By James MacGregor Palmer
Before Saturday, I had never been on a political march. What I saw in Edinburgh was an open, inclusive and passionate movement for change. It warmed my heart.
AUOB Edinburgh was vast. How it’s even possible to count that number of people I will never know, but various media outlets are reporting that over 200,000 braved the Edinburgh rain to make their support for an independent Scotland known. From where our University of Stirling Students for Independence group stood roundabout the middle of the pack (I think), it felt as if the procession of saltire-clad Yessers stretched on forever.
The sheer size of the march was all the more impressive given the weather conditions. This is important to a huge number of the people of Scotland. Our movement is not going away any time soon, and it is not going to be beaten by a few drops of rain.
Rounding the corner to the plaza in front of the Scottish Parliament on our way to take our place in the march, I couldn’t help but smile. The whole place had an indescribable energy to it even before the march began, like a football crowd waiting to hear the first blast of the referee’s whistle. The key difference is we don’t have to wait for a referee to get the game started. Ours is a grassroots movement that can mobilise people before IndyRef2 is even called. We don’t need to know the date. It’s not important. What is important is getting people talking about independence now. Saturday sent a message to the world that the people of Scotland are excited, and we are ready.
But what struck me most was the sense of unity and inclusivity. As an Englishman, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about getting involved with the Yes campaign. I thought my accent alone would cause some friction, maybe even mistrust. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On Saturday I saw St. George’s Crosses, as well as the flags of Wales, Ireland, Germany and Northumberland (the caption “Geordies for Independence – Wye Aye 2” deserves some applause). No-one cares where you were born or how you speak, this is about building a better Scotland for all of us that live here.
Perhaps most heartening of all was a group marching behind a banner that read “Celtic Supporters & Rangers Supporters – United for Scottish Independence”. Even the bitterest of rivalries were set aside on Saturday in pursuit of a Scotland that welcomes all.
My biggest takeaway? Scotland – there is no limit to how great we can be when we stand united. Funnily enough, we really are Better Together. But it is not the unionists who are offering that inclusive vision of Scotland.