every person in town shopping and not giving a stuff about marching and independence? Accoring to your sums there are difty out of town who still remain unconvinced and find the flagwavers absurd

      1. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

        That assumes, Belinda, that none of those shoppers were supportive or sympathetic to the marchers. Given that Glasgow voted Yes in 2014, as did nearby N. Lanarkshire and E. Dunbartonshire, that is quite an assumption.

  5. Disillusioned says:

    Surely what is needed is sustained, coordinated and substantial demos.

    More than just marches, that seem very tedious and old fashioned to a younger audience.

    For me, one of the most effective moments of indyref 1 was when the hero on the rickshaw started playing the Imperial March to the Labour sycophants trained in from London.

    Two guys, a rickshaw and a speaker reached hundreds of thousands on social media.

    1. R Smith says:

      I was pleasantly surprised how many young people were on the march. The Unicorn was pretty neat.

    2. Paul Wilson says:

      How many others did it turn off though?

      1. Disillusioned says:

        Comedy has the ability to cut through and stick in one’s mind a lot more than long polemics or marches.

      2. Me-Bungo-Pony says:

        Far fewer than those who would have been either inspired and/or heartened by it Paul. Those “turned off” are likely to have been dyed in the wool No voters who would still vote No even if Westminster vowed to sacrifice all their first-born to the sanctity of the Union.

    3. Interpolar says:

      I remember that one. Classic!

  6. Stan Reeves says:

    Your critique of left “Stand offishness” purism, incoherence and tribalism is bang on the money.Left commentators the R.I.C., labour for independence, and S.I.C.?? They are boycotting AUOB.???
    As a Freirian educator and community development worker over a period of 40years, our projects politicised thousands and thousands of working people in Edinburgh. We were constantly belittled and ridiculed by the left for not being left enough. We included people of all different social class and political persuasion but the nature of the project made people think deeply about the nature of the society we were living in, and we had a presence in all the political debates in the 80.s 90.s and beyond. We also had a lot of fun and developed a vibrant and caring community. I do understand the bitterness and anger inherent in much leftism, but we must get over that and form broad alliances.The torn faced miseries won’t win hearts and minds. A bit more friendly enthusiasm might. This drive for independence is not, or never will be revolutionary. it is simply about becoming autonomous. Then the left will have the job of persuading the Scottish people of projects which will make the new society more egalitarian.

    1. Jonathon Shafi says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’d be keen to have a discussion with you about these issues. Jonathon.

      1. Stan Reeves says:

        Your welcome! I see you write for the Herald. I am very sceptical of the press I am afraid! So if you want to discuss something with me just fire away! and I may or may not respond. When trust is lost, it is the task of those who commit the untruths, to make reparations, and rebuild trust.
        “The very hirelings of the press, whose trade it is to buoy up the spirits of the people, have uttered falsehoods so long, they have played off so many tricks, that their budget seems, at last, to be quite empty” William Corbett 1830.
        This might be instructive.. https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9789460915529

      2. stan reeves says:

        You have gone quiet! Did you read about the ALP project?

        1. Jim Bennett says:

          Stan, I echo what you say about the scepticism that the Friere based work was met with – both here and Brazil. The role that your Adult Learning Project played in creating a conscious understanding of Scottishness deserves to be replicated again and again.
          Jonathan Shafi is a new breed of wider thinking Marxist but I have my concerns about his/RIC’s exclusionary politics. It has roots in the sectarian left which influence its method of operations.
          And as old Paulo said “You can’t use instruments of domestication for liberation”!

    2. Paul Wilson says:

      The age old problem of the Left is it fights among it’s self and not the real enemy.

  7. R Smith says:

    I started out at the front of the March but stopped to watch for approx an hour from the pedestrian bridge at the end of Woodlands Road over the M8. What struck me apart from the lady in the wedding dress with various soltires was how very few SNP regalia was on show. Virtually nothing. I was pleased to see in Glasgow Green Joanna Cherry, Tommy Shepherd, Craig Murray, iScot magazine plus Blaise and Dr Whitford.
    Otherwise I saw no SNP involvement whatsoever presumably as they had their event at the Mitchell Theatre. If you sized it up to a UK March it would have been the equivalent of at least 600,000 up to 900,000 if you believe the upper estimate.
    It was an impressive turnout, and was widely welcomed by onlookers certainly when Zi was going by.
    It was all the better frankly for having little if no input from the SNP and I say that as a member. Certainly our branch did zilch about publicising it. Whoever organised it did an excellent job and are to be congratulated, it could not have been easy.

    Intend to go to the Inverness one at the end of July.

  8. Bill says:

    The majority of Scots as evidenced by polling do not want a second referendum and if there was one the result would be the same. Sturgeon knows this. This demonstration changes nothing.

    1. DaveM says:

      … according to which polls? None of the polling evidence that has been published recently supports your view.

      1. Bill says:

        Google it. It’s out there. The Survation poll from February for example. Is that recent enough for you?

      2. Bill says:

        Or this one: https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/scotland/majority-of-voters-still-against-scottish-independence-poll-finds/

        Hard to swallow I know, but some of us reluctantly respect the will of the people (as in other votes) and get on with the rest of our lives.

    2. Paul Wilson says:

      Yawn! Get over yourself and you might see what is happening by any stretch of the imagination this rally proves that Yes is not going away anytime soon and is getting stronger. You live in your Yoon bubble that’s fine by us! then you will lose.

      1. Bill says:

        Fair enough. I agree the Yes movement is not going anywhere. I’m referring to what the result would be if there was a second independence referendum. You know nothing about my stance on the matter and it is irrelevant to my argument in any case, however, you characteristically resort to calling me names instead of putting forward a coherent response.

        1. BSA says:

          Your ‘argument’ ? You didn’t make an argument. You just made the usual dismissive assertions we now expect from unionists.
          And your poll is also irrelevant in isolation. If you can provide a comprehensive polling analysis over a period that might give you some basis for your ‘argument’.

          1. Bill says:

            Read my original comment. It really does help before wading in. As I’ve already said, you know nothing about my stance on independence and nothing can be inferred about it from what I’ve said here.

          2. Bill says:

            And at the risk of repeating myself again, a lot of people taking to the streets changes nothing. Not an assertion. A statement of fact.

    3. Stan Reeves says:

      Perhaps it might be instructive for you to read some history Bill. Gandhi’s march across india for example. Or more recently and more relevant perhaps, the singing revolution in Estonia which chased Russians rule out . Marches do sometimes make History, if only giving people strength in being together. You seem to be overwhelmed by your own pessimism. A true son of John Knox perhaps!

      1. Bill says:

        All very interesting Stan but I fail to see the relevance to or parallel with a modern democracy. I enthusiastically marched against the Iraq war and to ‘make poverty history’. That went well didn’t it. Pessimistic it may be but it’s also stark reality.

        1. Stan Reeves says:

          Portugal became a modern democracy in the 70’s Bill. just because you took to the streets and nothing changed doesn’t mean we should give up! The name “Carnation Revolution” comes from the fact that almost no shots were fired and that when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship and war in the colonies, carnations were put into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army men by Celeste Caeiro

  9. Elaine says:

    Am really shocked and disappointed if Labour for Indy boycotted AUOB, I was in LFI for 3 years and we worked really well with all others who represented Yes. Though I was under impression LFI no longer existed, I had seen after 2014 quite a few who seemed more interested in promoting Jeremy Corbyn as if “If Labour get in power then I don’t care anymore about supporting Indy” One such person even went further than that and I believe he probably also persuaded what was supposed to have been a mass surge of Remain Labour folk interested in LFI after Brexit, then Scott Abel who was running LFI told me “I couldn’t care less about Independence anymore” and I believe the new members were persuaded back to voting the union and Corbyn by Abel. Since then there is barely any mention of what was once a great movement of the Yes campaign. Is that how some folk on the Reds side, RIC/SSP and LFI think, get Corbyn in power and then to hell with Indy or if he fails then they get back on Yes. I get feeling many of them put their noses in air for anyone who supports SNP and unless they are running the show they will snub AUOB and that is the kind of arrogance that lost Labour, many, many. many Labour voters like me. If they love Scotland enough they will only have one vision – Indy, not treat it like 2nd best if Corbyn fails to get in power because that means if the Reds vote Labour and then lose us our SNP majority and our Mandate then they really have screwed over half of Scotland and that will be beyond forgiveness. I for one will never vote Labour again and I am not alone, 40 years and what Labour are now are not real Labour, it is a party leaning to right who have stolen the name Labour.

    1. Willie says:

      Elaine, you say that Labour are a party of the right.

      If you take a look at the website of the extremely influential Think Tank called Policy Exchange you’ll see just how right wing Labour is.

      Policy Exchange is absolutely neoconservative in its agenda where senior Labour and Tory politicians interact seamlessly with US right wingers like ex CIA Director and Afghanistan military commander General Petraeus to promote absolutely right wing agendas.

      Brown, Blears, Mandelson and many of the current crop guising under Corbyn are all there.

    2. Luan says:

      Labour for Indy were there.

    3. schrodingers cat says:

      hi elaine

      i run a yes group twitter account with about 3k followers, my timeline was full of info regarding this march in the weeks leading up to it. but then again, i blocked johnathan (as did many others) a few months back after he was seen mooching around inside a slab conference trying to gladhand corbyn. perhaps that is why he was taken by surprise 🙂

    4. Paul Wilson says:

      Then Labour will die if they can’t wake up and smell the coffee that is their problem the sheer size of Saturdays march shows that unless they do get on board then Labour in Scotland is finished!

  10. SleepingDog says:

    I would not get too hung up on numbers, let the politicians chase votes. A fixation on polls could lead to fear of losing percentage points from people and groups that are marginal or unhelpful to a core independence movement. For example, militarists, monarchists, theocrats and people who really like bunting possibly have a more natural home in the Unionist camp. Offend them and move on.

    I hope that Bella Caledonia might devote some articles to collective decision-making of the public deliberation type. Separate articles could be devoted to different methods. There will be some interesting anarchist practices and relevant social psychology research, but you could start with something like the traditional method described by Pink Dandelion in The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction as “a way of doing church business based on the idea of corporate direct guidance rather than voting”.

    These methods are not about building consensus, which would be rather counter-productive in the independence movement. However, it may be possible to create models of a future Scotland detailed enough to bear comparison with the UK model. Then you can move the focus towards unionists defending the UK model, and likely you will find some of the best (if unwitting) advocates for Scottish independence there.

    I suspect that there are many within the UK establishment who having made great efforts to steer debate and scrutiny away from all sorts of structural weaknesses and cupboard skeletons are puzzled that the independence movement is not mounting a concerted exploitation of these weaknesses. Possibly, as I say, in an ill-judged concern for offending fringe groups. If you’re not offering something radically different from the UK, why (people might think) not just stay with the old devil?

  11. anne mansfield says:

    Jonathon thankyou for your analysis .your reflections clarify my own thinking .I’m an english born Scot.a member of SGP. & marched with my friends -a group of Over 60,s for Independence .Some are members of SNP some are not -ALL are committed to support Independence.We organised ourselves using info from various sources & were energised by the discussions/debates /opinions with warmhearted folk on the march.NOW we are back home in Aberdeenshire & organising MORE local events .Has “the Left” taken note of olderwomen activists ?look behind you boys -its your Granny! xx

    1. David Selkirk says:

      I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of shall we say mature marchers, i believe something profound needs too & is happening in that demographic…

  12. Alec Oattes says:

    Hi Jonathon, just to thank you for this thoughtful and insightful analysis of the A.U.O.B March on Saturday, my wife and I ( 69 and 72.) took part and were impressed by the turnout and happy friendly people who took part. At times I despair of the apathy and cynicism of some of the Scottish People, but as a lifetime supporter of Scottish Independence, I will keep on working and supporting every Group in the Yes Movement. We are not going away. Regards and thanks.

  13. Duncan MacLaren says:

    I agree with Jonathan that the march was a demonstration of the anger of many Scots, even previous ‘No’ voters, about the way our country has been treated by the British Government and its branch office under the Colonel. Anger about the 67% of Scots who voted to remain in the EU being ignored and a ‘so what?’ approach to the devastating consequences that will have on our economy, our society, and our links with our fellow Europeans; the undermining of devolution through the Brexit power grab that, we are assured by the UK Minister on the Constitution, may not just stop at the advertised powers such as fishing and agriculture but turn the Scottish Parliament into the glorified county council it was always meant to be in Unionist minds; and the situation where championing anything uniquely Scottish, from Gaelic to crofting (which David Mundell assured us sarcastically would be retained by Holyrood) is ridiculed. I could go on.
    There were one worrying sign on the March concerning the police. At the busiest part of the route going down Union Street, the police were not directing traffic but were present en masse at the end of the street to ‘protect’ the 20-odd people with Union flags and screaming hatred at the marchers. That meant that we had to go round cars and buses to join up with the others. It was putting lives in danger and there were altercations between irate drivers and marchers. The organisers have to raise this with the police who could have been regarded as partisan.

  14. Elaine Fraser says:

    My husband reminded me of the march, not sure how he heard about it ( dont do Facebook) We intended to go but nearer the time both of us forgot about it. A friend reminded me again otherwise I might not have made it. We mentioned to our son who lives in Glasgow and to our surprise he agreed to join us.
    It was a good natured friendly affair. Someone shouted stick your Brexit up our ****! and was told ‘hey there are weans here!’
    Another marcher waved and cheered at folk hanging out of windows taking photos with their phones, she teased them ‘come on, get oot yer beds!’ At another window we saw a trombone player who was encouraged ‘to give us a tune!’. We saw two brides and yes a small group of males with a union jack pointed and shouted but I couldn’t hear what they were saying as I think we were singing ‘five hundred miles’ at the time. I suppose this was a shame since all three of them had made an effort to come out.
    Honestly it still felt like a long walk and my feet were sore by the time we got to the rally. We needed a ‘comfort break’ as they say and something to eat so we headed to the peoples palace but the queues were huge and we abandoned ship and headed home. We felt we had ‘done our bit’ which in the end was to show solidarity and that we do not accept the current state of affairs and to exercise our democratic right to march. We know many Yessers who would never dream of marching as its just not their style. It is important to show people on the pavements and in the windows that we are just ordinary people like them to counter the propaganda about the YES movement. So I think on that march on that day , mission accomplished.

    1. Esmé Buchan says:

      Elaine – try out Skechers ‘Go Walk 2’ slip on trainers next time, you’ll never have sore feet again! They are amazingly comfortable & give a spring in your step! Don’t even need socks with them! This was my second March, having been at the small Dunfermline one last year. Hope to attend the Inverness one among others if I can.

  15. Keir Mckechnie says:

    I was the Chief Steward for the demonstration on Saturday and it was an absolute pleasure. This was a well very organised and very disciplined demonstration. 60.000 plus people don’t just come together from all over Scotland without serious organic and grass roots organisation and hard work in advance.

    The demo was the latest of several national events organised by All Under One Banner over the last three years and could not have happened without the vision and determination of the AUOB team and the links with hundreds of local YES groups representing a huge chunk of the working class across Scotland.

    Those at the core of organising the demo were always confident that there was a growing mood to take to the streets and that the demo would be 40k plus in size. Why? Because they tapped into and connected to the mood of a large section of the working class in Scotland, who are even more repulsed by Tory rule and everything that is stinking in the state of Britain( Poverty, racism and war) since the Refendum in 2014.

    These local groups were not droven by the SNP, the Greens or indeed any of the mainstream organisations of the centre or the left at the heart of the 2014 Referendum campaign.

    The mood on the March was confident and expressed itself in loud chanting against the Tories.

    It was a game changer. It was the working class asserting its position that not only is the Independence movement still alive and kicking , but that it is unacceptable to sit back and wait either for the Brexit deal, the election of a Corbyn Government or for the SNP to get its act together on a second referendum.

    The organised left in Scotland if we are being honest by and large missed this demonstration( with a few exceptions) but the good news is there will be plenty of other opportunities to follow. The Trump visit in July us the next great opportunity to tell Trump and May that they are not welcome.

    1. Jamie Noble says:

      Along with the working classes I saw what others had (maybe based on some stereotypes, who knows?) middle class indie supporters. The movement has to recognise to get this over the line. There cannot be distinctions in class. This is about Scots of all stripes who want to be self governing.

    2. Steve Cairns says:

      Hats off to you, and to all the organisers, and all those who attended. You did a fine and a great thing.

    3. Congratulations on a great and well organised event Keir.

      Can I ask do you know how the speakers are chosen? Is AUOB a non party organisation? If so is Tommy Sheridan to be the speaker at every single event? How do you decide on your lineup?

      1. Kathleen says:

        Great to see and hear Tommy Sheridan speaking.

        1. Jamsie says:

          Must have been absolutely swinging I’m sure.
          Trouble is does any one believe a single word he utters nowadays!

    4. Wul says:

      Well done Keir and your team. It was a fantastic turn out and real morale booster.

      To those who were disappointed by the “Rally” at the end, bear in mind the main purpose of this event was to march and make a statement. Expecting the organisers to also put on a big event for 50k people after the march is a big ask. (especially when they don’t know how many will turn up).

      I went last year and was a bit tired and hungry by the end, hoping for some kind of massive indy festival on Glasgow Green, but I realised that was unrealistic.

      Could a nearby cafe or fast food outlet could get a few thousand rolls n’ sausage ready for hungry marchers and do a “roll and cuppa” special deal, advertised at the park, for hungry marchers?

      1. JOHN says:

        Well done to all the organisers for your dedication and very hard work , you deserve a medal ! .Fantastic turnout , very well organised , great happy friendly marchers , all had smiley faces and they were not intimidated by the fascists at the corner of Union Street who were doing their best to rile them , it didn’t work .

  16. Jester says:

    Reading between the lines I get the impression you weren’t on the march yourself Jonathan

    Is that right?

  17. Ross says:

    Well done Elaine Fraser u certainly done your part likewise all of us that showed up,let’s hope it inspires more the next time.

  18. Steve Cairns says:

    Excellent analysis, particularly in getting to the nub that whilst it strengthens Sturgeons position, it’s what she does with this that matters. I personally disagree with a dogmatically antagonistic stance against EU membership, but I accept the tactical concern about the link to Brexit potentially undermining the case for an Independence referendum.

    My own belief has also remained consistent: Given an opportune moment; as close as possible to the deadline, under pressure from the Lords, from Scotland, from Ireland, approximately half the UK electorate, and a majority of MP’s…. May will (from a Brexiteer perspective), cave in: Not so much to Sturgeon’s demand to repatriate returning powers, but to remaining in the Single Market and the customs union. Thus ensuring there will not be sufficient powers returning from Brussels to constitute “material change”.

    That said, and despite the complications, any argument that “independence should not be married to EU membership or on the fate of Brexit.” is moot. It’s not only too late, it also overlooks the point that it was overwhelmingly the disruption caused by Brexit which brought us back to the independence question again so soon.  

    If this happens, it will probably signal May’s demise. It would also prevent the wider economic disaster of a hard Brexit. Dare I say it, in averting such disaster, May and Sturgeon, will each have put Nationalist pressure, Party interest, and to some extent personal/political ambitions, to one side, for the common good of both their respective, and shared, national interests. I would not condemn either of them for doing so. Nor radicals of all shades for feeling disappointed. This is perhaps how Sturgeon’s gradualism will manifest itself. – It’s another argument, but worth mentioning here; Such an outcome might also be a signifier to the positive effect of the feminisation of politics.

    Nothing is certain. An English popular response may organise. A fragile parliament may collapse. May might easily cave in the other direction: Hard Brexit, Moggish rhetoric and intransigent politics, would set the perfect scene for movement based civil disobedience as Scotland’s legitimate response. That response may or may not succeed.

    What I’m certain of is that this show of popular strength is defining more sharply the political choices available to our leaders. It is not yet, I believe, defining a radical new politics or economics, or even a particularly radical new Scotland.

    Suffice to this: An active engaged electorate are informing our parliamentarians and defining the choices open to our executives. To that extent hope for democracy grew stronger this weekend. Whatever else we may hope for is a bonus.

  19. Edna says:

    My husband and myself marched for the first time ever last Saturday. We believe independence is the way forward for Scotland. However since Brexit (which Scotland did not vote for) we are looking on with increasing alarm at our very own parliament being diminished and demeaned by Westminster. Scotland’s powers are to go straight back to Westminster. It is not negotiable we are told. We can meet and be consulted. That’s it. Four equal nations in one United Kingdom? Clearly not. Those powers will then be used by Westmister for negotiating purposes with no Scottish input whatsoever. And this is happening right now. This is no journey. So with a real sense of urgency to the iminent danger to our parliament we marched. And – if the weakening of our Scottish parliament and of those I vote in to represent me is not another material change of circumstances – nothing is. Scotland’s people should elect to fully govern itself. Then see real accountability for policy decision making. See the real power of your vote. Did Westminster have to ask permission from the EU to leave? No. Did Westminster have to seek permission from EU to hold a referendum on whether to leave? No. Free to join EU. Free to leave EU. And rightly so. So too for Scotland. Free to remain in UK. Free to leave UK.
    (Please do not cite the signing of 2 acts of parliament 300 years ago as a serious argument for Scotland’s current state of union affairs. It is a most bizarre contract that binds you and your people for the rest of eternity for good or ill or come what may. Will the Westminster govt sign up for any such arrangemens as it seeks to forge new alliances post Brexit. No. Makes no sense and is undemocratic.)

  20. E dunn says:

    It’s about time people found out that she is one of the Queens pivvy council for life (selected few are invited) and she is hand in hand with the unionists so therefore the Scottish people will need to be creative as she will do nothing to aid the cause in fact in 2009 she gave Peter liiy (tory) company the right to collect and count all votes, the company that after being found out was put in his wife’s name really is it any wonder we cannot get out self determining right to be an independent country. And who created this new SNP party and updated them from what was to what is. The creator was Tony Blair need I say more

  21. Dougie says:

    Thoughts from an auld leftie…

    I wanted to be there on Saturday, but my presence elsewhere was required, for good political reasons.

    So I missed adding one person to one of the hugest and most important demonstrations in Scotland during the fifty-five years in which I have been politically active. If participation was indeed well over 50,000, as the evidence suggests it was (I know too well that the polis always under-report numbers), it was almost certainly the largest demonstration in Scotland since the anti-war demo on the eve of the Iraq disaster in 2003. Both that and Saturday’s event were only matched in size during the past half-century by the UCS Glasgow demonstration in 1971.

    I played a part in organising many student demonstrations in Scotland from the late sixties till 1975. In the later seventies, until 1990, I helped organise many labour movement demonstrations. So I have a better understanding than most, of the organisational logistics and hard work involved in helping facilitate a demonstration which attracted so many. That this was done without the active support of any major organisation is remarkable

    The outcome on Saturday was breathtaking. It can only help take the independence movement forward. So, from the bottom of my auld socialist hert, thank you AUOB for organising it. Thank you Jonathan Shafi for writing this report and analysis. And thank you, BellaCaledonia for being here to publish it.

    Dougie

  22. Margaret Kirk says:

    What any estimate of numbers misses are the people who logistically just couldn’t be there, or those like the woman I spoke to who wasn’t physically able to march but was determined to be there at the start to see us off. Behind those 50,000 plus marchers were a hell of a lot of people walking with them in spirit.

    I think the article above is correct, this may turn out to be a watershed moment – the ‘Yes’ movement has to be bigger than just the SNP, and it’s learned a couple of things since 2014. One, the most sobering revelation, is that even a full complement of pro-Indy MPs at Westminster would in the end be an irrelevance. If independence is to be gained, the assumption has to be that consent for another referendum will not be forthcoming.
    Secondly, the big guns of economic stability and continued EU membership have been effectively spiked. Put simply, with the Westminster government looking more and more like the textbook definition of dysfunctional…what exactly have the Unionists got to offer that we’d be willing to buy?

    1. Wul says:

      “…what exactly have the Unionists got to offer that we’d be willing to buy?”

      That’s what puzzles me Margaret. There are so many posters on here decrying Scottish independence and slagging off it’s supporters. However they provide no alternative vision or even an explanation of why things are OK as they are. What’s their hope for their own country (UK or Scotland) ?

      The “argument” I see trotted out repeatedly is “Ha!…Gotcha!…The SNP aren’t perfect!…independence wulnae work”. (As if independence is somehow solely contained within a small group of temporary politicians . Are they really that daft?)

      Or, the other showstopper: “You got a vote four years ago, that’s yer whack…get used to it!”

      1. Margaret Kirk says:

        Yes, the ‘you’ll have had your vote’ argument really doesn’t work, not when the bastions of UK economic stability are collapsing around our ears. Circumstances, as they say, alter cases. And surely the essence of grown-up democracy is the ability to change our minds when presented with new situations?

        1. Jamsie says:

          The problem is that people like you and Wul, Margaret have an idea that somehow the electorate a) want another referendum and b) that the majority of the electorate are now in favour of independence.
          Neither is true.
          People haven’t changed their minds.
          Far from it.
          That is the hard fact of the matter and that is why wee Nicola won’t call one!
          People accepted that this was a once in a generation vote as prescribed by the SNP and no amount of false positioning to try to reverse that statement has made any difference to people’s opinion.
          You may not like this but the system despite the cranks is one person one vote and the majority carries the day.
          It is time for the SNP to start clearing up the chaos they have created and start governing for all.
          They know at the next elections they are going to lose more seats and the number will depend on their actions now.

          1. Margaret Kirk says:

            Well, I think you’re wrong, of course, but I suspect I won’t be able to persuade you to my point of view, just as you won’t persuade me to yours. So I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree, and see what happens…

          2. Wul says:

            “…People haven’t changed their minds….”

            Then you have nothing to worry about Jamise.

            No, I don’t think that “a majority are in favour of independence”. I accept that I am in a (slight) minority and that “No” won in 2014. That’s why we are still enjoying life the UK.

            I DO think that if enough people are accurately informed about the inevitable end point of the current UK/Westminster direction of travel, and about the potential benefits of autonomy, then they will change their minds to support Scottish independence.

            Presumably you think the same, or you would not be on here sharing your gloom?

            I ask you again (third time I think), what is your vision for Scotland or the UK?

          3. Jamie Noble says:

            Well Wul. I changed my mind post Brexit and I met quite a few since who have had a similar conversion. If you can’t see that Brexit changes the dynamic you are clearly a dogmatic Unionist and won’t change your mind NO MATTER what happens.

          4. Jamsie says:

            Wul
            Seems you are being accused by Jamie Noble of being a die hard unionist.
            Never remotely got that impression myself.
            Just another Indy type attacking without any understanding?
            Seems to be the way of it in the current state of panic!

          5. Jamie Noble says:

            Sorry Wul. I was of course directing those remarks to Jamsie.

          6. Jamsie says:

            Wul!?
            Jamsie!?
            Not even close!
            Of course you were!
            How could anyone think you were just a typical nationalist biting before thinking or understanding.

  23. John Grant says:

    “In 2014 the Radical Independence Campaign carried out targeted outreach campaigns in areas where voter registration was its lowest. Why did we do this?”

    Because you were cynically and shamelessly using the poorest and most vulnerable to achieve a short term political goal?

    1. Wul says:

      “Because you were cynically and shamelessly using the poorest and most vulnerable…”

      That’s right John. Encouraging poor people to vote is “cynical & shameless”. So annoying when the plebs won’t stay in their box.

  24. Frank says:

    A lot of the claims made by RIC that they increased voter turnout in poorer areas have never been subject to close scrutiny. For example, in poorer areas where there was no RIC presence turnout was also particularly high which suggests other things were at play. The RIC narrative on voter turnout always strikes me as elitist and as patronising.

  25. Willie says:

    Ach well, who cares.

    The pretendy Parliament is going to have its wings clipped.

    This is what wee Mundell said when he confirmed that this is what had always been intended. Westminster is Supreme.

    Direct rule for Jocko, it was never intended to be anything else.

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