Why I’m marching for independence today
I thought about just turning up and sneaking in behind the fabulous Women for Independence banner.
And given that there is frost – frost! in September! – sprinkled lazily around the back gardens, the thought of settling in back under the duvet, where it is still warm and cosy, also appealed.
But no, me and the Chicklet are marching for independence. And while there are only two of us, we will not march alone.
With us in spirit, will be the mammy and daddy, for whom a trip to Edinburgh with a long day on their pins is now a tough one to contemplate. Yet, they are as excited as anyone that today is happening at all. Also there in spirit will be the big chicklet who is trying the almost impossible feat of keeping a full time job going while being at university this year. Getting the degree means much, after a long hard struggle to get there, but so does having enough money to live on. And there will be the ghosts of nationalists past too, literally there in spirit, some of whom I knew personally and loved dearly.
So, we march and we rally, for all of them as much as for ourselves.
Having spent a lifetime believing in it, independence is now so close I can glimpse it. The hill we have to climb still to reach it does not seem nearly so steep as a few years ago. Unlike the Ian Smarts of this world, I don’t doubt that there will be a referendum. Whatever he and others think of our First Minister, Alex Salmond believes in independence and that is what he has spent all of his political life working towards. For sure, he wants to be the one to lead his country to it, so he is bound to wonder – as we all do – if Scotland is ready and if it is really achievable in our lifetimes. And even if he does wobble and worry that the time is not right, delaying the referendum will not be his decision alone to make.
Alex Salmond might not have wanted Scotland to decide for him and his party, but decide it has. By voting in a majority SNP government in 2011, the people of Scotland did not vote for independence but for the right and the chance to have their say. The people are ready to decide and what an exciting prospect that is. By 2014, folk like me will be running up that hill and offering a helping hand to those still worried about the distance and the gradient.
To be sure, there are still obstacles in the way, the process for one.
This tedious but essential phase of negotiating, of claim and counter-claim appears to be reaching a conclusion. Not that the naysayers want it to conclude any time soon, for it suits their purposes rather well to keep it all grinding on. That way, no one has to focus on the issue at hand and experience tells them that people will become dismayed and apathetic the longer the details dominate. And consummate politicians that they are, with centuries behind them of containing the concept of democracy to four yearly outbursts carefully stage-managed by their parties, the thought of letting the people decide, of opening up this debate to them and allowing them time within which to make up their minds, to hear and to listen, to talk and to share, is almost too frightening to contemplate. Democracy – and participative democracy – is everything to be scared of.
So, a march and rally this far out requires to be downplayed, whatever the numbers are, for fear of igniting the flames of enthusiasm. Given that we are two years from our date with destiny, it will be the committed and largely, the longtime committed who will be there today. I expect to see and greet folk I’ve not seen for years. But however many people turn out, it will give all the doubters and especially, all the persuadables something to ponder. Contrary to how the No camp spin it, support for independence is more deeply ingrained and less marginal than they like to pretend.
There will be people there from all walks of life, of all ages and all backgrounds. All the pro-independence parties will be represented and there will be a fair smattering of those who belong to no party but simply believe. The march will be a riot of saltires, but there will be other flags and banners too. People will look at the marchers and realise that we are just like them. And if we can believe and have such hope and optimism for our country’s future, then so can they.
That is the point of today. To show and tell. To share with Scotland an aspiration, that it is not some sort of marginal pastime to believe in a cause and that there are ordinary people, thousands of them, who think Scotland should be an ordinary country, the same as everyone else’s.
So today I march. For myself and my boys. For those who cannot be there but who would. For everyone who is already there. And most of all, for the ones who have yet to join us.