An estimated 30,000 people turned up to support the campaign for Scottish self-government in Edinburgh yesterday afternoon (21 September 2013).
The police put the number at just 8,000, but organisers pointed out that even the coaches and parties booked to travel to the capital were larger than that, and the rally proved so large that the march was still under way when the speeches began on the hill, with not enough room for everyone to get to hear.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Harvie of the Green Party, Allan Grogan of Labour for Independence, doughty independent MP Margot Macdonald, socialist campaigner and former MP Dennis Canavan, Carolyn Leckie of Women for Independence, human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, actress Elaine C Smith, and comedian and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli were among the keynote speakers.
The overall message was that 'another Scotland is possible'. Speakers urged Scotland to reject the pessimism and doubt being encouraged by the 'No' campaign, which had itself used the term 'Project Fear' to describe its core approach.
Belying accusations of separatism and isolationism, the demonstration for change was supported not just by thousands of Scots – including groups of farmers, Christians, business people, trades unionists, LGBT people and many other interest groups – but by supporters from England, Wales, Venice, Switzerland, Norway, Kurdistan, Catalonia and a host of other people, groups and small nations.
"The way to be truly 'better together' is to vote 'Yes' for freedom, self-determination and equality among fellow peoples' and nations, not 'No' to maintain the stranglehold of a Westminster elite and of neoliberal policies which are failing Scotland, England and Wales," one rallier told Ekklesia.
Though the polls show the 'No' campaign clearly ahead, the cross-party and bi-partisan Yes Scotland campaign points out that when the choice is between independence and the status quo, the gap narrows to five per cent . 'Yes' activists also say that people are "moving to Yes" and point out that the march and rally a year ago was half or a third of the size of the 2013 one.
"Once you move to 'Yes', there is no going back to 'No'," said Yes Scotland campaign director Blair Jenkins, to huge cheers from the diverse crowd gathered on the capital's Calton Hill.
"People sometimes ask what would we lose if we became an independent Scotland? Well, we'd lose nuclear weapons. We'd lose the bedroom tax. We'd lose Tory governments that we never, ever vote for. What is there not to love about all of that?", he asked
Jenkins continued: "We get the choice to vote for self-determination, for Scotland as an independent country. And it is a big step, we are making history... Sometimes making history does take a bit of courage. But one thing the people of Scotland have never lacked is courage. That's why I believe the people of Scotland will make history and will vote 'Yes'."
The First Minister, promising once again to take a privatised Royal Mail back into public control if he was elected to lead a government on an independent Scotland, warned 'Yes' supporters that the forces ranged against them were “powerful and great”.
Alex Salmond said: “For generations they have preyed on fear and doubt... But doubts can be overcome and fears can be dispelled."
“For years this nation’s resources have bankrolled Westminster," he went on. "For 40 years they have told us we are subsidised, for 50 years they have polluted this country with missiles and bombs and told us it was all for peace. For a quarter of a century they have promised us progress, but delivered us the fourth most unequal society in the developed world. These forces are powerful. But look around, friends. Feel your strength. We gathered here are the change we wish to see.”
“A 'Yes' vote next September will not be a victory for the SNP, or the Yes campaign, or even the huge coalition of interests and enthusiasm gathered here today,” Salmond said.
“It will be the people’s victory. ‘Yes’ will be act of self-confidence and self-assertion which will mean that decisions about what happens in Scotland are always taken by the people who live and work here – not by a remote Westminster system,” he concluded.
The march and rally calling for the biggest constitutional change in the British Isles for hundreds of years was not reported on BBC television news bulletins, and the Corporation was described by other journalists as "notable for its absence" on Calton Hill.
The Russia Today station gave more attention to the event than Britain's publicly funded public service broadcaster, a Fife News Online reporter pointed out. The Murdoch media also played down the event.
* More on Scottish independence from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/scottishindependence
* Yes Scotland: http://www.yesscotland.net