Ben Wray reports from the march and rally for independence in Edinburgh yesterday. He argues it exceeded expectations, and shows potential for the left in the pro-independence camp
The march and rally for independence in Edinburgh yesterday surpassed expectations, especially for those on the left of the independence movement. Over 10,000 reached Princes St Gardens in a demonstration that had been played down by the SNP and was expected to be a modest start to the independence campaign on the streets.
Whilst nationalist sentiment was strong with saltires, kilts and face paint galore, there was a powerful sense of independence being linked to social justice and opposition to war.
Speeches at the final rally were dominated by left-wing arguments rarely heard in the mainstream. Not one speech included pro-business sentiment, whereas arguments against austerity, privatisation, war, inequality, bankers, etc were dominant.
Sean Clerkin from Citizens United Against Public Service Cuts said that Britain had failed the poor and independence had to stop the greed and destruction of the bankers. Aamer Anwar human rights Lawyer argued that the No campaign was headed by war criminals, liars and thieves and argued independence supporters should join the October 20th STUC demonstration against cuts.
Colin Fox from SSP, John Duffy from SNP trade union group, Ross Greer from youth and students for independence and journalist Ruth Wishart – who came out in support of independence yesterday – all made potent arguments about the sclerosis of the British political establishment and the major opportunities that could be opened up for the working class by having all powers held in Holyrood.
Scrapping trident and anti-Tory rhetoric received the biggest cheers from the audience.
Three speeches stood out for their importance to the future of the independence movement.
Allan Grogan who initiated the facebook page ‘Labour for independence’, made an important plea to labour voters. He argued that Scottish Labour had abandoned its working class supporters, but a voice inside Labour that insisted independence was intrinsically linked to the historic ambitions of Labour could help build support across traditional boundaries for independence. Allan was articulate and appeared to be committed to left-wing values, and his participation could play an important role in winning over labour voters.
Patrick Harvie Green MSP focused his speech on a thinly disguised critique of the SNP’s approach to the independence debate thus far. He said:
“We’ve got two years to convince the Scottish people that independence will provide a change of substance to their lives…don’t let anyone tell you that independence can be won by presenting a slightly different, Scottish version of the status quo. People won’t be convinced by a saltire on one side versus a union jack on the other…we need a radical, transformative vision, don’t let anyone tell you different.”
This was a brave speech, successfully taking on the triangulation tactics of the SNP that will be the road to ruin for the independence argument. Harvie’s words should be backed up in practise.
Suki Sangha spoke from the Radical Independence Conference, to be held in Glasgow on November 24th. She argued:
“Trade-Unionists will support independence if they believe they will get what all working class people want: the rights to live a decent, dignified life from cradle to grave…how dare the British State send working class Scots to die in Afghanistan and Iraq whilst killing innocent civilians for their own imperial interests? Tony Blair’s involvement in the No Campaign speaks volumes of the kind of Britain they champion…we should support the motion to charge Blair with war crimes if he ever stepped foot in Scotland.”
Sangha also had a message for SNP members: “Do not support Nato.” She said people should join the radical independence conference to discuss how we can fight for a people’s independence for a better Scotland and a better world.
Radical Independence bloc
Supporters of the Radical Independence Conference organised a Radical Independence bloc for the march and signed people up to a ‘Jail Blair’ petition in support of Margo Mcdonald’s open motion to the Scottish Parliament to try Blair for war crimes if he sets foot in Scotland. They chanted “David Cameron you are scum, Independence here we come” and “Scotland out of Nato, Trident Must go”.
The march yesterday was organised by a very small group of people (Yes Scotland weren’t official sponsors) mainly through online networking. If a mobilisation on that scale can be pulled off two years in advance of the referendum by such a small group it shows the potential to mobilise in support of independence. There’s no doubt that the political content of the rally was way to the left of mainstream politics, and if a similar mobilisation was possible from the No side (It’s not) there is no way such a left-wing narrative would emerge.
So the potential is there, but a more thorough going and consistent radical perspective requires building a vehicle that is separate from Salmond’s triangulation policy, and it needs to do so on a local as well as national level, organising initiatives, debates, stalls and campaigns like the ‘Jail Blair’ one yesterday. We need to demand that progressive words are institutionalised in a new Scottish state so that people understand how our welfare, housing, jobs, pay and more will be better off under independence. The Radical Independence conference has the potential to advance these ideas.
From the ISG site