With regard to marches, as with everything else, there’s never a lack of naysayers within the Yes movement. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do or propose to do, there are always people who will sniffily insist that you should be doing something else. And, of course, there are always those who take against an action or initiative for reasons they’re reluctant to provide but, being unable to formulate a rational argument, resort to insisting simply that the thing will ‘put off soft No voters’; or ‘play into the hands of the Unionists’. Don’t ask them to explain these claims or supply any supporting evidence. You’ll just confuse them.
Marches are no exception. Every time a march and rally is held you’ll find the usual suspects on social media trying to make those attending feel guilty by saying they should be out leafleting instead. Or manning street stalls. Or whatever. What they should be doing is anything but whatever it is that they are doing.
In fact, there are few if any occasions on which marches interfere with other campaigning activities. That’s because the people organising those activities are not daft. They know the dates of the marches well in advance and organise leafleting runs and street stalls etc. around those dates. It is also the case that, however many people turn out for the marches there are always those who can’t or won’t go and who are therefore available for doing other things. The complaints are nonsense.
Marches and rallies serve a purpose. They serve more than one purpose. They increase the visibility of the Yes movement and help to normalise the idea of independence. They also provide an opportunity for networking. Many worthwhile initiatives have been conceived among activists gathered in pubs and cafes during and after these events. Folk from the borders get to connect with folk from the north. Folk from the cities get to connect with folk from the isles. Folk from furth of Scotland’s borders add their input to this great cauldron of ideas and enthusiasm. All it takes is the spark of an idea and a fresh fire is lit.
That said, I do have issues with these marches and rallies. All too often they lack focus. It can be hard to tell at times if you’re attending a march in support of Scottish independence or a demonstration against the Tories. Or nuclear weapons. Or zero-hour contracts. Or capitalism. Maybe it’s a climate change protest. Or an effort to save whales or trees or…. You get the idea.
What really troubled me about the marches last year was that they continued to direct public ire in the direction of London when it had become more appropriate to direct it towards Edinburgh. They were about sending a message to Westminster when we really needed to be talking to (or shouting at!) Holyrood. They were demanding change in the UK’s governance when the Yes movement is supposed to be about constitutional reform in Scotland. I needed no other reason to abhor the anti-Tory chants and banners than that they totally missed the point.
What was true in the summer of 2019 is even more true now. The government we need to be urging into action is our own – the Scottish Government. The party we should be naming in those chants and on the banners is the SNP. The parliament we should be petitioning is the Scottish Parliament. The rest is irrelevant.
Tories will always be Tories. No march, however huge, will alter them. And they aren’t really the problem. They are only a small part of it. Because it’s not just that Scotland gets Tory governments we voted against. It’s not even that we so rarely get governments in London which sort of reflect how we voted in Scotland. The problem is that we are obliged by the constitutional settlement to accept that we are not entitled to expect always to get the government we vote for. It matters not at all what British party is in power at Westminster, it will have won power on the back of English votes. If the party they choose happens to be the same British party branch we’ve voted for in Scotland we are supposed to be grateful for British democracy. If the party they choose is not the one we have voted for we are supposed to be uncomplaining about British demockracy.
Changing governments in London changes nothing for Scotland. No British government will ever consider Scotland’s interests as a priority. No British government will serve Scotland’s interests other than when doing so serves the interests of the British state. Attempting to address Scotland’s problems by fiddling with the Westminster arithmetic is like imagining you can make rotten food edible by stirring it. Protesting against Tories and Westminster is just futile flailing at the surface. Whatever part of the surface you may be attacking, peel it back and you’ll find the Union.
It is the Union which stipulates that Scotland must always be subordinate and secondary and powerless within the UK. That is what the Union was intended to do. It’s what the Union has always been for. Only by ending the Union can Scotland enjoy true democracy. The Union must deny democracy in order that the Union might persist. The Union must persist in order that democracy can be denied. Democracy must be conditional on whatever serves the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
The Union is the choke-chain around Scotland’s throat. If marches and rallies and other Yes activities aren’t trying to break that chain then, whatever good they may do in some regards, they are doing nothing for the restoration of Scotland’s independence.
I appeal to all of those organising marches and rallies to put their best efforts into persuading participants to protest against the Union. I urge all of those involved to focus their attention and efforts on demanding action by the Scottish Government in the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of breaking the chains that keep Scotland at the mercy of a corrupt and incompetent British political elite.
I ask that all Yes activists support the aims of White Rose Rising (www,whiteroserising.scot).
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