I am honoured to have been asked to speak at the All Under One Banner (AUOB) rally outside the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters on Saturday 26 November. I have accepted that invitation. Some may suppose this hypocritical given my comments regarding other such rallies being held to coincide with publication of the UK Supreme Court’s judgement on the question of whether the Scottish Parliament has the authority to legislate for an ‘independence referendum’ on the strict condition that said referendum cannot have any effect. This is to misunderstand (or misrepresent) my position. I was never opposed to those rallies. In fact, I have stated that I shall be attending the one taking place in Perth. My concern is that there is no clear purpose to the demonstrations. The purpose has been left blank for anyone to fill in as they please. If a demonstration isn’t about something, it can be claimed that it is about almost anything.
We have seen enough of this hijacking of Yes events on behalf of this or that agenda to be familiar with the phenomenon. AUOB marches supposedly for independence always became the vehicles for a confusing range of issues. The independence message tended to be diluted and obscured.
I can guarantee that the SNP will claim the Wednesday 23 November rallies as a show of support for the party and for Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum/de facto referendum ‘plan’. This despite the fact that many attending the rallies will, at the very least, be harbouring grave doubts about the ‘plan’ and the SNP’s whole approach to the constitutional issue. It will be asserted that the rallies are anti-Tory demonstrations and/or protests against the British government’s recent austerity budget. They will be claimed on behalf of environmentalists and by various ‘rights’ campaigns and by all manner of righteous radicals. The matter of restoring Scotland’s independence will be in there somewhere. But, as ever, we’ll be peering at it through a fog of policy agenda and single-issue campaigns.
Perhaps my greatest concern is that these rallies will be used to obscure the true nature of the proposed referendum, portraying it as part of a process intended to lead to the restoration of independence. I worry that the more people are deceived in this way the less will be the pressure on the SNP/Scottish Government to abandon the mock referendum and instead provide an opportunity for the people of Scotland to exercise our right of self-determination. It troubles me that expectations are being raised which can only be dashed when/if the referendum happens and the Yes campaign succeeds only to find that all they’ve won is the First Minister pleading yet again for a Section 30 order. A year and more will have been squandered along with substantial resources and huge amounts of activist energy only to end up back where we are now. The backlash will be fierce and extremely damaging to Scotland’s cause.
I am very much in favour of public demonstrations as a strand of the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. But it is important that these demonstrations be targeted and focused. Right now, all pro-independence demonstrations need to target Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. It is not the British state’s intransigence that is preventing us having a proper constitutional referendum but a lack of political will on the part of our own government. British Prime Minister’s arse may be the more tempting target, but it is the First Minister’s arse that must be metaphorically kicked.
To be honest, I’d much rather not go to the AUOB event in Glasgow on Saturday 26 November. I have no great enthusiasm about attending the Perth rally the preceding Wednesday. I have health issues and find myself distinctly uncomfortable in large gatherings. My memory and my voice are both failing, making public speaking a bit of a problem. But I can hardly urge others to BE AWARE! BE ANGRY! BE ACTIVE! if I’m not prepared to make the effort myself. So, I will be at the Concert Hall in Perth on Wednesday and at Pacific Quay on Saturday and at whatever other events I can get to or am invited to speak at. I shall come bearing all my anger, doubts, fears, misgivings and cynicism; as well as my absolute commitment to Scotland’s cause.
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