I’m not long back from today’s Independence March and Rally, which I attended as an independence-leaning fence-sitter. I was with and we by chance met up with another mutual friend from Fife. I was most interested in the fellow-travellers on this band-wagon. Of these, I make out two kinds:
- Firstly, people from other independence movements. I first noticed folk in Lederhosen carrying red and white flags – did they want independence from Austria? Er, no. It turns out that they wish South Tyrol to cease being part of Italy. What should happen next is unclear. Options include
- South Tyrol being a completely independent country
- South Tyrol uniting with ‘Austrian Tyrol‘ as part of Austria
- South Tyrol uniting with ‘Austrian Tyrol’ as a bigger independent country. I think this would be problematic, partly because it would make Vorarlberg an exclave of Austria and partly because it would leave East Tyrol either in Austria or as an exclave of ‘Independent Tyrol’ – unless Austria released a suitable part of Salzburg Land to join up the bits. (According to wikipedia, Vorarlberg speaks allemanic German, while the rest of Austria speaks austro-bavarian German, and had considered joining Switzerland, so dissolving the western end of Austria might have some support.)
No wonder they’ve not yet decided!
- Political movements and fellow travellers: Labour for Independence, Scottish Socialists, Women for Independence, various groups who oppose nuclear weapons and membership of Nato.
The whole event was MCed by Hardeep Sign Kholi and Elaine C Smith. The speakers included Dennis Canavan – quite fiery, almost to the point of being scary – and Nicola Sturgeon, who was less scary, even if she did remind me slightly of Angela Merkel. Alex Salmond spoke last but by then and I had moved away from the stage and so couldn’t really make out what he was saying.
Most speeches seemed to me to be designed to stiffen the sinews – a call to go out and convert at least one other person to Yes. (The nearest I can honestly do is state why I lean towards Yes but freely admit that the solution I want is not currently on offer.) Because I didn’t want my sinews stiffened and I tend to react against fiery speeches, these were somewhat offputting.
However, the speeches were not as offputting as the music. Middle-of-the-road ballads do nothing for me, nor do twee ‘celtic’ things. There was some bagpipe rock, covering Teenage Kicks and One way or another, which was more appealing. I guess these are just part of the way of doing politics – they don’t add to or detract from the arguments, even if they do detract from enjoyment.
The worthwhile parts, for me, were seeing the strength of feeling, meeting new people, meeting up with and our mutual friend, enjoying walking through parts of Edinburgh and learning new stuff. And perhaps the most impressive thing for me was meeting a bloke riding a battered old racer on a turbo trainer at the top of Calton Hill. He plans to cycle from Rome to Glasgow (1700 miles) in 25 days to raise money for the Yes campaign. That’s just under 70 miles a day – it’s bloody ambitious!
To be fair, I suppose I now have to attend a ‘No’ event, even if it’s just to see how crap their music is.
Here’s some photos and propaganda. The latter is for information only – I do not necessarily agree with the organisations from which they come:
So how do I now feel?
- Independence is not my ideal. (That is a federal Great Britain, with decision-making moved to appropriate regional forms of government. The GB national government should only be able to make decisions on those matters which affect the whole of the contiguous land-mass and any other areas [such as Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles] that choose to get involved. I don’t see any need for Northern Ireland being part of the UK because it’s part of another land-mass – but that’s up to them. Oh, and I want areas to be administrative units only, not ‘we’re the XYZ people, we’re special’ – because that is offensive rubbish.)
- If Scotland chooses independence, the only thing this guarantees is that more decisions will be taken in Holyrood.
- It does not guarantee that sensible decisions will be taken or that everything will be wonderful. Scotland would need to not elect bampots. Being Scottish does not automatically make a person better, just as being English doesn’t automatically make a person an effete arsehole.
- It does not guarantee permanently open borders. However, I don’t believe either country would be stupid enough to close its borders. Both sides have things the others want, so trade and porous borders are welcome. pointed out that England might want to close its northern border to prevent immigrants and refugees from other countries getting in, if it goes down a UKIP-ish/isolationist route.
- If Scotland retains the pound, it can’t be completely autonomous and may suffer from things rUK does to protect itself.
- It does not guarantee freedom from being affected by world events – but it does offer Scotland a chance to protect itself, especially if it gains control of its own currency. (Having said that, my heart prefers a world currency. But having said that, the European currency is a bit of a mess just now.)
- It does not guarantee freedom from stupidities such as the fugly, over-expensive and unnecessary Scottish Parliament building and the mess that Edinburgh’s tram project has become. (I like trams but not the expensive and incomplete way they have been implemented.)
- It does not guarantee that bus information will be free of contradiction and misinformation. (‘s bus zoomed past him on George Street, despite notices that it should have stopped there.)
- But what it does offer is a whole host of positive things from the fellow-travellers – removal of nuclear weapons, removal of the ‘bedroom tax’, renationalisation of the post office, positive choices about welfare and social matters, left-ish/green-ish politics promising to care for the poor and disadvantaged. Of course I understand that these are only what’s on offer today, that promises are frequently broken and that they are not guaranteed to carry on forever. However, I do believe that Ms Sturgeon and her fellow-speakers meant what they said, and that they have the cohones to make a few of them come true. I look forward to holding them to their promises!
There’s an interesting query – if I lean towards independence for Scotland, why am I so against the UK independence party? It’s not because of idiots such as Godfrey Bloom, although he does nothing for UKIP’s reputation. It’s not because the UK is 100% geographically part of Europe. If global warming continues, it’s going to be further and further from mainland Europe. It’s because UKIP seems to reject the idea of Europe working together via the EU and related bodies. The ideal of Europe, if I recall correctly, was best presented by Dennis Healey. Having seen at first hand what European wars could do, he preferred any mechanism that could help prevent them. So do I.
There’s a lot wrong with how Europe currently works, but in general EU-Europe hasn’t seen major wars since 1945. (I know that’s not actual proof and and I do recall the horror of the Yugoslavian melt-down.) While retaining control of its own currency might well be protecting the UK from the worst of the Euro-currency disaster, standing aloof from the common bonds of humanity that Europe represents is offensive and stupid of itself, and feels like the tip of the wedge of warmongering, racism and Nationlism spelt with a ‘z’ instead of a ‘t’.
The Scottish Independence movement doesn’t feel like that to me. For a start, Scotland is much smaller than rUK and so will lose any hot war, so no sane Scottish leader will do it. The Independence movement doesn’t seem to want to stand aloof from rUK, but to wish for autonomy to look after itself while being good neighbours across the Cheviots.
Both of the above are my perceptions and are not necessarily true, of course!
In summary, the fellow-travellers have attracted me more towards Yes but I will never be a died-in-the wool Independence supporter.