Only in Scotland does the media suppress coverage of the Independence cause
IT is said that in days gone by, amid the smoke, grime and confusion of battle, generals were sometimes asked by anxious subordinates for their orders of the day and particularly on which direction to move the army. “March our troops” came the reply. “And march them towards the sound of gunfire.”
With that story, in the early 1960s, the legendary Jo Grimond roused the old Liberal Party from its post-war slumbers to challenge the dismal duopoly running UK politics. In comparison with igniting the sleepy hollow Liberals in the London commuter belt, galvanising the national movements in the Celtic nations should be child’s play.
And this process is now underway. For this last weekend, something truly remarkable happened. There were held simultaneous huge events for national independence in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin. Social media did not miss the significance with picture montages of all three events instantaneously retweeted. That these initiatives were taking place against the backcloth of the disintegration of the credibility of the London government was an online target which was certainly not missed.
In Ireland, there has been great discussion in its lively and informed media, as to the significance of the biggest convention for Irish unity in living memory, encompassing contributions from the full spectrum of voices to end partition. Even the BBC in Wales was moved to report on the scale of the Cardiff rally. Only in Scotland does the mainstream media still attempt to suppress all but the most negative coverage of the independence cause. All Under One Banner (AUOB) rallying in Edinburgh did not make it onto the five-minute bulletins of the provincial state broadcaster.
However, it did happen and is happening. The late Donald Stewart MP had a special phrase for the times when he thought the political temperature was rising in Scotland. In his delightful Hebridean lilt, and with a puff of his pipe, he used to opine that the “heather may not be quite on fire just yet – but it is smouldering, certainly smouldering”. Right now in Scotland, the heather is smouldering.
As evidence, I cite not just the revival of significant numbers at AUOB events but the substantial attendances at no less than 35 grassroots Wee Alba Book events over the summer, covering the length and breadth of the country. For those who think community politics is dead, then consider the 30,000 or so views of the excerpts of each of these videos, recorded by Kevin Gibney and his team at Independence Live.
From Jedburgh to Skye and from Ayrshire to Dundee, people are anxious to hear the new case for Scottish independence.
Then there is the flourishing of the efforts of campaign groups such as Salvo, SSRG and Commonweal with their work on the constitution, the currency and independence policy formation.
These flowers are starting to bloom, and that is an entirely positive time for the intellectual health of the national movement. It was not so long ago that some elected timeservers in exalted positions in the SNP used to peer down their noses at grassroots demonstrations and even regarded in-person conferences as an unnecessary distraction from the real business of being heid puddocks on the parliamentary gravy train.
Now the times are a’changing, and the next port of call is the Yestival in Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday. In a real attempt at burying silly divisions in the movement, the rally is being endorsed across the Yes family with multiple political party and trade union speakers. It will also be adorned by some of Scotland’s very best musical talent, such as the wonderful Sandi Thom, and should add up to a great event.
All in all, a good day to campaign for independence, and numbers do matter. From Freedom Square in Glasgow, much of the same cast will re-assemble in Stirling the following weekend for the independence rally at the Alba Party annual conference.
All this is to the good, and the timing could not be better. No one sensible and sincere is holding out much hope for the imminent supplicant’s appeal to the UK Supreme Court bench, a stone’s throw away from the Palace of Westminster. Frankly, William Wallace had a better chance in Great Westminster Hall than Scotland has at Middlesex Assizes.
To adapt the wisdom of an English poet, the future lies not in the stars, nor the rigged state courts, but in ourselves. This is the time to seize the initiative in Scottish politics not to petition the British establishment for permission to enact repeated democratic mandates.
James Larkin, one of the founders of the Irish Labour Party, once said that the “great appear great because we are on our knees”. It is time for Scotland to take a hard look at the political omnishambles of Westminster rule and take the corrective and immediate action which is required to complete the independence process.
We need political representatives who will honour Scotland’s Claim of Right and refuse to kowtow to the Speaker’s chair in Westminster.
We need a constitutional convention of these elected representatives, who are stewards of the golden thread of Scotland’s sovereignty, to galvanise domestic and international opinion.
We need a government prepared to demand the right to negotiate independence from the maelstrom of ineptitude that is Westminster rule.
All these things are necessary to save Scotland, but we also require one thing more. We need a nation demonstrably on the march, peacefully, democratically, constitutionally, but one marching with purpose and towards the sound of political gunfire.
First published in The National on Wednesday 5th October 2022