I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.
Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.
The former First Minister came to launch Alba’s West Scotland campaign, where local candidate Chris McEleny took him on a brief tour of West Stewart Street. Given the global situation, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was gladdened to see a fair few Alba activists turn up, doing our best to keep reasonable distance from one another & wear masks when appropriate.
It was bittersweet. For all the familiar faces I did see, the absence of a few friends – understandable, as many are still SNP members – twinged a bit. I can only hope they’re doing their best campaigning for the other major pro-independence party, because if I’ve learned nothing else during the past two years, it’s that finding a party you can support does wonders for your esteem. I used to feel that with the SNP, and couldn’t imagine it any other way before independence was achieved.
Still, I knew that even if they were campaigning for another party, it was still with independence in their hearts. When the next stage of Scotland’s journey to independence takes place, we’ll be side by side again. We’ll just have to be, because loyalty to the cause is more important than loyalty to party.
Of course, Chris was not the only candidate. Delia Henry, Ellen McMaster, & Caroline McAllister were also present, representing the eastern, southern, and northern reaches of West Scotland, from rural and urban backgrounds, legal and charitable sectors, providing an effective cross-section of candidates. (I’m sure we can forgive the clear gender imbalance on this occasion!)
I was immensely cheered not just by the fellow activists – good to know I’m not alone in Inverclyde, even if my mammy & most of my family have joined too – but by passers-by. The mountain of opposition Alba faces is stark – but my experiences in Inverclyde prepared me for the climb. It’s hard going, it’s time consuming, it’s even dangerous – but there’s nothing like looking out from the summit.
Just like the old days.