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This Scotland Small? Why, Yes, Actually It Is - Spectator Blogs

25 September 2012

10:54 AM

25 September 2012

10:54 AM

Saturday’s Rally for Independence in Edinburgh was such a non-event that, as best I can discover, Getty Images doesn’t even have any pictures of the march. Hence the tat illustrating this post.

But, in a way, that’s the point. A march that even on the most generous estimate attracted no more than 10,000 people is a flop. This is so even if those who were present enjoyed themselves and thought it a braw occasion. They’re not the whole audience for this kind of caper.

I write about this at Think Scotland today:

Watching foorage of Saturday’s march for independence in Edinburgh I found myself contemplating Hugh MacDiarmid’s waspish assertion that the chief problem with Scotland is that there’s no-one worth shooting. It often seems as though we are an apathetic nation. As nationalists struggled to fill one section of Princes Street Gardens, I wondered if this was all the independence movement could offer. It seemed silly to be spooked or otherwise afraid of these people, far less suppose they enjoy the backing of history and destiny. Is that it?

[…] For a long time now the SNP have had the most effective, polished political operation in Scotland. They have created the idea of independence as a journey made by a nation thirsting to be born again. There has been a freshness and an energy to their politics that has helped them run rings around their Unionist opposition.

This is why Saturday’s march mattered a little more than you might think: it showed that the nationalists are not as numerous as they might like you to think they are. Nor is it inevitable that Scotland will continue its “journey” to independence. Had the nationalist movement put 250,000 souls onto the streets of Edinburgh the message would have been unmistakable: Destiny awaits! Even the dullest Unionist could see that. If this is true (and it is) then so is the converse. Saturday showed that destiny might yet be delayed and, anyway, that it’s nothing more than a fringe enthusiasm.

That’s the problem with this rally. It made nationalists and nationalism look small. An esoteric, eccentric pursuit that, considered rationally, is close to ridiculous. A kind of souped-up political train-spotting, if you like.

This could have been avoided. There was no need for Alex Salmond to address this rally. Doing so gave the assembly an importance not warranted by the number of folk actually marching. It ensured the SNP would be tied to an event it did not actually organise.

A one-off? Perhaps so. I expect the SNP and Yes Scotland will not leave subsequent rallies to be organised by amateurs. Even so, Saturday did them no good and, to the extent this matters at all, made the nationalists look smaller than they like to look.

Anyway, the whole piece is here.

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