I am an old pro to marches. My first march was when I was just a teenager, back at university. We were marching for equality of race and religion. It wasn’t for a specific vote, just a large group of like minded people supporting a cause we all fervently believed in. Yes, I have attended many marches in the USA, both in protesting events and supporting causes. Never once was I criticised or looked down on by people, who were allegedly on my team. Sure opponents would scoff at “the lefties” out in their thousands, but my ‘brothers in arms’ always encouraged me, even if they themselves didn’t participate.
So I am more than perplexed when large marches, which I have attended in Scotland are viewed with scorn. Not just by the usual suspects of union jack loving British nationalists, but by people who share my views and goals. Last Saturday’s march for independence through the streets of Glasgow, is one such example.
I attended this independence march alone. My son was meant to join me, but was ill. So a friend stayed with him in Edinburgh, as I was desperate to attend this event. I knew it was going to be special, and I was not disappointed. I took the 9:30am train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I noticed many others on the train were obviously going to the same place. I imagined there were people from all over Scotland making their way to Scotland’s largest city. My excitement grew as the train progressed westward. Even the increasingly grey cloud coverage couldn’t dampen my mood.
I arrived at Queen Street station and made my way to Kelvingrove Park, where the march was to commence. I was there at about 10:45 (the march was to begin at 11:30am) but already I could see thousands of other marchers. I felt a zing of exhilaration. I had my YES flag in my bag, but have never successfully figured out how to put it on a pole to wave it. But I need not worry because there were men everywhere, selling flags (on poles), scarves, banners and whistles. I admit, I am a sucker for these types of items. I purchased a saltire flag, one independence whistle, and a scarf emblazoned with IndyRef2 across it. Did I look a bit over the top? Perhaps, but I loved it. Besides I was amongst like minded folk from all over Scotland. I was in my element.
I fell in line with the marchers. Somehow I managed to be towards the front of the march. It was kind of exciting as at past events, I had usually been towards the end. There’s something kind of special about seemingly leading a group of thousands. I stood amongst the throng of people and just observed the different groups of citizens I would be marching with. I was struck by the sheer diversity of the population in attendance. I’d been on a few independence marches in the past, but this one felt very different. There was an energy and buzz I had never experienced in previous marches. I was elated.
The march started at 11:30am, and we took our places and proceeded to weave our way through the west end, towards the city centre to our final destination of Glasgow Green. It was extraordinary. As we marched, people lined the streets to cheer us on. I looked up at the tenements we walked by, there were smiling faces waving at us and giving us the thumbs up sign. Every spectator seemed to have their camera phones out. I imagine it’s not often you witness a sea of tens of thousands of saltire flags moving through the streets of Glasgow. It must have been an amazing sight for those watching from above.
I was lucky to be marching just ahead of a group of drummers, who played the entire march. They must have been exhausted by the end, as three hours is a very long time to be beating a drum. Anyway they were a real adrenaline boost for those of us in their proximity. They made climbing some of those hills en route much more bearable.
The crowd who participated was extremely diverse. Young (I had previously never seen so many kids on a march before), old and every socio economic class in Scotland. I know there are those who dislike class distinctions, but for a large political movement to work you need people from every walk of life, that’s just a reality. Middle Scotland was largely missing from our support in 2014. For anyone serious about truly gaining independence this next time, their involvement is crucial to our winning.
It was just an utterly glorious day out. Despite being absolutely knackered by the time I reached Glasgow Green (my health hasn’t been great lately) I was also completely elated. After taking some photos of the throngs at the rally, I plonked myself down on the ground and finished my half eaten sandwich while I gulped a bottle of water. In retrospect I was glad it had been an overcast day. I half listened to the speakers. I was too far from the stage to really make out who was talking. But to me, the rally seemed pretty secondary to the actual march. We’d made a huge impact on Glasgow. Yes, we may have delayed some cars, and disrupted some folks shopping environment. But that’s the point of a large march, to be visual, to disrupt everyday life. To remind the public that we support this cause of Scottish independence, in greater numbers than ever before.
So to the naysayers (you know who you are), just remember these marches excite and invigorate those who participate. They’re not events to be mocked or scorned. They bring an energy and vitality to any political movement, that no amount of canvassing will ever replicate. We’re all on the same side here. Can’t we all just get along.