Marching in the rain with my Uncle Shug

I’m not long home from Edinburgh. The dug and I went on the Edinburgh march and rally for independence along with my downstairs neighbours Mary and Mark, and my Uncle Shug. It was a great day. The wet weather didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.

I have no idea how many people were there. All I can honestly say is that I have never seen such a large number of people gathered together in Scotland. Estimates for the attendance range from over 100,000 to over 200,000. There were, to use that Scots estimation of large numbers, hunners and hunners, thoosans. Or, if you’re a follower of Überyoon Manky Shirt Guy, who claims to provide an ‘accurate’ count of attendance at independence marches when he’s not busy denying the Holocaust or claiming that the Union is 5000 years old, there were about 300 people who kept circling back so that they could go past him repeatedly.

The day was grey, but the march was a colourful sea of white and blue, peppered with the red and yellow of the Catalan Estelada and the red white and green of the Basque Ikurriña. There were English flags, Welsh flags, Irish flags. There were EU flags, Danish flags, German flags and Norwegian flags. All of Europe was present, and further afield. Many tens of thousands of people gathered together to process through the ancient heart of Scotland’s capital in a statement of belief, of faith, of certainty, of hope. This is our country, and all are welcome here. This is our country, and we are open to all humanity, no matter what race, language, culture or creed. This is our country, and it wants to join the world. This is our country, and we will decide its future. This is our beautiful wet country, and we sing and we dance in the rain.

Despite the crowds, the mass of humanity with Scotland in two hundred thousand beating hearts, there was no trouble. The atmosphere was peaceful, joyous, celebratory, because we know that we are winning, we know that we march into the future. Every step is a step towards independence. Even when the marchers passed the little gaggle of bitter and angry British nationalists, railing against the future, huddling under their union flag umbrellas to protect themselves from the Scottish rain and the rain of people, there was no trouble. We felt only pity and compassion for those who are so lost in a British Empire nostalgia that they can’t open their eyes to the realities of today, blind to a people in movement, a Scotland that’s leaving them behind.

The bitterness, the hate, the pursed lips and the snide remarks belong to British nationalists. They belong to the little huddle wielding their union flags as shields against the future. They belong to the narrow eyes and the closed hearts, insulated from compassion by a thick layer of Daily Mails. They belong to the trolls who infest the comments sections of the newspapers. They seek to diminish those of us who sing and dance for independence in the Scottish rain because they know that they could never achieve anything similar. They know that a pro-British march and rally would be indistinguishable from an Orange Walk or a Tommy Robinson rally. They know that a public manifestation of Britishness would only show up their own hate.

To be a British nationalist in Scotland means to be miserable, because they can never possess the future. All that they can do is to hark back to a memory of a past that exists only in the imagination of the emotionally impoverished. British nationalism offers Scotland nothing except broken promises, empty commitments, and the contempt of Boris Johnson. We might not know when there’s going to be another independence referendum, but none of us, neither the marchers nor the little gaggle of Empire Loyalists hiding behind a barricade, are in the slightest doubt about the outcome. That’s why we’re happy and they’re so bitter.

72549742_1470440863106245_1515137060413898752_nThis Saturday, the streets of Edinburgh were ours, but the joy is always ours. I was especially happy that I was able to share this day with my uncle, because all this that you read on this blog, everything that I write in The National or in iScot magazine, all the Gaelic maps and the books, the travelling about the country to talk at pro-indy events, it’s all Shug’s fault. He’s a stalwart of his local SNP branch in the Vale of Leven, and he’s been bending my ear about Scottish independence as long as I can remember. Even back in the 1960s and 70s when I was just a wean, my Uncle Shug was explaining why it was so important that Scotland should govern itself, and why it was only right and proper that the decisions that affect this country should be made by the people who live here.

Independence wasn’t a fashionable political choice back then. But I listened, and he made sense. He told me that there was so much that is wrong with Scotland, but it’s only when we take the power to change things into our own hands and make those necessary changes that Scotland will ever get better. He told me that those who control the levers of power in Westminster have a vested interest in making sure that things don’t change, because they are the ones who profit and benefit from the injustices and inequalities that need to be fixed. Expecting Westminster to solve Scotland’s problems is like expecting Dracula to cure anemia.

It’s because of my Uncle Shug that I ended up as an independence supporter, and so it’s also because of him that I ended up blogging and writing about Scottish independence. All this is down to Shug Coyle from Balloch. Everyone in Scotland needs an Uncle Shug.

And now he has the satisfaction of going on a march in Edinburgh and seeing that thousands upon thousands of people, born Scots, new Scots, adopted Scots, visitors to Scotland, and well wishers, all of them share the vision that he has had for so many decades. He saw tens of thousands marching through the rain in Edinburgh, in order to assert that Scotland can be better if Scotland chooses to take its fate into its own hands. He saw that hundreds of thousands of us do have an Uncle Shug. The stories that he once told to an awkward kid are the stories that a whole nation is now telling.

It’s because there are so many Uncle Shugs, so many Mary and Marks, so many Auntie Jeans, so many Caroles and Jims from Skye, so many Sandras and Rays from Bearsden, that soon, very soon, Scotland will once again take its rightful place amongst the independent nations of this world. And we will show the world how to dance and sing in the rain.

The photo of the Celtic and Rangers fans for independence is courtesy of

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67 thoughts on “Marching in the rain with my Uncle Shug

    • Me too, crabbit git, as a crabbit wumman masel.
      it was the last sentence, ‘And we will show the world how to dance and sing in the rain’ that did it for me.

  1. Like you Paul, I’m not long back from the AUOB march in Edinburgh. My feet are loupin’ It will take a week of drying and polishing to get my shoes back to a civilised condition. I think my camera has survived the experience of getting drookit.
    So, the march.
    It lacked the sunshine of last year in Edinburgh.
    It lacked the same level of laughter and celebration.

    But what I took from it was an impression of a nation, determined and on the march which knows that it will not be long now until we achieve independence.

    I felt the surge of an incoming tide which will not be halted.

    It was a pain in the bum getting there and back from Kilmarnock, but driving back I passed Drumclog, the site of a Covenanter’s victory and then passed Loudoun Hill, where Bruce finaly had a real victory and one which eventually led to Bannockburn.
    I live in a great country…………….let’s make it independent and even greater.

  2. Such a lovely afternoon, despite the rain. We arrived slightly late to Holyrood Park, and it was impossible to see the entirety of the march. It was around an hour before we even started to move!

    Good speeches by Joanna Cherry and Tommy Shepherd too, at the rally at the Meadows, which was a bit of a mudbath, sadly.

    I do hope there is change in the air now, and that we are able to get independence over the line very soon.

  3. I was so glad to hear a group of young people, in their teens or early twenties, with their own chant “stand up, fight back”. The young are the future of an Independent Scotland and it was a pleasure to see so many of them there today. As a Pensioner 4 Independence, my group were there in strength today, hoping to persuade more of our generation to join us. Thank you to Uncle Shug for being there for you and for us, and to the families who come together for independence.

  4. I was not in the crowd in Edinburgh today.but my feelings are just as strong as every person in the walk.and when you just think of the many.many.thousands who was not there that feels the same as everyone in the walk in Edinburgh. today it would seem only a matter of time before proud Scotland.becomes an independent strong country again.lets get out of this discredited so called union.roll on independence.and the sooner the better.

  5. What a lovely piece Paul. The Scots are not expressive people, sentimental yes, but not expressive.
    For years the unionist side derided the fact that the Independence side could not supply large scale public demonstrations unlike in other “real” countries struggling for their Independence – now that we have such demonstrations we are derided for having them!
    Many “Uncle Shugs” and “Auntie Nancys” have passed on (including my own father) without seeing their dream realised, hopefully your Uncle Shug will live to see it and perhaps enjoy some of the benefits!

    • Thats why there media bbc especially ignore or give it so little coverage on there website so they can ignore it like its not real the English media are wrong and they hate being wrong thats why only stv put it on the tv yesterday

  6. Pingback: Marching in the rain with my Uncle Shug | speymouth

  7. I’m not religious but God bless your Uncle Shug and yourself, Paul, for all your articulate and inspiring efforts.

    Your lovely wee dug was impeccably behaved on the train, btw; sodden Manky UJ Man on the Royal Mile much less so.

    It must be a terrible thing to wake up each day with such impotent hatred in your heart.

    As Macart would say, *shrugs*.

  8. While my kid’s most certainly have an Uncle Shug…. I don’t..
    Do you think such a lovely man would agree to be my Uncle Shug too?
    I’m sure ye’ll agree … Every Scot needs an Uncle Shug!I
    And an Uncle Shug, just like that. xxx

  9. Fantastic we honour your uncle and thank him for giving you hope and love for our people. Scotland needs you and the dug. The time of freedom and honour is close.

  10. I wish all Celtic and rangers fans could stand like that, throw away the Union flag and hatred. Become what Westminster deeds. Scotland unified in an achievable goal of honour and self belief. Taking our place in the United Nations as the “ newest member”. Even if we are the second oldest nation/ country in Europe.(after France)

  11. Brilliant stuff Paul. I was on the march with my wife and son and, like you, believe we are going to win. The weather was crap, the wee crew of torn faced Britnats were seething and the marchers were marvellous. We are close to the end of the toxic union.

  12. Great day and it was super seeing you and Ginger at the meadows. Keep writing. We’re almost there. And best to Uncle Shug.

  13. A wonderful day.
    Well done to the YES bikers so many of them.
    Well done to the pipes and drums too
    Well done to the little groups of musicians here and there it was so nice to see and hear.
    I’ve never seen so many 18-30s at a Scottish independence march they make a huge difference
    There were so many toddlers and babies too well done to the mums and dads for bringing them nice to see ,it must be hard work for them too.
    The balance tipped today, no denial anymore that people in Scotland want independence.

  14. Paul what an inspiring article: One that brought tears to my eyes. God only knows what I’ll be like when we win Indyref2!

    Give your uncle Shug a great big hug from me. How proud he must be of you, as we are proud of him. For without his guiding hand we probably wouldn’t have you on our side. And how we need you, especially now.

    My ”mentor” was my Uncle Tommy, who died in his 40’s. I can still hear his songs, stories of Scotland, the Jacobites, Rob Roy MacGregor and his laughter ringing out and wish he was still here, more than anything to see his beloved country become free at long last.

    Well it won’t be long now. Some people, such as Joanna Cherry have stated, ”What a day! 250,000 behind us marching for independence.”

    250,000 marching in Edinburgh is equivalent to around 2.75 million people marching in London. If the BBC don’t report fairly on this we should include marching past Pacific Quay at the next AUOB march in Glasgow.


    Some great photographs / videos.

  15. Such a great day ..The hundreds of bikers were a great start …thousands of folk passed my sisters and I waiting in the High St. We met a lovely couple and folk from Indonesia took photographs of us all.

    The sad folk with the union flag looked desperate …totally ,overwhelmingly, outnumbered. I had to laugh as marchers sang Flower of Scotland and Rule Britannia splurted out of an ancient music machine operated by the guy in the very dodgy jacket…..Monty Python eat your heart out!

    Here’s tae us!

  16. I came across this on Wings and I’m sure that PC won’t mind me reposting it on here.

    ‘Proud Cybernat says:

    ”Official attendance at AUOB Edinburgh today announced: “Over 200,000 people” attended the march. Which would be like 2 MILLION people marching thru London.

    And another interesting factoid is this. 200,000 is 3.7% of the Scottish pop & SMASHES the 3.5% rule:

    “nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns… it takes 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.”

  17. Was there , enjoyed it despite the rain .

    I can’t understand that whenever there is an independence march there is always a small group of unionists demonstrating their opposition .Yet when there are numerous unionist marches ( Orange Parades ! ) no one bothers to demonstrate their opposition to these sad souls living in the 17th c.
    It appears that they expect to be allowed to show their ”culture” but object to any other group doing the same !

  18. I note on the main news channels ( BBC and Sky ) while running stories about demonstrations about democracy in Hong Kong , thousands of miles away , there was not one single mention of a huge march for Scottish democracy .
    Perhaps if , next time , we all wear face masks , sport plastic helmets and threaten violence then the main news programmes will take notice – i doubt it , though !

  19. My son & I were right behind you…literally. The flags were a wee bit damp..(sorry!) Huge numbers – brilliant day!

  20. Best moment on the march for me was when we spotted a UJ on the Craig. I just could not stop laughing as someone started singing “there’s a baw bag on the hill”, as u can imagine everyone joined in. The joy was several great people ran up and waved the Saltire beside him….he went awa… it was a moment I will NEVER forget. x

  21. A wonderful article and personal perspective, the AUOB marches have always been family outings on many levels. Rain or shine, bampot provocations, high spirits and good marshalling have ensured these very public demonstrations hit the headlines and impress.
    The numbers game matters more to those who would deny rising desire for radical change to this unequal Union, but delighted Police Scotland and Edinburgh publicly declined an estimate on this occasion, leaving the usual suspects clutching at “thousands” for copy to the rest of the media.
    An impressive turnout on such a dreich day, well done yet again AUOB and all the volunteers, and all those who took part or wish they had…

    • Or more likely they’ve learned to duck… Scottish Police have taken a lot of flak being attributed in the SMSM/SBBC damage limitation reports, it would not surprise me if an estimated range had previously been given in good faith but been distorted by picking the lower figure. The police do a superb job especially on these mass demonstrations, and do not deserve to be used as a political football.

  22. I couldn’t make it yesterday but was with my friends in spirt. I envy you you’re Uncle Shug he sounds like a lovely man What a great heart lifting blog that looks to the future and reflects the positive opportunities for Scotland and our people. You are an Uncle Shug to thousands of people.

  23. Glad you found your Uncle Shug. When I met you at the start looking for Black Police Tardis I thought to my self you’ll be lucky. I was stewarding on South bridge it took from 1230 when we walked out to clear the road for the bikers to 430 for us to reach the meadows with the last of the marchers. Whats a little bit of rain compared to the prize of an independent Scotland. Our people are amazing from wee 3yr old Daniel blethering away about how many cousins he had and what did my badges say.. to a London based SNP member who had flown up for march to 75 year old Anne who has believed since she was 7..
    Amazing amazing chat. Things are changing and it really feels within our grasp. Thank you Edinburgh.

  24. An excellent blog, providing colour to a grey day. As usual on these marches, a friendly bunch of people perhaps telling tales of where they had come from, patiently waiting to start and to cross at the two junctions, sympathising with the increasing damp hobbies ( who as always did an excellent job) and making as much noise as possibly passing manky mannie and the sad acolytes.

    Spectators of all nationalities would have been treated to a spectacle and a history lesson to take away back home. The media from many countries was present and our European neighbours will be well aware of our desire to be a normal country.

    The meadows was starting to turn into a sea of mud when we eventually got there, hung about to cheer and wave at a few speeches and some music and plootered to the wings stall to get a t shirt, then wandered off to dehydrate the deliberately dehydrated, increasingly damp persona and met more marchers and flag wavers doing the same – the camaraderie continued.

    In the evening , staying with pals, I see the BBC web site had ‘thousands marched’ as an estimate and needlessly harked back to the 2018 March and the disputed numbers. Fortunately I don’t pay to be lied to, but am disappointed the grauniad took the same line. Interesting comment above about a 3.5% barrier being broken, especially if, instead, the 250,000 is expressed as a percentage of the Scottish electorate of 4,200,000, which is 5.9%. Wow. That is one huge slice of the electorate.

    Has the tone of the speeches changed? No longer ‘if’, now ‘when’ and 2020 being the when. But we probably have a general election to work towards and, for that, the yes movement may need to winkle the electorate out to on a cold, dark, damp winter’s day.

  25. I needed yesterday to know that everyone was still there , sorry I missed you and the dug – that said with so many around it was easy to miss a’body!

  26. I remember the 2012 Indy march from the Meadows to Princes Street Gardens.
    On that occasion,HM Press claimed that only 5000 people attended when anyone who was there
    could see that it was at least double that number.
    In 2019 we had circa 200,000 people on the march and numbers agreed by the BBC.
    What a distance we have travelled in 7 years!
    Unionism is now a minority view in Scotland and HM press know it.


    “The only Brexit deal that ultimately protects trade, gives the UK… control over immigration and holds the union together is Theresa May’s wretched, benighted deal.”

    Peter Foster, Europe Editor of the Telegraph, says May’s deal was created once “the unicorns had been slayed.”

    “I mean, the lunacy of the idea that No Deal Brexit means the end of Brexit !” Oh, the fun they had !! –

    – via Brigid Laffan – Supreme (non-UK MSM) Brexit source – 2 minutes –


    Continued, in full, the best Brexit interview so far. What comes next.

    Imagine an interview that is polite, smart and from which a clear consensus emerges. Imagine no more !

    @ 32:10 – On the morning that Boris Johnson entered Downing Street, James Kirkup talked to someone in Number 10 “who has a pretty good idea of government strategy and long term thinking on this stuff.” “Does he wear grungy clothes round the office?” Ha ! “He said ‘No, absolutely not, we will not be leaving on 31st October. They are going to block us. It’s going to be brilliant because we can have an election and we can smash them all up. Emm.’ I, bluntly, I’ve never believed from that moment, emm, that they really did want a deal…” “Or an election !” “Are you saying it’s a sham. I don’t believe that for a second !!” Ha !

    The politeness, mutually raised eyebrows, grins, grimaces, shared looks of disgust, agreement and jokes make it a pleasure to watch !

    Peter Foster – an honest journalist with the inside track working for the Telegraph. (Who would have thought it possible, given the Barclay brothers !). James Kirkup – well informed on the UK parliament, with a source in Number 10. With Gary Gibbon, Channel 4 –

    – “Will Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan fly? | Politics: Where Next? podcast,” – Channel 4 – 35 minutes –

    SO. It’s still Bozo’s game – Blighty vs the Hun – Previously below.

    • Previously – “Bozo’s Game” – Philippe Lamberts of the European Green party on Bozo Johnson –

      “He wants to have his Battle of Britain moment. And for that you need an aggressor and he has to find one and that’s the European Union. And a very difficult moment; a moment of national survival; and that would be No Deal Brexit. And he would promise the country Blood, Sweat and Tears and say that we will come out a greater nation. And you can already hear that in everything he’s saying.”

      “And so he needs to deliver that, _but_ there’s one important caveat. He must not be seen as having engineered this.”

      More – comment by Ex Pat to “You don’t square a circle by replacing it with a Lambeg drum,” by Weegingerdug – Weegingerdug blog –

  28. Your writing just keeps getting better and better. I didn’t think that was possible. My favourite sentence was your comment on Manky jaicket claiming that 300 people just keep going round and round to falseify the numbers. LOL

  29. What a marvellous day it was in spite of the weather.
    I made the trip up from Carlisle with Scubaidh Dubh the greyhound as I felt a real sense of obligation to my country that I couldn’t ignore. I managed to book a day off work fortunately as I’d have hated to miss this one It was so heartening to see that our spirit wasn’t even dampened by the rain; all that did was impart a sense of determination to continue.
    Even the dug didn’t mind so much although he was glad to find a warm dry pub afterwards! Or was that me?😆
    It was genuinely staggering to see the size of this gathering and it was undeniably the biggest one I’ve participated in over six years of active support.
    I met up with an old pal and his wife and daughter to do the march and it meant a great deal to see the Rangers and Celtic fans running a joint effort, forwarding the cause of Indy and sticking two fingers up to the poison of Sectarianism. I wonder what Manky’s gang’s reaction was.
    Also a big shout out to the bikers who made a spectacular start to proceedings.
    It was only today that I learned of the 3.5% factor. This being so, we are now into something new and almost palpable. You really can feel it coming now!

  30. And yet according to the BBC and STV or the 30 seconds they gave to reporting it, you’d be surprised if any march took place in Scotland’s capital city,

    • My brotherin Scotland, aged 70 and not so mobile these day, but a definite voter who follows the ‘news’, knew nothing of the march when I mentioned it. MSM censorship at work.

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