A workshop by Dr June Maxwell
7th September 2019
The omens for another great march of independence came early that morning, first with the weather forecast, then an encounter with a guard heading for his train in Inverness Station. “You’ll be looking for the Perth train,” he said, with a glance at the YRS t-shirt and bag. “No, we’ve got a bus going.” He was surprised, seemingly unaware of the scale of numbers heading from all the airts – the bus itself had Yessers from Elgin to Ullapool to Thurso, for whom Inverness was only half way. “Well, I’ll be on the march too, once I get to Perth and am out of this uniform!”
The good news had started even earlier, with the announcement a couple of days before that one of the marchers and a rally speaker was to be none other than Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Here was a very public acknowledgement of the grassroot indy movement and its massive marches, from the top of Government. Will this endorsement be repeated, or even bettered, at the next march, on 5th October in Edinburgh? (Why not join us on the two YRS buses going, and help make the march the biggest ever statement of the demand for independence.)
Massive, but aye peaceful and indeed joyous marches. And though it is galling that the so called BBC Scotland said not a peep about the march, while paying attention to sectarian violence directed the same day at two small Irish marches in Glasgow, our mix of pacific and terrific reached out to far more people than violence ever could or should. And we would hardly have gone unnoticed, with about 20,000 going past well-populated areas, down into the centre and through to the North Inch by the Tay, and no doubt into the all-important local media. It has been suggested that there were more police than usual, but if so, they weren’t intrusive. The regular shouty counter-huddle of Yoonies has, to be fair, never presented a danger; though notably this time they were placed back from the marchers. But any increased police presence may have simply been down to caution stemming from the Westminster tensions or from the presence of a senior Government minister.
The march was previewed by The National with a stunning front cover; rather, two covers, flipping the paper round for mirrored Scottish and Welsh banner headlines, and a sea of Saltires or, the other way up, of Red Dragons, marking Perth and a simultaneous Welsh indy march in Merthyr Tydfil. The National was being handed out in Wales, but as seen in Oban, folk in Perth had also been busy handing out Yes.Scot scrolls and posters in advance along the route of the march, and these were being held aloft by many appreciative onlookers on the pavement and at open windows. Yes there were a couple of Union Flags stuck up; but no-one looked out of those windows. And as ever the marchers bore much more than just Saltires, but one small group of Basques celebrated the passing march holding flags of their own national banner.
We’d arrived an hour early at the gathering point on the edge of the giant corrie that is the Letham area of Perth, to what seemed a worryingly small number in the park. But first the park, then the road, quickly and smoothly filled to bursting as the mix of folk of varied lilts and languages, clothes and costumes, kept their tryst with the common cause. Welcoming facilities and emerging sunshine eased the wait, then we were off, the start of the Highland hills to be seen on the horizon above the trees and houses and the Lowland flats. Leading the way and the volume was the Saor Alba Pipe Band, including some YRS members; spotted was the band’s Saltire-bedecked support van (number, SP07RAN). And with pride of place in the YRS contingent taken by none other than Hamish himself, the diminutive lion that directly inspired the indy cartoon of same, the Ross and Sutherland roar was always going to be heard.
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.
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.)
YRS enjoyed an excellent Day of Action with street stalls in Dingwall, Alness, Tain, Strathpeffer and Avoch. We distributed a thousand copies of the National newspaper along with local group leaflets and received a very positive reaction from passers by, with many stopping to chat and looking for information.
The Yes network is in place and working well. With no need for direction from politicians, the Yes movement in the Highlands is driving the campaign forward.
The success of today can be attributed to the formation and enthusiasm shown by the local Teams within YRS.
Thanks also to our friends from InverYess for their help and support.
So, 2019 has arrived and a very happy New Year to you all! With the beginning of a new year, independence-minded folk across Scotland are looking to the Scottish Government to make haste and get the official campaign underway. Others urge caution, to keep the powder dry until some kind of clarity emerges from the shambolic Brexit train-wreck. Whatever happens, the job for Yes Ross & Sutherland has not changed: make the case for independence and win the support of our undecided neighbours. Our campaign is already well underway and continuing apace. Leafleting routes are well travelled, our boots are worn and the sight of a YRS bannered street stall is far from unusual in towns along the Cromarty Firth and beyond. But this is not the time to rest on our laurels. 2019 will very likely be a hugely important moment in Scottish history, so we must build on our successes and think big for the future of our campaign and for the future of Scotland.
To this end, YRS is planning a Day of Action on the 26th of January. We aim to be on the streets in as many towns and villages across our area as we can manage. We’ll be leafleting, manning stalls and handing out free copies of the National newspaper (which will be running an article on us) during the day. And in the evening there will be a party in the Alness golf clubhouse with live music to give everyone a chance to relax, have a drink and get to know others in the group (more info and tickets here). In the run-up to this event and in the months to come, local teams will be setting up in our towns and villages. These teams will be semi-autonomous, with their own structures and ways of working, coordinating with each other through, and supported by, the wider YRS group. This network will be adaptable and quick to react and should allow us to significantly ramp up our operations.
The time has come for Scotland to wake up to the fact that our future within the UK looks bleak. The current direction of travel will see us all poorer, both financially and in spirit. As Little Britain closes in on itself, rejecting workers from the EU (that many of our industries badly need) in favour of chlorinated chicken from the US, Scotland can choose a different path. This is a path that we will need to take soon, if we are to take it at all. This is not news to us, as members of an Indy campaign group we are all well aware that Scotland can do far better. But there are many out there who remain unconvinced, perhaps worried by the prospect of going it alone. Our next set of leaflets shows very clearly that Scotland has tremendous resources which give our country enormous potential. It’s time to get this message out there and let everyone know that we are not chained to the unfolding calamity of Westminster’s Brexit negotiations.
On the 19th of January YRS will be holding a members meeting in Hilton of Cadboll in Easter Ross to report on what’s been happening, share news of upcoming events and plan for the future. Members will receive emails soon with more information, but if you’ve not yet signed up with us, why not come along to our meeting and find out what we are about? Get in touch via our Contact Us page and we’ll let you know the details. Likewise, if you are keen to help out on the 26th and/or join us for the evening, you don’t have to be a member. Contact us and we’ll let you know how you can help, and feel free to book a ticket for the party using the earlier link. We look forward to seeing you there!
We will be publishing a full report on the AUOB Edinburgh march in due course. In the mean time we are compiling an album of images from the day to use on social media and as a gallery on the web site. If you have any pictures you would like to add to this album please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Extract from AUOB
“Due to further complex meetings with the Council and Police Scotland etc we have had to change the starting point of the route :
Below is the final route , which thankfully is a bit shorter and starts closer to the city centre.
MARCH FOR INDEPENDENCE- INVERNESS
SATURDAY- 28TH JULY 2018
NORTHERN MEETING PARK to CASTLE HEATHER PARK
GATHERING from 12.30PM, LEAVING AT 1.30 PM SHARP
Assemble at Northern Meeting Park , Ardross Street, Ardross Terrace, Ness Walk, Ness Bridge , Bridge Street , Castle Street , Culduthel Road, Balloan Road , Castle Heather Park
MAKE SURE YOU JOIN THE EVENT ONLINE..
SHARE THIS EVENT PAGE AND IT’S POSTS…
INVITE AS MANY FRIENDS AS YOU CAN USING THE ‘INVITE FRIENDS’ TAB AT THE TOP OF THIS EVENT PAGE…
BRING YOUR FLAGS, BANNERS, PIPES & DRUMS!
ALBA GU BRATH!”