Anti-UK March Attracts SNP Hardcore (and Basically No-one Else)

March gathering in Royal Mile. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

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The March and Rally for Scottish Independence attracted 3,000 more people this year, who listened for 3 hours to meaningless platitudes about "fairness" and "equality" and who would break up our country because of stupid reasons like the bedroom tax, reports Alistair McConnachie.
Posted 23 September 2013.

Last year they said they would "be laying on trains" to the March and Rally for Scottish Independence on Saturday 21 September 2013 in Edinburgh. Arriving at Glasgow Queen Street I was half expecting a special train with a special queue "for all those going to the March".

It was not to be. The authorities had decided to "lay on" exactly the same number of trains with exactly the same number of carriages as they do, every Saturday.

I did, however, spot two people – in my carriage – going to the Rally. They were Sandra White, SNP MSP, who had to go or she would probably have been sacked, and Patrick Harvie, Green MSP who was scheduled to speak, so he had to be on the train, to get there.

The March gathered in the Royal Mile (photo above) and would head down one lane of North Bridge, turn at Waterloo Place and head up to Calton Hill.

It set off just after 12 noon, and the sight and sound of a Pipe Band striking up "Scotland the Brave" is undoubtedly a thrilling aural experience, even if you don't agree with all the people behind it. (As for the Band, as soon as they had led the March all the way up to the top of Calton Hill, they were the first back down again, within minutes, to head into town.)

March heading down North Bridge. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

I was standing on North Bridge. The March took 50 minutes to pass me. At its most dense, there was an average of 150-180 passing per minute. So I approximated at a minimum 7,500 and at a maximum 9,000 (50mins x 180max).

However, it was not passing consistently since there were standstills and quite thin parts of the crowd, just like last year. So it was less than 9,000.

In all, it took about 20 minutes longer to pass me than the 30 minutes last year when they had 5,000 attendees. So I could also approximate to just over 8,000 people (30 minutes to pass for 5,000 is an average of 167 a minute. 167 x 50 minutes is 8,350).

As it happens, the police estimate for the day was 8,300. Although I want to stress that should be 8,299 since I do not want to be included!

The Independence for Flanders people were back, as were the Venetians, although both seemed to be smaller in number and less showy. There was a group calling for independence for Sardinia, and another for Sicily. Scotland's relationship with the UK is not in any way similar to these people's experiences. They should not be sticking their oar in something they do not understand and which does not affect them. Nevertheless, it's a holiday for them.

There were various left groups like "National Collective", "Radical Independence Conference" and something called "The League of Very Sovereign Scots".

The John Connolly Society was there for a second year and carried a banner saying, "'We set out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire.' – John Connolly".

There was another group carrying a banner which said "Saorsa, Free – IndyBhoys – Scotland, 2014" whatever that was meant to mean. There was a small group of Greens, and several "Scottish Socialist Party" banners. Most banners were SNP. There was no Lib Dem or local Labour Party group banners.

There was a "Farmers for Yes" contingent – both of them.

There was "Women for Independence" – I counted 7. One of whom was Carolyn Leckie who was speaking anyway, so that should really just be 6. They have a banner.

Many of the people walking up North Bridge seemed strangely indifferent to what was going on beside them.

A group of women, who sounded Scottish, were standing on the pavement staring into a shop window when one turned around to look at the March and exclaimed to her friends, "Oh, look..."

I wondered what pithy slogan had caught her eye?

"Oh look...", she pointed, "...the little doggy!"

"Awww", said the others, at the sight of the pooch, being coerced into political theatre of which it had no understanding.

March heading down North Bridge. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

The event began just after 1pm. The co-compere was the actress Elaine C Smith who introduced the first speaker, "an absolute goddess in ma book. Please give it up for the fabulous Margo MacDonald. She's an icon!"

MacDonald blethered a bit, made a fair point about the present UK "growth" being funded by debt which would eventually have to be paid back, and then said "Please excuse me, I'm going to see Hibs win another glorious triumph." With that she was fabulously out of here.

We then got a Video Message from a lady who runs "the Isle of Skye Fudge Company".

She seemed like a very nice woman and she told us "the longer term future for Scotland is really positive". No doubt it is...within the UK!

Here is some friendly advice. The "longer term future" for your company will be really positive too if you don't align your business with controversial political ideologies with which many of your fudge-eating customers do not agree! That's basic business sense.

Dennis "an anachronism which has no place in the 21st century" Canavan (that is how he likes to describe the British Monarchy, but it is more aptly applied to himself) told everyone that "our message is" that only by voting yes can "the people of Scotland be empowered" towards a new, better, more prosperous, more fairer Scotland which looks after vulnerable people instead of attacking them with welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax, gets rid of Trident and creates a Scotland which can help to build a better world.

I think that covered everything he said...although I notice I have missed out "illegal wars" so maybe he said that too, but I didn't note it down, so maybe that was an oversight on his behalf.

Elaine C Smith came back on, seemingly quite happy this early in the day.

She announced out of the blue, "I've just seen the fabulous Eddi Reader sitting down there with a flag." She then said that Eddi would tell us all about the flag when she came on stage.

A singer came on who had been on Britain's Got Talent. He sang something about a woman being "a criminal, she's a criminal". I don't know how that lyric went down with the Women for Independence!

He then sang another song about "Standing on the edge of time, leaving my pants behind" [< some mistake surely, Ed].

Happy Elaine came back on and told everyone that all the artists are performing for free. She then announced, "It's naw pishing doon, so it's a great day!"

The next speaker, "He's technically the boss. Naw, he's naw 'technically'. He is the boss o' the Yes Campaign."

Blair Jenkins for it was he, claimed the event was "demonstrating the diversity of Yes Scotland". Well that was a load of nonsense for a start! This was essentially a mass SNP rally with some extreme leftists, and a couple of confused farmers, thrown into the mix.

He then asked "What would we lose if Scotland was independent?"

His answer was very telling.

The boss of the Yes Campaign then listed the 3 things he wanted to lose. They were: Nuclear bombs, bedroom tax, and "Tory governments we didn't vote for. And what's not to love about that!"

In other words, Jenkins has utterly given up on appealing to Conservatives in Scotland. He doesn't like them, clearly – even though there were 412,855 of them at the 2010 General Election.

March crossing North Bridge with Calton Hill in the left background. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

These people, as far as he and his colleagues appear to be concerned, are never to get into government again in an "independent Scotland" nor should an "independent Scotland" ever want these people to have any say in running Scotland. The message is pretty clear. In an "independent Scotland" there is not going to be any room for Tories!

This demonstrates what is, undoubtedly, an anti-democratic streak which runs through many of these people. And it is almost as if they are not clever enough to be sufficiently self-aware so they can be careful about what they say publicly.

They spout this publicly, for all to hear, at such events. Another example: there was a group on the March calling itself "Radical Independence Conference, East Kilbride", led by a young chap with a megaphone shouting "Tory!", and the group shouted back, "Scum!"

Eh?! Are you mental?

We then got a Video Message from a Tony Banks described as "a Scottish Entrepreneur". That is all we know about him.

"Independence" he told us, would allow us "to create a more equal society". What on earth is that meant to mean? And why is that supposed to be a good thing even if we knew what it meant?

The co-compere was Hardeep Singh Kohli – a Sikh who is a quote/unquote "comedian" and TV presenter.

He introduced the next speaker, Carolyn Leckie from the Scottish Socialist Party by stumbling over his words, somewhat unfortunately, to tell us that "Corralling…eh…convincing…the women of Scotland is really important".

Leckie took the stage and for the first 8 seconds (while they adjusted her microphone) managed to sound fairly reasonable, but by second 9 she was straight into Shriek-Mode.

And she seems to be one of those people who, once in the Shriek-Zone can't come down from it very easily.

Women are "52%" of the Scottish population, and we will "not win without women". Wow, that was a fantastic insight Carolyn! Thank you for that.

"We have to understand that", and "take responsibility for it".

Independence will be good for "men and their families." [<are you sure? Ed. Yes, that's what she said!]

If you want "more equality" for women, then what odds would a bookie give you between Westminster or Holyrood delivering, she asked?

I don't know the answer, but I do know that Westminster has been solely responsible for all the "women's rights" legislation to date, going back a very long time.

She had figured out a winning strategy, though.

If every person who supports Yes can convince just one more person then, "it will be a landslide." (I wonder if the No side has thought of this one?)

"Women will take power!"

"Women are clever and they want clever arguments."

"Independence for Scotland! Independence for Women!"

Merry Elaine came back on. She said this reminded her of a Frankie Boyle joke, "If each of us can convince just 1,000 other people, it will be a landslide."

"There's only tea and coffee backstage", she felt the need to suddenly assure us.

The Duke of Wellington watching the crowd head up Waterloo Place. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

A group of elderly people who looked slightly wandered – who may have been folk singers or something – came on, led by an overweight, long haired young chap with a guitar, and mumbled some tuneless song written by a dead communist called Hamish Henderson.

A poet called Sheena Wellington was introduced to the less than enthusiastic crowd.

"Come on, round of applause" pleaded Elaine.

Eddi Reader – who despite the name, is a woman – told us her story about her flag. It belonged to an old person at the start of last century who supported "independence" and now she has it. And, eh, that was it. The crowd was suitably underwhelmed.

(I can't think of Eddi Reader without remembering the advert on the front of a Viz magazine a few years back which said, "Inside, free badge for Eddi Reader." Update 29-9-13: Thanks to the Scotland on Sunday for providing more information and outing Reader as someone who feels like "a baton" from her Irish Republican great uncle's "war against England" has been "passed on" to her. [Tom Peterkin, Scotland on Sunday, "Eddi Reader reveals great uncle's life as IRA chief", 29-9-13])

Patrick Harvie Green MSP was the next speaker and spoke about how an independent Scotland had the potential to be (guess what?)...yes...a leader in green technology. Really, how surprising that you should say that!

Actually, that aspiration is utterly bogus because what Scotland does will depend upon what party happens to be in power, just like right now.

Harvie – who it has to be said, was dressed like a complete scruff – could not resist dedicating about half his speech to his other favourite subject, himself and his sexuality.

Why does he feel compelled to always mention his sexuality? It's as if that's the only thing he thinks he's got going for himself. It's almost like his party piece, except he's not funny.

Allan Grogan (another scruffily dressed fellow) of "SNP Councillors and Members Pretending to be Labour Supporters for Independence"...

Sorry, that is cruel, I'll start again.

Allan Grogan of "Labour Supporters for Independence" wanted independence in order to deliver a boring litany of socialist platitudes such as; we would not have the bedroom tax, and elderly people would not have "to decide between heating and eating".

Actually he did not say that last bit. I made that bit up to make him sound more accomplished than he actually is. What he said was, "heating and dinner", thereby missing the obvious rhyme and a far better soundbite. Feel free to use it if you want, Allan.

Jolly Elaine then jumps out and makes the most hilarious political faux pas of the day. "Allan Grogan! A brave man to come out here today."

She was right though. He wasn't speaking to some kind of "Blair Jenkins imaginary diverse cuddly coalition of members of all political parties and none (except hated Tories)", but rather he was speaking to the hardcore of the SNP movement.

Next up, a person who didn't have to be so "brave"; Nicola Sturgeon.

Nothing she said was particularly note-worthy. I keep my pen in my top left jacket pocket and only go to the bother of lifting my arm to remove it in order to connect it to paper when the effort is worthwhile.

She did say, however, that the crowd " not 10,000, it's not 20,000, it's 30,000!"

That was the funniest joke of the day. Here is an aerial photo of the crowd taken at the height of proceedings at 2.20pm. An aerial photograph of the crowd taken at 2.20pm at the height of the proceedings

Of course, this statistic should be taken with the pound of salt which should accompany any figure related to anything coming out the SNP camp.

Independence would make us "more prosperous" and "fairer".

What is it with this "fairer" word? I could come up with a lot of things which I think are "fair" but which I am sure she would think were "unfair".

Then she says, absurdly, that Britain is "one of the most unequal countries in the world".

In a way, she may be right. I am sure Equatorial Guinea is more "equal" than Britain. The down side is that everyone in Equatorial Guinea is equally poor and equally poverty ridden.

When she finished, she got the loudest applause of all. She was speaking to her people.

A rock group "all the way from Carnoustie" then played some pipe rock.

Hardeep Singh Kohli then introduced a young woman who "has written a song about change."

Before she began, she videoed the crowd on her phone because "we can't trust the media". She sang her song. It rhymed.

Colin Fox leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (another very scruffy chap) greeted the crowd with the unusual opening gambit, "Is this the queue for Grand Theft Auto?"

Eh, no, that queue would be longer!

(For those who don't know – this is the world's best-selling video game, which is of highly dubious morals, and which is made in Scotland, the latest installment of which was released this month.)

He immediately composed himself and actually gave a well-modulated speech, although I didn't agree with 95% of it.

"I bring you greetings…from the Scottish Socialist Party."

Thank you, and pray tell, what have you got to say to us today?

"As I stand here, I feel the hand of history…"

At least he brought a bit of background into his words, pointing out that the obelisk we can see from Calton Hill is a memorial to Thomas Muir who was a campaigner for parliamentary reform in the late 18th century.

The Duke of Wellington watching the end of the March at Waterloo Place. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is an SNP candidate for the European Elections in 2014. We have to believe that her membership of the SNP is about more than her trying to secure a well-paid sinecure in the European Parliament and an influential public profile for herself.

According to her speech, her real concern is about "equality, prosperity and fairness for all".

There's that word "fair" again. I'm beginning to think that anything involving "fairness", as far as these people are concerned, is gonna suck...a lot!

She "rejects the bedroom tax", and "rejects Trident". Well, you don't say!

The money should be "spent on social protection" instead.

"Children of this wonderful nation have 361 sleeps until we decide their future" she said. She must have worked that out. We haven't checked it.

Update 7-10-13: According to The Scotsman of 7-10-13, "People" section, page 35, she was one of "three speakers to address a dinner at the George Hotel...'We women are used to juggling lots of things,' said Tasmina. On Tuesday night she was speaking on the issue of fairness. She is certainly getting her fair share of jobs to do." [In our opinion, you couldn't make this "fair" thing up!]

Alex Salmond was next on to tell us that, "Any parliament I lead, indeed any Scottish government, will abolish the bedroom tax."

It is quite amazing how he is able to speak for governments, even in the future. That's why he is so loved by his followers. He is a Seer!

"We will put fairness before bombs", he said. [At least that is how I heard it. However, I noticed in the Mail on Sunday (22-9-13, Scottish edition, p. 13) that it was reported as "bairns before bombs". Either way, it makes as much sense.]

After he was finished, the crowd started to stream out. They had heard the man they came to see. Mr Salmond, perhaps to his credit, made sure he was on stage before the next two characters, after whom it would have been inappropriate for even he to appear.

Hardeep Singh Kohli introduced Alan Bissett (another scruff) as "Perhaps a future poet for an independent Scotland."

Bissett then stood up and gave the same poem which he gave last year which is about his hatred of Britishness. He even felt compelled to add the "F-g" word this year, which should have been out of order.

Basically, a sense of "Eeeewww, ugh", was the creepy feeling you got all over your skin, after being forced to listen to this person through the sound system from which there was no escape.

The photo shows the end of the March arriving at the entrance to Calton Hill just after 1pm.
The March heads up the entrance to Calton Hill. A big screen had been displayed at the park entrance. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

Aamer "Angry" Anwar was next (yet another scruffy person). Independence will mean 5 things. Removal of "weapons of mass destruction", no more Scottish troops to die in "illegal wars", [the "illegal war" thing was a lot less this year. Last year, everyone who was anybody was talking about it – it was the big thing], "universal benefits for all", the "super rich" taxed heavily, and Scotland's wealth to "tackle inequality" (whatever that is meant to mean).

Thankfully, by this time, 3.30pm, most people were leaving.

He also said it was wrong to ban women wearing a face mask. I would have been interested to hear some come-back on that from the "Women for Independence", considering that women are 52% of the Scottish population and all, and we have to "take responsibility" for that.

A rock band played, where a self-indulgent quote/unquote "singer" stripped off his shirt to reveal his torso. We were unimpressed.

Then a Video Message appeared from actor Alan Cumming who said, "We have much better values than the rest of Britain." (Yes, he really did say that!)

Serious Elaine came on. Her face was straight. This was an important moment.

The final speaker was…a Professor…who was going to speak to us about numbers. We were about to hear something clever.

Before she introduced him, she reminded us that Iceland responded to the banking crisis by putting bankers in prison.

For once, she had a point. I almost clapped. It is an obvious fact that the banking crisis has not reflected well on the British political establishment, and is an open goal for the nationalists.

Prof Mike Danson of Heriot Watt University, had long graying hair, and was obviously a bit of a hippy Professor. He spoke quietly about various statistics to the effect that if we vote yes, then Scotland could use its wealth to "address poverty."

Maybe? But Britain can do this too and much more effectively. Everything he was talking about can also be done within the UK. Scotland does not have to be "independent" to "address poverty" – however that itself may be defined.

He liked the idea of "small nations", without seeming to realise that Britain itself, is a "small nation" too, geographically speaking.

Thankfully, Hardeep put it all in perspective. He told us that if he takes his Turban off, then his hair looks very much like Prof Danson's.

The crowd around the stage, which is on the right. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

A man and 5 small children then played some fiddle music.

Merry Elaine was back. "Sadly some of them can't vote" she noted.

In that case you need to lower the voting age to 6.

She was going to "the Bongo Club" afterwards. "Alan Bissett is going to be there." There would be "plenty of drink". Who's up for it!

A rock band then played for about 15 minutes, as everyone filed out, led by a chap with some Chinese tattoos up his inside left arm. Those who knew Mandarin translated the phrase as, "Choose one of the tattoos below."

A Video Message gave us 10 things to say about an independent Scotland. To the extent that they were good things, all of them could equally be said about Britain.

Also, if Scotland is indeed giving 9.9% tax revenue to the rest of the UK but gets 9.4% back, then surely that should be a source of pride. It is good that we are more than paying our way and helping our fellow Britons. It shows the Union is working well for us and for everyone. Unfortunately, separatists don't see it that way.

Finally, finally, finally, a man sang a song which went, "We'll meet one day, on the banks of the Tay. Let Scotland be ours today."

He said he had "been in tears all day". Yeah, I know how you feel, mate.

It was now 4.20pm. Elaine walked carefully out for a final time and announced: "Thank you to the 53 people who waited to the end of the day. Obviously sad and lonely people, with no-where else to go."

(Yes, she really did say that, but she may have been joking.)

"Are you going to join us at the Bongo Club?"

No. But thank you for asking.

As I made my way down from Calton Hill, I was struggling to encapsulate what exactly is missing from the nationalist view of things I had been hearing all afternoon.

It seems to me they are missing a key element which makes up the reality of our lives. An element which will undoubtedly be their undoing.

All I heard today was "Scotland, Scotland, Scotland" – which is a bit like a petulant teenager talking about "Me, me, me."

There had been no sense, in anything that was conveyed, that we are in an intimate relationship here on our small group of Islands. From what I heard, I'm not sure that would even be understood by these people.

There was nothing about Scotland's relationship with the rest of our Islands.

It is almost as if these people don't see anything beyond this particular part of this small Island.

It is almost like they don't actually care about anything other than this part of our small Island!

Yet, we all live together here, and we must all continue to live together here...forever.

We don't have anywhere else to go!

We are stuck with each other...forever.

This is not just for the period of the next government, whether Tory or Labour, or the next decade, or the next generation, but this is for centuries to come...forever.

Is Scotland separating politically, mentally, spiritually, going to help us?

Or, is our destiny ultimately to be together?

Is our destiny to be in union?

I was trying to think how best to sum up this thought in as few words as possible while I was walking down Regent Road.

And then one of those moments happened which was just meant to happen.

For no reason known to me, at Waterloo Place, just passing the Wellington Monument, in a split second, I decided to turn right, up Register Street, instead of continuing to head up Princes Street.

This meant that within a couple of yards I had to pass behind an advertising bollard and I saw this.

Advert for Our House musical at Waterloo Place, Edinburgh on Saturday 21 September 2013 at 4.35pm. Pic copyright Alistair McConnachie

An advert for a Musical of songs by the group Madness called, "Our House" encircled with a Union Jack heart – with a red arm and hand grasping a blue arm and hand.

Now, that is what I am thinking and trying to say!

This group of Islands – this United Kingdom – is Our House.

It is the House in which we all live.

It is the House in which we are all going to have to live...forever.

People like me care about all the people in Our House.

We want to continue to live in Our House for decades and centuries, and for eternity, to come.

We don't want to break up Our House.

If there are troubles in Our House, then we must see how best we can address them, but that does not involve moving out of Our House, or doing anything which will break up Our House.

The separatists, and their short-termism ("bedroom tax"?! for crying out loud) don't care if Our House breaks up, even if it is for some stupid reason like the "bedroom tax" which will be changed in time anyway.

We want Our House to stay together...forever.

We want to be United.

This is what makes us different from them.

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You can find out more about Alistair at the About Alistair McConnachie page. And here is a link to Alistair McConnachie's Google Profile.

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