I never thought I’d be able to go near Freedom Square on the 19th of September ever again. Not after last year, after all those memories. Blue and White burned by flashes of red – red of blood and fire. Soon the red was overpowering. “Rule Britannia,” penned by a Scot, truly the iconic anthem of the Proud Scot But, thundered through the night, along with “God Save the Queen” and other battle hymns of the union. Heartbroken Scottish independence supporters resisted, but the sorrow and the heartache meant that the 19th of September would forever be stained with the bitter triumphalism of the Empire.
So I thought.
What a difference a year makes, eh?
I was too busy in the shop, out canvassing, or otherwise working to attend many Yes rallies. Nonetheless, I feel that they were instrumental in promoting the idea of Yes being a positive, happy, vibrant movement. Weans with faces painted, bairns waving wee flags, families singing “Caledonia” and the like. Even up until the 18th, I wasn’t going near Freedom Square. But after being with my friends and family throughout the day, I realised that this was just another way of perpetuating the power of Fear over Hope. And I wouldn’t let that happen.
So I went up on the train with my mammy, a bit late in the afternoon. There were still thousands there: we saw our pals from Inverclyde, a few other friends from across the nation – some we hadn’t seen since the referendum. Then we found the Wings stall, and met so many people we’d come to know over the past few years, some I’d only met in person for the first time: Paula Rose, Ronnie Anderson, Gillian, Jim, Ian Brotherhood, Erchie (or is it Archie?), Finley, X_Sticks, Nana, Quinie, Brian Doonthetoon, JLT, Cactus, and more. It is particularly interesting to note how many women were there, given the adage of politics being unwelcoming to females.
We went down to the Clutha afterwards: subjects of discussion ranged from Corbyn to Cat Boyd, the 2016 elections to a future referendum, sharing stories of counts and campaigns. And, of course, we discussed Wings and the Reverend. We were aware that various entities within the independence movement, to put it charitably, didn’t get on: politicians, campaigners, journalists, bloggers and others sometimes found themselves at loggerheads even with their common cause of sovereignty. I certainly have my share of disagreements with the Reverend on a great many subjects – but I’m taking that not as a fault, but a value. It would be strange indeed if all in such a broad movement as Scottish independence agreed on every single detail, would it not?
Even as a big black-bearded 31-year-old man, I’m still terribly shy and doubtful. Yet it’s become easier for me to wheesht that annoying monkey on my back and put myself forward when it’s important. Even when it looked like Inverclyde would only get 20% Yes, it was important to me to get as many votes as we could. Even when Inverclyde was still a New Labour stronghold and predicted to be one of the few that might survive the Surge, it was important to me to join the local SNP and do my bit. And even in the midst of controversy and criticism, I stood by Wings and the Reverend – because it wasn’t just Stuart Campbell himself which made Wings. It was Morag, Andrew, Doug, Scott, and the other writers; it is all the commenters who have built up a community, who gave me confidence and validation to get things done.
There are times and places for the energy of anger, and there are times for the energy of joy and love. Yesterday was an exorcism, a symbolic ritual to dispel the Ghost of September Past which lay heavily on the nation’s subconscious for the past year. We chose not to respond to the bullish intimidation, so practised and successful by the establishment, with further aggression: we chose a day of solidarity, to say we are still here. There were unionists, of course: a half-dozen or so the day before, and perhaps a handful of swaggering unionists eager to remind us that Scotland voted no, actually. A year on, the bigots were conspicuous by their absence, evidently feeling their work in suppressing the cause of Scottish independence was done.
We are still here, because our cause is not lost – it is simply unwon.