Revolutions with Flowers & Song

Depending on who you ask, between 20,000 & 200,000 marchers turned up for yesterday’s big Edinburgh party. If anti-independence advocates aren’t immediately going for the lowest estimate, they use the curious logic that “only” 3.7% of a nation’s entire population turning out for a march is somehow a mark against support for Scottish Independence.

So I thought I’d have a look at other famous marches from history. While Mr Golden might think they also show a lack of enthusiasm for their causes (not least because the majority of those marches were against his party), I’ll let readers make up their own minds.

Let’s look at the UK first.

Aldermaston March (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) 4th April 1958
Estimate: 2,000
UK Population: 51,754,673
March as percentage of UK population: 0.004%

Aldermaston March (CND) 8th March 1959
Estimate: 60,000
UK Population: 52,045,662
March as percentage of UK population: 0.1%

Aldermaston March (CND) 18th April 1960
Estimate: 60,000 – 100,000
UK Population: 52,370,602
March as percentage of UK population: 0.1 – 0.2%

Aldermaston March (CND) 1st April 1961
Estimate: 150,000
UK Population: 52,727,768
March as percentage of UK population: 0.3%

Grosvenor Square Peace March (Vietnam Solidarity Campaign) 17th March 1968
Estimate: 10,000 – 80,000
UK Population: 55,132,596
March as percentage of UK population: 0.02 – 0.15%

Grosvenor Square Peace March (VSC) 27th October 1968
Estimate: 50,000 – 200,000
UK Population: 55,132,596
March as percentage of UK population: 0.09 – 0.36%

CND March for Peace, 24th October 1981
Estimate: 250,000
UK Population: 56,220,735
March as percentage of UK population: 0.45%

CND March for Peace, 22nd October 1983
Estimate: 200,000 – 400,000
UK Population: 56,276,798
March as percentage of UK population: 0.36 – 0.7%

Poll Tax protest (All Britain anti-Poll Tax Federation) 31st March 1990
Estimate: 40,000 – 200,000
UK Population: 57,134,391
March as percentage of UK population: 0.07 – 0.35%

May Day Protest, 1st May 2001
Estimate: 5,000 – 10,000
UK Population: 59124288
March as percentage of UK population: 0.008%

Stop the War (Stop the War Coalition) 18th November 2001
Estimate: 15,000 – 100,000
UK Population: 59,124,288
March as percentage of UK population: 0.025 – 0.17%

Liberty & Livelihood (Countryside Alliance), 23rd September 2002
Estimate: 40,0000 – 40,7791
UK Population: 59,326,294
March as percentage of UK population: 0.67 – 0.69%

Stop the War (London) (StWC) 15th February 2003
Estimate: 750,000 – 2,000,000
UK Population: 59,561,432
March as percentage of UK population: 1.26 – 3.36%

Tamil Eelam (British Tamil Forum), 31st January 2009
Estimate: 50,000 – 100,000
UK Population: 62,828,616
March as percentage of UK population: 0.08%

March for Jobs, Justice & Climate (Put People First), 28th March 2009
Estimate: 35,000
UK Population: 62,828,616
March as percentage of UK population: 0.06%

Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts (National Union of Students), 10th November 2010
Estimate: 30,000 – 52,000
UK Population: 63,459,808
March as percentage of UK population: 0.05 – 0.08%

Tuition Fees Protest (NUS, ULU, NCAFC), 9th December 2010
Estimate: 15,000 – 30,000
UK Population: 63,459,808
March as percentage of UK population: 0.02 – 0.05%

March for the Alternative (TUC), 26th March 2011
Estimate: 25,0000 – 40,0000
UK Population: 64,021,919
March as percentage of UK population: 0.39 – 0.62%

March for a People’s Vote, 20th October 2018
Estimate: 700,000
UK Population: 67,141,684
March as percentage of UK population: 1.04%

Climate Protests (London) 20th September 2019
Estimate: 100,000
UK Population: 67,530,172
March as percentage of UK population: 0.15%

So even if we take each protest’s most generous estimates, yesterday’s march for Scottish Independence was bolstered by a greater percentage of the population than any UK-wide protest in the last century by a substantial margin – with the exception of the 2003 Stop the War London protest, and only if one considers that no less than 2 million people (or 22.5% of the entire city’s population) took part in it.

Ah, but that’s the UK: you aren’t comparing like for like, I hear someone say. Very well: what about marches, protests, or demonstrations in Scotland’s recent history?

The Radical War Strike, 3rd April 1820
Estimate: 60,000
Scottish Population: approx. 2,000,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 3%

Rent Strike, April-November 1915
Estimate: 20,000
Scottish Population: 4,771,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 0.42%

Glasgow Green March in support of the February Revolution, May Day 1917
Estimate: 90000
Scottish Population: 4,810,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 1.87%

March for John MacLean, 1st May 1918
Estimate: 100000
Scottish Population: 4,812,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 2.07%

 

Battle of George Square, 31st January 1919
Estimate: 35,000 – 90,000
Scottish Population: 4,820,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 0.73 – 1.87%

 

Poll Tax Protest (Glasgow), 1989
Estimate: 50,000
Scottish Population: 5,078,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 0.98%

Stop the War (Glasgow) (StWC) 15th February 2003
Estimate: 50,000 – 100,000
Scottish Population: 5,057,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 0.99 – 1.98%

Make Poverty History, 2nd July 2005
Estimate: 175,000 – 250,000
Scottish Population: 5,095,000
March as percentage of Scottish population: 3.43 – 4.9%

Even for a nation that has form on protests, even a 180,000-strong march would put it up there with Make Poverty History’s lowest estimate. All of a sudden, 3.7% of the population doesn’t seem quite such a small number, does it?

As a peace campaigner, there was something rather familiar about that number. I was sure I’d heard it, or a number close to it, somewhere before. Then I was reminded of Erica Chenoweth’s groundbreaking work:

In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.

In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands.

Earlier this year, the presidents of Sudan and Algeria both announced they would step aside after decades in office, thanks to peaceful campaigns of resistance.

In each case, civil resistance by ordinary members of the public trumped the political elite to achieve radical change.

There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics – by a long way.

Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

The Guinness Book of World Records considers the Stop the War protest in Rome on 15th February 2003 to be the largest anti-war rally in history, with an upper estimate of 3 million out of a nation of then 57 million turning up. 3 million Italian protestors made up 5.2%. In the largest protest in history. An estimated 100,000 (3.6% of India’s population) joined Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930. An estimated 3.34.6 million (1-1.4% of US population) joined the 2017 Women’s March. An estimated 338,000 – 2 million (4.627% – wow – of Hong Kong’s population) joined the Hong Kong protests this year.

“Aye, but put another way, most of Italy/India/America/Hong Kong didn’t.”

Sure, Maurice. Sure.

4 thoughts on “Revolutions with Flowers & Song

  1. Marconatrix says:

    So something like one Scot in 30 was marching? Put like that it seems really impressive, no?

  2. Cactus says:

    Thanks for your excellent research, yeah it really puts the turnout numbers into perspective. From watching one of the time lapse pass-by videos of our march on Saturday, it would appear the marchers were well into the six figure range.

    Looking forward to our 21st century Scotland returning to being an independent and international free country of the world.

    Roll on our revolution.

  3. A very well Put together Article.. well done indeed.

  4. bettyboop says:

    The takeaway is that the Westminster government wouldn’t care if it was 99.9% of the Scottish population marching for any cause whatsoever. It’s only Scotland; they can ignore that.

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