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Author: Peadar Morgan

AUOB Aberdeen March

AUOB Aberdeen March

17th August 2019

There is an interesting and important debate to be had soon in Scotland, one that has been needed in all nations decoupled from the (or any) Empire: should the names, the markers, the reminders of imperial overlordship be expunged in a cultural Year Zero, or should historical memories be maintained no matter how uncomfortable? In fact, the debate may have started.
We marched the length of Union Street, still the focal thoroughfare for Aberdeen, even if now more for access to the malls on side streets than a shopping mecca itself. At one point the Yes march filled the street along its length and in its breadth, neither noted for being small. AUOB say over 12,000 of us; it would be easy to believe a higher figure, and it certainly had the desired impact in the first such march in our third city by size. So much so that in the rally in Castlegate, one of the speakers at the Mercat Cross suggested Union Street be renamed Saltire Street. A liberating new
start, or an accommodation with the past?
Aberdeen is a schizophrenic city. In cloudy moments, it is a dour, drab place (though not without its granite chic); but in times of sunshine, it morphs into an incredible sparkling stonework of spires.
We saw both. As the YRS bus contingent from Sutherland to Nairn were midway along Union St, a heavy downpour appeared from nowhere, and left no time to don raincoats. But at the rally, we were bathed in more than compensatory sun, watching the rest of the march come down the street and checking out stalls and friends, old and new. Unlike other marches, we were rallying in full view of the town, and were in turn enjoying the glinting townscape.
After a relative increase for Oban, police numbers were again very low for all that there were of folk filling the centre of Aberdeen, with no need for any exertion on their part. Not that police look today as they used to. Apart from getting younger, they are displaying individuality more, and not just in beards. One young short-sleeved officer had not only paid much attention to her day’s makeup, but sported an intricate arm-length tattoo. Mingling by such police just added to the colourful diversity of the day.
As of course did the inevitable shouting from the small group of unionists, not many more than seen
in much smaller places. The Press & Journal caption may have said there were 25,000 of them (an error for which they have publicly eaten humble pie), but the paper would have been much nearer the mark if it had lost three zeros. And indeed, the tales of the less strident of their number having been coaxed at random out of the bar for a £20 note may be more than just idle rumour: YRS got a report from a reliable roadside observer of seeing one putting his rolled up Union Flag in his back pocket, going along the pavement a bit from his erstwhile comrades, then heading into the march to join some Yesser pal he had spotted.
Our driver from D&E is owed special mention for his accommodating approach to the day. In fact, all our bus drivers have been helpful and pleasant; though this one was happy to drive us the length of Saltire Street to recover the errant soul who was about to be marooned in the city. Such relaxed
determination typified the day. The driver had been in a supermarket when the cloudburst had drummed its roof, and said he had been fearful for his charges out on the march. But out on the
march, the answer to the deluge had been to raise a big cheer.

AUOB Yes Independence March, Oban 16 June 2019

AUOB Yes Independence March, Oban 16 June 2019

Oban became the Road to the Referendum for the day; and the Isles confidently stepped out onto that road. A large banner for Yes Mull and Iona was held aloft just behind our own contingent as we passed through the town: us, and seven thousand others, in a tremendous display for a place of the size of Oban. Equally impressive was the welcome from the townsfolk and tourists watching along the route, on the roadside or from the windows above. Not just watching, but mostly smiling, with many holding up indy posters or waving small Saltires distributed for this All Under One Banner march.

It is not just the venue that was a first for the indy marches. It is also the first time that Yes Ross Sutherland has sent a self-drive minibus of marchers. Previously we have had a coach or two, but Oban was one of a number of smaller marches run this year for which such a level of engagement was sadly not justifiable. But thanks to the drive, and the driving, of Richard Scott of the Yes Strathpeffer team, a mix of Yessers from Sutherland, Ross-shire and Inverness, including local members of Saor Alba Pipes and Drums, headed off for the day.

It was also an indy march first in other ways. Presumably because Oban is a road bottleneck along the Argyll coast, the march was kept to one side of the road to allow cars to travel in the opposite direction, separated from the marchers and many indy dogs by no more than the white lines. And perhaps not unrelated, there was a larger police presence than at the other local marches. Not that they had any work to do, and as ever they seemed to be relaxed about the occasion. But full marks go to the woman beside us who made a point of having a quick cheerful word with the officers stationed along the route, leaving each with a smile or a laugh.

Probably a further first was the appearance of Yes yachts, with at least two spotted in the harbour in front of the town sporting Yes Saltires in their rigging. But possibly the most memorable first of this march was that we all got a good soaking. Aye, there have been short, sudden showers before, in Glasgow a couple of years back and in Inverness last year. But those were once folk had reached the destination field, and were free to hurriedly volunteer to help on the many gazebo stalls. In Oban, showers are made of sterner stuff, and hit early and hit long. Nevertheless, Yessers are themselves hardy – though far from stern – and the summer rain only served to add that special something to the day. And as if to apologise, the clouds parted before the suns rays just in time for the turn of Saor Alba to take the limelight once we had finally reached the shinty ground.

Indeed, the journey home was a particularly stunning one, with the late sun bringing out the best of the hill and water vistas, and of the fresh lilac expanses of foxglove-covered slopes and rhody-infested woods. Infested, because though colourful, rhododendron is an intrusive menace, choking out diversity. So too are the inevitable cluster of loyalist youngsters grouped round that feature of all indy marches, arch-unionist McConnachie and his microphone. Makes you wonder what they seek to achieve; hardly encouragement, as a tiny band massively outnumbered, the subject of bemusement and photographs by the passing Yessers, and of disdain, surely, from bystanders.

Not that this is the only regular unionist input to the indy marches. Much more concerning is the emerging pattern of last-minute bureaucratic challenges to the well-laid and publicised march plans from within corners of officialdom in public bodies, in this case Argyll & Bute Council, whether acting independently or by prompt. But an equally proven pattern is the resolve of AUOB, backed by the Yes grassroots, to face down these spurious challenges. With such resolve, we can but win through to independence. (Though a penny or two to the AUOB crowdfunding wouldn’t do any harm, of course.)

See full image gallery here