It was a fine day for it, a trip to Edinburgh. The sun shone, all day long, warming the faces of the righteous, gathered in their throngs, and their chain mail and their kilts. And there was flag waving, from Flanders and from Venice, Catalan too, saltires even, by the thousand.
This was the first March & Rally for Independence, to be repeated next year, and the one after, before we go to the polls. As an initial foray it exceeded expectations, for it had little publicity and was from no official body. This was not a party political event, nor anything under the banner of the official Yes Scotland campaign; just a wee outing, given coverage in the blogosphere, and gathering pace. And I’m so glad that I can utter those words, ‘I know, ’cause I was there.’
Eventually we left The Meadows, heading for Princes Street Gardens. As the gun from the ramparts marked the hour, so they poured into the arena, taking up space on the gras beyond and on up to the railings of Princes Street where shoppers and tourists stopped and stared. And against the backdrop of those castle walls so we rose and began to be a nation again. It took at least 45 minutes for all to get on the road and as the pipe band were leading the front line in to the Gardens, so the last were still in the park. Lokk forward and back along the road and you could see saltires and banners, marchers young and old as far as you could see. These were not activisits, this was the woman next door, your cousin’s children, the granny that picks up children at the school. They were aged across decades from babes in arms to grannies and beyond. The press pack were out in force, with cameras and lenses sufficient to shoot a duchess. Even the BBC sent along a fim crew, and a cub reporter. He must have spoken to someone, for I saw him there, but not yet on screen.
There were speakers and there was music. Dougie McLean singing his own haunting, Caledonia, had the hairs on the back of the neck standing up, heck even the ones on the palms of the hand.
The on-stage event was managed, with neither a hue nor a cry, by Pat Kane. He introduced the First Minister and the rabble were duly roused. Then Margo, talking sense as always. Her brother once taught me PE, failing miserably. But the best of the speeches came where least expected. Indeed two were from Labour stalwarts, yes that’s right this was a-political. Denis Canavan chairs the Yes campaign, after more than three decades of parliamentary life mostly wearing the red rosette. But he knows what is best for our nation and what we have to distance ourselves from. Allan Grogan, from the unlikely named Labour for Independence, explained just why, and it all made perfect sense.
And then there was Ruth Wishart. She had a fine article in that morning’s Scotsman and she told us just why she could no longer be just a journalist sitting on the fence. There’s a Favourite Uncle, mine not the weans, an ex-pat of nigh on half a century, who remains a good pal of Ruth and will be stirred by her speech, if I can get it to him. The article was awiting my return, the only paper bought these days, for the Book Reviews you understand. Read it here, for it is good, but don’t try posting any comments to it for The Hootsmon has a reputation to defend though we should be thankful that they allowed Ruth her say.
So here’s a link to speeches, though I haven’t had the chance to listen through just yet, and Ruth may or may not be there.
But you’ll want to see the pictures and to hear the comments, and as usual it’s the blogs which are best for the BBC is not the place to go. Great coverage over at Wings Over Scotland; satire at BBC Scotlandshire; and the international flavour, strangely far greater coverage than our own state-funded broadcaster, over at Russia Today. Take your time, and get a flavour of the day. I expect you all to be there next year. I know I will. As Margo said, if we each get another to buy in, then Yes We Can.
PS I’ve changed the link to Ruth Wishart’s article to Yes Scotland, rather than giving The Scotsman more clicks than they deserve. And another great summary over at Bella Caledonia.