Coming out of the Attic: Rejoining the Family of Nations, or Putting Scotland Back in its Box?

I’ve stopped watching the television. I’ve even stopped reading some of the blogs. I am now four weeks behind on even Referendum TV, and Derek Bateman seems to have become about as incoherent a blogger as myself, having similarly run out of ‘big issues’ to write out as essays, and instead using kneejerk reactions to individual small developments. I confess – he probably has similar issues of sleep deprivation, exacerbated by coffee, excitement and anxiety. So forgive this mess of a fiftieth post – I have half-finished posts on the ‘Economic Dangers of Dependence’ (cool title, huh?) and the scorched earth legacy for the Union from the ‘No’ campaign. But it seems that I have run out of time…and posts.

Yesterday was a slow start. Not so much cumulative fatigue, as a foray into the darkness of an unlit, soot-filled 1870’s attic. Peering into the gloom, balancing on joists barely detectable underneath the (regulation) two layers of loft insulation, like an entry level X-Files episode. Boxes piled and scattered across the fibreglass, vestiges and an archive of a former life…at first I could find nothing, old primary school books, boxes of university political campaigns, and I retired back downstairs. You see, there was an international assembly for Yes on The Meadows scheduled last night after the legend that is the Marchmont Yes stall closes for the last time, and we were encouraged to bring international flags along. A fellow undergrad at Edinburgh, Monika, had first got me involved in politics, and I had campaigned with her for Croatian self-determination back in the late eighties, seeing (as I have mentioned before in this blog) a lot of parallels with Scotland’s situation. Monika has always been a staunch supporter of Scottish independence, and although now based in Brighton, I know she would love to be here right now.

So I had gone into the attic in the morning – that filthy, unlit 1870s attic – to look through the mass of boxes accumulated throughout my life, to try and find the Croatian flag that we used to use together for campaigns. Frustrated in my first attempt, I went back up, armed with a more powerful torch (iPhone illumination is not perfect) and tried again, arranging long planks in the space in order to move the boxes around, to sort them as they were checked. The second attempt worked, after going through Primary 3 jotters and far too many Edinburgh University Students’ Association files: with much stoor, the large Croatian self-determination box appeared, and there was the flag, stuffed down the side. I grabbed it and headed out for the bus, Monika’s proxy presence assured.

The bus went up past Elm Row, and I spotted a lone Better Together supporter, attempting (unsuccessfully) to thrust leaflets into the hands of those sitting at the bus stop. Then, my eyes refocused on the background: the entire length of black railing at the interchange had been covered with little red ‘End Tory Rule Forever Vote Yes’ leaflets neatly impaled along its length. It looked spectacular – as so often during this campaign, the bus took me past before I had the chance to take a record shot through the window. Then I was getting off at Princes Street, and heading up towards The Meadows. Several international TV crews were filming down the side of the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy – one BT supporter was stammering as he declaimed to one camera ‘well, in terms of scaremongering, I think Yes have been at LEAST as bad as No’, and I failed to stifle a laugh as I went past. It was noteworthy that the only people with No badges that morning were in front of cameras – every member of the public that I passed wearing a badge was a Yes.

Arriving at the stall for the last time, a 4-way ‘crossfire of Yes’ developed at the foot of Middle Meadow Walk: Yes Marchmont, next to English Scots for Yes and Green Yes stalls, later joined by National Collective with Amy & Jamie. The previous afternoon, a Yes supporting masseuse (Valaska, Caribbean) had come along with her massage chair and offered us all free massages. Unusually (honest) I was first in the queue then – my incessant whining on this blog about my back and joints perhaps means that is not so surprising to you – and she was great…and was back for the last hours of the final day, as we counted down to the International Yes event.

Slowly, the flags started to assemble, as the media began to throng around the media (only RTE – of course – being English language): although the abstract international ramifications of a possible Yes vote had been discussed before, the reality appears to be dawning around the world. I had been Skyping with a good friend in Portugal – she was so excited about how many of her political friends were discussing it, and in the context of it being a profoundly positive message for the world: that there is Another Way, that does not involve the NeoLiberal Consensus (that must be what George Robertson meant by ‘the Forces of Darkness rejoicing’…). Scotland – right now – is the single most politically literate country on this planet. How bizarre is that? Maybe that whole ‘Enlightenment 2.0’ post was not so out there, after all…

And then it began…a Russian photographer was there: “I am here for the moment from Berlin – really hope it is Yes”.

A Cuban friend e-mailed me quoting Che Guevara in the subject line ‘Hasta la victoria’ – and applying to move to Scotland from England if there is a Yes.

A Swiss friend sent me a message that he would be delighted if we would vote for independence on his birthday.

A Polish woman from the University of Edinburgh approached the stall: “I have been here for 23 years, and this is the first time in 25 years that I have experienced anything like Solidarnost”.

A fervent Englishman who regularly dismissed Scots and their independence for decades told me this morning that we would be deluded fools to vote No.

Today more messages, from Chile, France – even two from China hoping for a Yes vote.

And yesterday, just before the crowds built to 4,000 on The Meadows (not bad for something only advertised by Twitter), an English student approached the stall. She had her two friends with her – all three of them had come to Yes from No. She was so fired up and enthused, demanding a last Wee Blue Book from the stall, in order to go out and convince more Undecideds. “I know I’m English, but I feel so much a part of this, that now I feel I’m more Scottish than English.” That really got me – and I had to turn away, or I knew I would just start crying.

Because she GOT it. And she was the perfect example of what we have built here, and how it is NOTHING to do with this mythical ‘anti-Englishness’. (However, you can easily check out the reverse attitude, directed at Scots, by looking at the below the line comments on almost any online version of a mainstream newspaper. Lovin’ those lovebombs, Guys…) Her brief, beautiful, glorious enthusing at the stall just made me so profoundly happy – and in a way said so much more than the many messages of support we took during the celebration, from speakers from Wales, Eire, Galicia, Basque, Catalan, Quebec… I watched the sun go down, and felt that something really special was about to dawn.

Have we moved comfortably into the lead? Are we (or am I, more accurately) deluding myself? Apparently Jim Sillars reckons its 55:45. I don’t know anymore. I’m too tired to process information – too long on polling station duty today (4 hours), with too little sleep last night. I don’t know what is going to happen anymore – despite the fact that I have no reason whatsoever to doubt my previous calculations in the earlier posts. I just need to sleep.

I just keep hearing Peter Gabriel’s ‘Come Talk to Me’, the glorious opening track on his ‘Us’ album – with that bagpipe opening effect (so sue me for being a cliche). It’s the song of victory…and then the lyrics for negotiations starting. Right now I just need to sleep.

Oh, yeah…and remember to vote.


“When the people fear the government you have tyranny. When the government fear the people you have liberty.” (Thomas Jefferson)

“The greatest awakening of political thought in our lifetime” (Derek Bateman, Broadcaster)

“Not since Iraq have I seen BBC News working at propaganda strength like this. So glad I’m out of there” (Paul Mason, former Newsnight correspondent)

“There are 250,000 children living in poverty in Scotland. That’s a moral outrage and economic stupidity.” (Jim Sillars)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s