It was a pretty special day as we gathered on the Royal Mile. There were colours galore. Many were alone; alone among tens of thousands of friends. There were grannys and toddlers, and every age in between. A nation rose, and rises yet. As I mentioned last year, rising and marching, demonstrating, is not something that comes easily to many. But the streets filled.
This was a full hour before proceedings began. The skirl of the pipes had yet to fill the air. For some bizarre reason I found myself in the front row. And the press pack gathered in front. I gave a few words to a reporter from Norway; photos were taken from many parts, including a lovely lass as part of her photography studies at a local high school. Then the film crews came in, and the VIPs.
It was a strange day. I was entrusted with the jacket of the Deputy First Minister, as she did a few words to camera, and some stills. Smiling? Nicola by the end of the day I was all smiled out. But there was something about the battery of cameras at the front of the march. Something missing perhaps.
In due course we made it up to the top of hill, a place I’d never visited before, despite all the visits to Edinburgh. There were advantages at the front; a place stage-front to start with. For those at the back, and the tail did not arrive until an hour later, made do with big screens, and will get the speeches they missed thanks to the ‘net.
It was a colourful scene. For we are not the only nation that strives to have our own say. The Dragon of Wales was joined by others: South Tyrol, Sardinia, Catalonia, Venice and more beyond.
Spotting faces in the crowd brought moments to savour. Ruth Wishart, who spoke so brilliantly last year was marching again. And she brought a friend, the latest recruit to the world of the blog, none other than Derek Bateman who will, I hope have many words for us in the year ahead. And there were anonymous friends from websites, names and blavatars galore.
From the stage we were richly entertained, hosted by Elaine C and Hardeep; the rabble roused by speeches from across the spectrum – from Labour and the Greens, the socialists too, and from the party that made it all possible. Nicola Sturgeon was immense, a leader in waiting. And the ovation for the First Minster must have been heard across the Forth. A special mention too for both Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Aamer Anwar. Stonking stuff.
If I can pick a couple of prize moments I’d like to bring you Alan Bissett, reading his Vote Britain. I’ve heard him read in a small gathering in a local hall; and I’ve heard him read the same piece in front of the masses. There are versions available online, but I’ll watch for yesterday’s appearing and post it for you. Food for thought.
But above that we had a song, with Sheena Wellington, leading the stage, leading the gathering, with A Man’s a Man for a’ That, and we remembered again the re-convening of our parliament back in ’99. There were more than a few eyes being wiped, and it wasn’t the wind at the top of the hill. And we had Eddi Reader, and granddad’s flag, from a march in the 30s.
And then it was over. And we watch the news bulletins and the press announcements. Crowd numbers. I was told by a police officer early in the morning they had planned for 10-15,000. Double it, thought I, aloud. She gasped. So the Beeb says 8, but they were at that game last year. And double it was pretty much what the police should have done.
For the best of the news bulletins, we have to head overseas, with this piece from Russia Today, who were chatting and interviewing at the front of the march from early on. They were there with crews from France and Spain, and several others. Our own broadcasters were noticeable by their absence. No surprise there.
And here’s Sheena now: