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“Have you ‘landed’ yet,” asked Ken’s message as my coach pulled into Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow. “So not twelve o’clock then?” read Peter Bell’s message. He was obviously not too happy I was half an hour late. The plan was to meet up at Buchanan Street and begin the drive up to Lochgilphead in Argyll for an event organised by Aye Fyne, but the mood was low. It had been a tough week blogging, social media was a war zone, and I had just finished a thirteen hour journey – including a six hour wait out on the streets of a freezing Belfast.
It would have been easier had I taken a flight, but I wasn’t going to do that. If anything happens at sea, I can swim. I’ve never been good at the old flying. Anyway, this was how our trip to the Highlands began.
This wasn’t the only reason I was in the doldrums on Tuesday afternoon. Many of the people I had been speaking with ahead of the trip were depressed over the direction Brexit is taking. The Scots fishing industry – as we had always predicted – had been sold down the swanny, the British government had stopped denying the “power grab,” and I had been reading Joe Pike’s Project Fear on the bus. Kevin at Independence Live; one of those seemingly permanently optimistic guys, wasn’t much help in cheering me up. “All this really has me depressed,” he said on the phone, “it’s not looking good.”
No. It wasn’t looking good. Trying to get news on another referendum from the SNP is like trying to get a bag of peas from an iced up freezer. We know we need it. We know that if we go down the Brexit u-bend when London pulls the flush the game’s up. That will be the end of our parliament. It will be the end of Scotland – at least for a while.
That’s how my trip to Lochgilphead started, but by the time I went to bed that night my heart was on fire. If we have any reason to be pessimistic about the future of the independence movement; if we are thinking that our efforts are futile, then someone should really tell the Yessers in Argyll. After a few hours in their company I was left wondering if they even knew IndyRef was over. Come to think of it, they didn’t exactly give me the impression they knew the last Jacobite Rising was finished. This is the thing about grassroots movements; as long as there’s soil the grass will grow.
Over the road from the hotel where we were speaking the Aye Fyne group had set up a “Yes House,” a local hub to keep the fires of the Aye Rebellion burning. Every day the members keep its doors open, building support for independence and reminding the local Tories that this isn’t over. Even that Ken, Peter, and I were there was a testimony to their refusal to give up the Hope of 2014.
It was the same again in Kilmarnock. Paul Kavanagh, on hearing I came from Killie, boasted that he and Ginger had opened a Yes Shop “down there.” I had to see it. On Thursday I met with SNP Councillor Clare Maitland in Kilmarnock – the sort of local politician every community deserves. We hardly got a minute’s peace to talk in the iCafé where we met; everyone wants to talk to her – and she wants to talk back.
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) March 22, 2018
One older woman came and began to talk with her about a wee problem she was having and I watched as Clare took it all in, genuinely interested in what this woman had to say. But what struck me most was that from the start to the end of the conversation Clare was holding the woman’s hand. I thought to myself, who can defeat a movement that has leaders like this?
Straight after this I walked in on the gang at Yes East Ayrshire – Kilmarnock’s Yes Shop. Gwen and Donna were holding the fort. I had walked in on a tea break and a few members of Yes East Ayrshire had come to join them. Over the front door hung a saltire with the saltire Butterfly flying in its blue sky. It felt like I had just come home.
We got talking over coffee and the dark clouds of earlier in the week were blown completely away. “What happens,” I asked them, “if we vote No again?” Gwen didn’t need time to think about the answer: “We get working on IndyRef3.”
From one side of Scotland to the other the grassroots of the independence movement is alive and kicking, and there’s no doubt that our next referendum is coming. These folk are raring to go, and it’s time to give them what they want.
On the bus to the Belfast boat, as I passed the “Haste Ye Back” sign at Girvan, it struck me that I was no longer leaving Scotland. This time as I headed to Ireland I realised we were all heading right into another independence referendum. Everyone seems to have had their boots on but me.
The Butterfly Rebellion