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.
This 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 https://www.facebook.com/freescotland.scot/
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