Despite a long interest in politics this was my first march and rally and what an experience it was. Although I wanted to attend I didn’t know for certain that I would head down until that morning. As is often the case life can get in the way. Sometimes we cannot always be where we would like and I know of many a keen supporter of Independence who was unable to make it for one reason or another.
I am so glad I made that effort though to turn up and march with my fellow Scots for a cause we all believe in. Listening to the speeches at the rally the diversity of opinions and ideas across the support was clear. SNP members, Green Party members, members of the Scottish Socialists, Solidarity and even Labour party members, members of all parties and of none united in a common cause, a common belief that decisions about a nation are best when they are made by those who care about that nation most, those who live there.
And yet, for all my effort, minimal though it was to get in the car and drive down from Perth there were others whose effort was significantly greater. Marching behind the Venetian nationalists I was struck by the international reach of this campaign. You could not fail to be impressed by the organisation, the chanting and the colours of this group who had come so far just to march with us in our own cause. The international reach extended further with a sizeable group over from Flanders and flags also in evidence from Ireland, from the Basque Country, and, of course from Catalonia where they so recently held a massive march for Independence, over 1.5 million strong.
By comparison this gathering in Edinburgh was much smaller. Official estimates from Lothian & Borders Police put the figure at 5000. Now I am not an expert in judging the size of a crowd but I would be lying if I didn’t say it seemed much larger than that to me, perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 strong all in. Naturally those who support the no campaign are keen to talk the numbers down and over the course of the day an initial figure of “less than 7000” had suddenly been downgraded to “a couple of thousand” by one keen critic.
I am sure the debate will rage on for those interested in such things. This was just the kick off for the campaign, a chance to come out in celebration and solidarity. With the First Minister announcing that 100,000 people have signed up to the Independence Declaration to date it is clear that the reach of this campaign extends far beyond those of us in Princes Street Gardens and, rather surprisingly there were still significant numbers at the rally signing the Declaration who had not yet done so. There were people there who have long championed the cause of Independence and there were those who are recent converts, people who, a year ago would not have been supporters.
Congratulations must go of course to Jeff Duncan and his small team of committed volunteers who organised this event themselves. It is worthwhile noting that this was not an event put together by Yes Scotland and it wasn’t an event devised by the SNP. It came about because a group of Independence supporters decided that it would be a good thing to do. There are plans for another two marches and rallies, one next year and one in 2014. One thing I can say for sure is that I will be at both of them.
Margo MacDonald made the excellent point in her speech that if each supporter of Independence convinces just one more person to vote yes then we would secure a comfortable majority. The same can be said for the march and rally. If everyone who was there comes back next year and brings just one friend then the next rally will be twice the size. If this campaign is to be won then it needs to extend beyond the reach of the political parties. Victory will be down to every supporter of Independence and the part we play in securing that victory. So go out and tell your friends. The vote on Independence is coming. Tell them that you support it, tell them why you support it and, in a year’s time bring them along and we can once again meet and celebrate together.