In 2014 I was grieving the loss of my brother and my mother, both had died within five months of each other. I was struggling through college and at a complete loss as to what I was doing. I knew the country had a decision to make. One cold night, at a loss and fed up studying I clicked on a YouTube video and saw a yes meeting which someone had uploaded. I cannot for the life of me remember who the speakers were, but their words resonated with me and I found myself agreeing. Westminster did not work for Scotland and never had.
Still in the fog of grief I was functioning on autopilot, going about my daily routine, keeping up with college work, paying bills and generally keeping myself alive. However, I chanced upon my local ‘yes’ group who were on the Main Street campaigning and spoke to them. From that moment on I was out campaigning, I knocked on doors and delivered leaflets. Every Saturday I joined the group on the Main Street talking to people who were keen to air their concerns. Of course, there were others who dismissed us out of hand, too wrapped up in their union jack to take any real notice of what a chance we were being given.
The chance to free ourselves from Westminster’s grasp once and for all. I knew how destructive a Tory government could be and given Labour politicians were either abstaining or worse voting with their Tory colleagues I could see the dismantling of the welfare state being carried out before my eyes. If that was not bad enough I could see a compliant media embarking on the ‘blame game’ blaming those who had fallen on hard times; who had contributed to the welfare state all their working lives being demonised. They were the scroungers, the workshy, and worse was to come. A reshaping and renaming of Social Security System. The dreaded Universal Credit. How dare these people conjure up in the minds of taxpayers that those in receipt of benefits are somehow not entitled to them. The majority had paid into the system for years. What they were taking out was a fraction of what they had put in. And the punitive measures that were in their infancy, now playing out before our eyes were pushed through Westminster by both Conservative and Labour. And then there was the National Health Service, being carved up in England. David Cameron in his speech to conference back in 2006 stated that the NHS was safe in his hands. He was not speaking to the public, he was speaking to potential shareholders. And it was the NHS that was to get me to my first public meeting.
I entered to find I was not alone, the hall was full of people with smiles on their faces, optimistic nods, hope in their eyes. I had not intended to speak up, had just intended to hear the speakers. Tommy Sheridan and Mhairi Black, both were superb. However, when it came to questions I found myself putting my hand up. The first questions taken, I was quite pleased as I put my hand down. Who would listen to what I had to say? I need not have worried, Tommy had saw me with my hand up and alerted the person with the mic. I got to ask my question, well it was more of a statement. About the NHS and the fact that it was being sold off piece by piece and what the potential of that was.
For several years, I have followed a child on her Caring Bridge site. She had been battling cancer since she was five, had been in remission twice and had been having seizures. Her distraught parents had taken her to the doctor and then the hospital and she had been booked in for a CT scan. On the morning before this child was due to go for her scan the hospital had emailed her mother to tell her the CT scan had been cancelled and the reason for this had been because the hospital had forgot to inform the insurance company. Not having children, myself but having worked with them I was both alarmed and disgusted by the action of a profession who professed to care. This was America, and this was the system that had been chomping at the bit to get their grubby hands on our National Health Service. And now a very greedy and powerful elite had their hands-on Westminster, it was only a matter of time before our Health Service would be carved up and sold to the highest bidder. To my surprise the whole room erupted in applause and I knew then that people were as concerned as I was. Which made me even more determined to get the message out there.
The meetings I could not attend I watched on independence Live. I cannot quite remember how I came across indylive but I found myself tuning out of mainstream television and into the livestreams both Kevin Gibney and Del were doing. Up and down the country, getting the word out there; and thank god for them. God knows where we would be if they had not livestreamed the yes events and meetings. These guys were giving up their free time, to bring us what was really happening around the country. And not the skewed view from the mainstream bias media.
I found myself at rallies, some impromptu, singing and dancing in George Square as tourists looked on, I found myself on Buchanan Street, standing at the top of the concert Hall steps looking all the way down. A sea of saltire blue. A small group of no voters passing by and an unplanned rendition of ‘we still love you, even though you’re no’ nothing dampened our spirits. I was taken on a trip of a life time that summer, virtually travelling around the country with independence live, all the talent in the yes movement coming together, songs, poems, speeches. Scotland really does have talent, it is just not shown. And thank god we had our own media to capture it all.
September, a week from the vote. We had taken enough from Aunty Beeb, I went off to protest, this was the fourth such at Pacific Que, this however, was to be the biggest, we met at George Square, men, women, children, and dogs, all with one aim in mind. To let BBC Scotland know we were on to them. The walk was longer than I had anticipated, yet I never really noticed how tired I was until I arrived home. Cars tooted a tune and we chanted Scotland at the top of our voices. It was such an emotional day. Windows flew open and faces appeared, smiles and waves, Saltires appearing, hanging from the window. And one solitary Union Jack. God alone knows what Good Ole Aunty Beep thought that last day, the protestors had come back, and boy they had brought reinforcements. There were a few police standing guard at the doors. What did they expect us to do? Storm the building, it wasn’t that sort of protest.
We chanted ‘shame on you’ at the top of our voices, and ‘where’s your cameras BBC’ and applauded and cheered at the large banner depicting BBC’s Nick Robinson who had manipulated a story about Alex Salmond not answering his question. Which we all know and had saw for ourselves Alex had answered in full. I think we even called for this odious man to be sacked.
Then it was music time, we moved away from the building and gathered round to hear the real talent of Scotland, poets, songwriters, inspirational speakers. There were no leaders in the ‘yes’ movement. No movers and shakers, just a collective all with one goal. Independence for the country we love. No matter who you were, what nationality, if you were for independence you were welcome in our movement. We applauded and cheered and sang, we were just days away from the most important day of our lives, what some had been working for all their lives and that day was one that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The next few days were a blur, the unionist media were in a frenzy, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservative and UNIONIST party was quietly confident. Something changed in that last week. Unionist media and politicians knew something we didn’t, I was sure of it then and I am sure of it now.
The morning of the 18th September 2014, I woke early, I was a polling agent and not really looking forward to it. I felt quite unwell. I arrived at the polling station just before 7am to make sure nothing untoward was going on. I sat for a few minutes until the station officially opened then went outside. I could tell who had voted no by the look on their faces as they walked inside. Some were confident in their no vote, most however, never looked in my direction, their shoulders were slumped, and they seemed a little shamefaced.
That has stayed with me from that day onward.
Those voting yes were different, they were smiling and happy, confident, thumbs up, hope in their eyes as they trotted off to work, or took their wee ones to school. The amount of dog leads I held. Dogs sitting quietly by my feet as their owners went inside. The young, first time voters, looking forward not back. Full of optimism for their future. Just before my stint as polling agent came to an end I was asked to go to another station where there was a polling agent on the other side. I was on one side of the gate, she on the other. I was talking with a friend who had come to give me a something to drink and a cake. We invited the ‘no’ supporting polling agent to join us. I said we have to get on after this is over, there is no point standing miles away from one another. She agreed, and we stood side by side.
This polling station was different from the first, it was situated in the more affluent part of my village, with millionaire homes not too far away. I noticed one woman drive up in her big fancy car, walk to the back and literally look down her nose at my friend who could buy and sell her but didn’t flaunt his wealth in other people’s faces. He either, didn’t notice what she had done, or chose to ignore the ignorance of her. From my new position, I was shouted at, told I was going to ruin Scotland, how they could possibly tell that is beyond me. However, I just put it down to elderly being afraid of change. He did apologies when he came back out after casting his no vote. And then my stint as polling agent was over. I went home.
It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I realised I hadn’t voted yet, I grabbed my polling card and rushed back round to the first polling station I had been agent at, not feeling too great if truth be told. There was a small group of yes campaigners, not campaigning as it had finished, just standing chatting, imagining how good it would be to be free of Tory rule. I told them I wasn’t feeling too well, they were great, they wanted to get me a seat and something to drink. All I wanted to do was go and vote, go home and relax.
I was in bed by the time the Shetland vote came in. I guess I knew deep down we’d lost. I tossed and turned, and told myself, there’s no singing, why I thought people would be celebrating where I live I’m not sure, I just remember saying, there’s no singing. I eventually got up and went downstairs, couldn’t eat a thing, felt I had lost my mother and brother all over again. It’s hard to explain it, I just felt we had lost something close and would need time to grieve. I couldn’t bear to put on the television, couldn’t bear to see the big fat face of the unionist media, or unionist politicians gloating. Or people celebrating the fact that they had voted to keep their country, the one they profess to love so much tied in a union that cared not a jot for them. A union that would see this country destroyed. I couldn’t bear to watch Davidson, or Lamont. Or the we tosser Rennie.
I asked myself, what now? And then I went on social media. That is where the ‘yes’ movement were, and they weren’t going to take this lying down. My tears turned to joy, we were not going back into our box, we were not going to let them do this. The shenanigans of the night before were all over social media. Yes, votes shown on a no table on Sky News, fire alarms going off, yes votes found discarded, bags and bags of them. People were saying the vote was rigged, hell, even my own sister, who is not political in any way shape or form said it was rigged. There were those who exerted caution, but I was running with the possibility that the vote was rigged. There was question in my mind. Ruth Davidson was quietly confident no had won, why was that? Why was there no exit poll? Or no recount? Why were yes votes mixed in with no votes? Why did a fire alarm go off? There are of course reasonable explanations for all. But it did seem awfully suss at the time.
My melancholy mood had changed, and I was positively excited by the time I read Robin McAlpine’s article, I cannot for the life of me tell you anything about what was in that article, I just know it is what I needed to hear at that precise moment. By evening I was smiling, no, laughing; it didn’t feel like we were on the losing side. It felt as if we were just getting started. I attributed, the 19th September 2014 to being on a battlefield, the battle over, those who survived getting unsteadily to our feet, looking around for a saltire to begin waving. We had lost the battle but by god we were going to win the war.
October 2014 I was back in George Square, Hope over Fear, we weren’t going away and the mainstream unionist press and unionist politicians were pissed as hell. Both independence supporting parties saw a sharp rise in membership, the SNP held a massive conference type thing at the Hydro. The energy was electric. There was still hope in the eyes that had dared to dream, dared to see beyond the stagnant union brought about to serve only the rich elite. That no vote should have put to bed the question of independence, for a generation as the unionist politicians like to remind us. All it did was build the confidence of a people who had, had it beaten out of them over the centuries. The, Too wee, too poor and stupid stance of Westminster wasn’t going to wash any more. Now we know that we are Big enough, Strong enough, Rich enough and quite frankly, Had enough. 2015 saw us send fifty-six MP’s to Westminster to “settle up, not settle down.” Some thought the SNP should have declared independence right there and then. However, in that time they have exposed Westminster for the corrupt cesspit it is. Remember, we still had most in Scotland who were not convinced, therefore we had to show them Westminster was not and never had worked for Scotland.
Brexit, and chaos, another general election, okay we lost a few MP’s and to be quite honest I think we lost them because the SNP did not put independence front and centre of the campaign, that said, we still returned a majority of independence supporting MPs to Westminster regardless of how the unionist media tried to spin it. Brexit has taken the blinkers off those who believed in the union, seeing how our representatives and indeed the people of Scotland are treated have opened the eyes on many. Now we are being told daily that we mean nothing in their precious union, that we are not, and never have been a union of equals. That all that was promised to us if we just stay were snatched off the table as soon as that no vote was secured.
They have no idea just how angry the people of Scotland are.
Last year saw people attending marches and rallies in huge numbers, the largest in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I couldn’t attend them all, I was too busy studying for my Master’s Degree but I did manage Edinburgh, the train through to Edinburgh was full of happy people, most going to the rally. An estimated 200 thousand attended, just let that sink in. I don’t think we ever got those numbers back in 2014. I again watched it all unfold on Indylive. The unscrupulous Tory Council tried to put the kybosh on one. But the yes movement and those organising would not be deterred. They took the march through the streets that scorching day to be greeted with people, all watching from their homes. Some putting water out for the dogs, one even a paddling pool for them to cool off in. And yet we are told there is no appetite for independence. If there was no appetite for independence why are they so worried? If there was no appetite surly the unionist would be only too happy to let us have our referendum. Now we are being told that a section 30 order will be refused. Or “now is not the time.” We are not children to be dismissed, we are a partner in this union whether Westminster like it or not. And as a partner in a union we have a right to leave it any time we choose.
Brexit has shown us that the union is no longer compatible, (if it ever was), therefore it is time for an uncoupling I think is the new term for it. Scotland is about to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the European Union against the will of those who voted to remain. Our voice and our feelings have been stamped on. We have been told to sit down and shut up, all in the glare of the social media. We have a Prime Minister who walks out of the chamber as soon as our representative stands to speak, we have the BBC who cut away every time Ian Blackford stands to speak. Telling us that we don’t care, just give us your licence tax.
The public have been keeping close tabs on it all, playing cat and mouse, only we are the cats, just ready to pounce, it’s been a waiting game, and, yes, some, including myself have been chomping at the bit, and been critical of the SNP. Next week will be the week it will all come to a head. Crunch time, Nicola Sturgeon said she would set out her plan once the Brexit deal is known. That will be next week.
Get ready folks. I think we’re going to be busy, because if Nicola doesn’t pull that trigger, then we must. Westminster will not play fair, they will declare and state of emergency and seize power. Are we really going to let that happen?
Alba Gu Brath