If a crowd in excess of two million had descended on London to demand a Brexit No-Deal or a new Brexit referendum it would have been afforded wall to wall coverage on the electronic media and copious newspaper front page headlines and inside analysis across the UK press.
Yet an equivalent crowd braved the cold and heavy rain to march through the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday in support of Scottish independence and it hardly merited a mention in the British unionist media. Commentators who didn’t even bother to attend were wheeled out to pour scorn on the turnout by the likes of the shameful BBC but international outlets gave it bigger and fairer coverage.
Well over 200,000 and perhaps as many as 250,000 ordinary folk took to the streets of Edinburgh and participated in the single biggest march in Scotland’s history. It was an exhilarating experience and a wonderful sight to behold. A physical sea of Saltires held aloft by Scots from all walks of life committed to one common cause, the cause of Scottish independence.
We left Holyrood Park beside the home of Scotland’s Parliament to walk up the Royal Mile past the High Court which so recently gave Johnson a bloody nose and down George IV Bridge Street into the Meadows. It was a walk that should have taken 30 minutes or so to complete but such were the crowds and requirement to allow traffic to flow it took me, my wife, my daughter and my sister two hours to complete. The march kicked off at 1pm with an incredible assembly of YES Bikers which took at least 10 minutes to pass us before we joined the procession near to the front. We reached the rallying point after 2pm. At 4.30pm there were still marchers entering the Meadows. This was a huge and significant event.
We are an anti-Westminster movement not an anti-English movement, no matter how hard the mainstream media tries to distort our message. We are against poverty, grotesque inequality, immoral nuclear weapons and the squandering of our natural and national wealth on illegal wars. We march in peace for the re-establishment of an independent nation committed to peace. We seek to conquer no other nation. All we want to conquer are the causes of poverty, homelessness, hunger and ignorance.
I was supposed to take to the stage around 4.15pm on Saturday. Such was the size of the event that allocated time-slots slip and drift. These things happen. It wasn’t until nearly 5.30pm that I was introduced by one of Scotland’s foremost comediennes and indy supporters Janey Godley. By this time I was thoroughly drenched, soaked to the skin. But so was everyone who stayed on and stood for hours in the relentless rain. What stoicism and spirit in the face of the elements.
I tried to draw on a contemporary example to highlight fully the need for independence. I used the results of a Scottish Government consultation on the public sale of fireworks in Scotland. In recent years fireworks have become more powerful, more accessible and therefore more dangerous. Fire crews, police officers, ambulance workers and domestic pets have become regular targets for attacks with fireworks. It is no surprise therefore that over 16,400 people responded to that public consultation and 87% of the respondents want public sales of fireworks in Scotland banned and 94% want tighter controls on the sale of fireworks.
The overriding demand is for safe use of fireworks at organised events on and around bonfire night instead of the free for all without regulations or restrictions which currently takes place throughout late October and early November.
As well as the 87% support for a ban on public firework sales in the Scottish Government consultation a specially commissioned and representative opinion poll found 58% of the Scottish population want a ban on public sales of fireworks.
The message is loud and clear. Public sales of fireworks should be banned outright or much more restricted. Surely the Scottish Government will act urgently on these findings? Therein lays the crux of the matter. Control over sales of fireworks in Scotland is reserved to Westminster under the 1998 Scotland Act. The elected Scottish Government doesn’t have the power to ban public sales of fireworks or restrict their sale to the public.
That one example of how restricted the Scottish Parliament is speaks volumes about the need for independence. In the 20 years since the Scottish Parliament was formed it has passed 231 Acts, new Laws. Some of those Laws have been very important. Free personal care for the elderly, maintaining higher education free of tuition fees and the introduction of free prescriptions are three Laws of importance which spring to mind. However we have also passed Laws in more mundane areas of life like the Dog Fouling Act and High Hedges Act.
We are allowed by Westminster to regulate how high hedges can be but not to ban the public sales of fireworks!
While an MSP I introduced 5 Private Members Bills into the Parliament. Only one was successful, the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant sales bill, but the others were important in policy terms. My Free and Healthy School Meals bill was voted down by the New Labour, Lib Dems and Tory majority in 2002 but the issue did not go away and most now accept it is an important and necessary policy. Similarly although my Council Tax Abolition bill designed to replace a tax which bears little relation to income with a progressive one based on income and ability to pay was defeated, and the whole issue of fair taxation was raised and still matters.
However two of the bills I introduced were ruled incompetent at 1st Debate stage as they were outside the legal competence of the Parliament. I wanted to bring Scotland’s rail network and train operators into public ownership and ban the public sale of airguns without a strict licence requirement. We were allowed to regulate the size of hedges and the problem of dog fouling but not public railways or the sale of dangerous and deadly airguns! That fiasco of a situation is still with us today and simply has to be addressed.
Nothing will change in Scotland the day after independence except the assuming of powers to change everything. Independence is therefore not the end of the journey but the start of the journey. The start of the journey towards building a compassionate, fair, equal and welcoming nation which serves the needs of the majority not the wealthy minority. A nation which offers the hand of friendship to those who wish to come and live and work amongst us not a fist of fury. A nation committed to social welfare not destructive warfare.
The grassroots Indy movement have done their job with aplomb. We have marched all across Scotland in our hundreds of thousands. We delivered a mandate for IndyRef2 into the hands of the SNP. That was over three years ago. Patience is wearing thin. Political leadership is now required.
The SNP Conference takes place in Aberdeen next week. Failure to announce the date for IndyRef2 is not an option. One in twenty five Scots marched for independence on Saturday. The SNP must use the democratic mandate they have to allow that aim to be realised or lose crucial trust and support from the Indy foot soldiers. The time is ripe. IndyRef2 must be announced.
This article was written by our Political Adviser, Tommy Sheridan and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or policy of Solidarity as a whole