Nine countries celebrate their Independence Days in March. Bosnia and Herzegovina start early, with the 1st of March as the commemoration of their independence from the ill-fated Republic of Yugoslavia. Within a week, what the British Empire called the Gold Coast remembers the day it asserted its independence on 6th of March, transforming itself as a republic under its true name = Ghana. The old realm of Lithuania regained its independence after the dissolution of the USSR with the Act of March 11. Mauritius was one of the many British colonies which regained its independence, achieving it on 12th March. So too were French colonies such as Tunisia, which celebrates its sovereignty on 20th March, and the South Africa-dominated Namibia, who declared independence after a truly horrendous war on 21st March. The proud Greeks, who fought so dearly for their independence from the Ottoman Empire, have the 25th of March as their national holiday. Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan on 26th of March. Finally, Malta commemorates the final withdrawal of British troops on their Freedom Day on the 31st of March.
Scotland could have been the tenth nation to have its independence day this month. At least we’re in good company when it comes to “would-be” independence days…
It’s strange to think I’ve been campaigning this long. It seems only yesterday I went out for my first canvass for the referendum, years ago; my first leaflet run; my first paper-folding session. My first raw experiences of historic defeat and historic victory less than a year apart. How can it have been years already? I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the people who’ve campaigned for decades – all their life.
Unindependence Day was only a few days ago. A lot of people were wondering what they would have been doing had the official result been for Yes, instead of reeling from yet another Tory budget, yet another revelation that the people of Scotland were misled, yet another cruel irony as another nation celebrates its independence day. Even worse, our opponents, the people who “won,” celebrated the day not by extolling the virtues of the Union, not by commemorating all the things our benevolent UK government has bestowed upon us… but by telling us how terrible an independent Scotland would be. Because “too wee, too poor, too stupid” is just too blatant, even for them.
I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. All I know is that, regardless of the result of the referendum, the Scottish Parliament elections would be on the way. It would have been the first Parliament elections of an independent Scotland. We cannot be sure, of course, but it seems likely that many of our MSPs would be standing for election here.
I thought this, as I was sitting with five other activists folding letters and putting them into envelopes with leaflets asking them to vote for Stuart McMillan. I smiled: this, at least, would have been the same whatever the result. Independence would only be the beginning of the rest of Scotland’s history: we still needed people to represent us in Parliament. And so we all sat together, folding and enclosing and piling hundreds of letters to be sent out to homes in Inverclyde.
Later, I went out canvassing. It’s something that’s been incredibly tough for me to get back into. I don’t know why: all the emotions of the referendum and General Election just came flooding back as I walked up and down the streets, clipboard in hand, badge affixed, lanyard swaying in the breeze, my heart just a little heavier knowing that this canvassing session wasn’t in an independent Scotland. After all the work we did, all the ground we gained, I didn’t know how we were going to do this. I didn’t know what I would do if I opened the door to someone who voted for another party, or worse, voted No: would I freeze up? Tersely finish the canvas? Smile through gritted teeth? Get into a fruitless argument? Burst into tears and run off? I had no idea.
Luckily, I had my mammy with me – not (just) because she’s my mammy, but because she’s a brilliant canvasser. The political persuasion of the person we met didn’t matter: we left the door with good-natured smiles and assurances that we would try to find out more about their questions. We met all sorts: SNP voters, Yes voters, No voters, Other Party voters, non-voters, new voters. I’ve found that when asked, many people really do want to know more: we were lucky enough to have Stuart with us on our team’s run, so we even had the opportunity to have him come along and answer questions personally.
Afterwards, I wrote up a few posts, set them up to publish later in the week. I looked up the SNP site, researched various newspaper articles and websites, checked out the usual indy blogs. I drew some artwork for badges and graphics, like the wee picture of Stuart I put at the end of every post. The painting at the top of this post is at the back wall of the campaign shop. After the election, when we move out, it’ll probably be painted over. There’s something fitting about the ephemeral nature of such a painting, to last only as long as the campaign, before it is gone. Memories, of course, will last a lifetime. It’s one of the pieces I’m most proud to have painted.
That’s how I spent Unindependence Day: interpolating letters, canvassing, researching, writing, drawing, and campaigning – because this is how we will achieve our dream in actuality: Scotland’s Independence Day.
Stuart’s fundraiser (7 days left!)