With the referendum just 5 days away, we went out and about in Scotland’s 2 biggest cities, to see what the respective campaigns were up to.
From our Edinburgh correspondent:
There aren’t many things that’ll get me to go all the way through to Edinburgh on a Saturday morning but the prospect of a Grand Orange Lodge march about how “Proud To Be British” they are was too much to resist. In the last week we’ve already seen Miliband, Clegg, Farage, Cameron and a few dozen Labour MPs trekking up to tell us how to vote (No, in case that’s unclear), so the Lodge should have been the final piece in the Yes victory puzzle, neatly slotting in to push any wavering undecided towards indy.
I’m fairly sure that being “Proud to be British” (/a Prod) is the premise of every fucking Orange march – every single one that wakes you up at 8.00am on a Thursday morning in the middle of April. But this was obviously more important than all the others – the very future of the entire entity known as Britain is at stake here. So little surprise that they managed to get a huge turnout, taking a good couple of hours for all 15,000 of them to troop their way from the Meadows to just up by the Parliament. Edinburgh’s key advantage is of course that you’re allowed to get pissed on the street, so for the Lodge and their hangers on, it was like all their Boyne Days had come at once, such was the level of excitement.
Despite all the predictable headlines and smug tweets from Yessers, there was nothing in the way of violence – at least at this stage of the day. Nor was there any counter protest, beyond a few Yes signs in windows (like every other street in Scotland right now), meaning the whole thing passed by peacefully in a dazzle of flegs, confused tourists, more flegs, a No Popery banner, French TV crews and cans of Stella. Celebrity Facebook fascists Britain First were hanging around outside the Parliament and, when they weren’t having some propa top banter winding up Sky’s Adam Boulton, stood about posing for selfies with the esteemed members of the Orange Institution.
Finishing just up the hill from the Parliament, the Lodge had conveniently parked all their buses up there so that everyone could be quickly packed onto them and driven back to wherever they came from.
Meanwhile over a the Yes campaign, ICM just put us on a record poll high. TICK TOCK, Orange Order, TICK TOCK.
From our Glasgow correspondent:
There was nothing planned about today. I got up, downed 2 strong coffees and half way through my fourth cigarette, I got the feeling that I should maybe crawl out from behind my keyboard and actually see what was going down in the town. By about 11ish, thousands of Yes supporters had completely taken over the City Centre, congregating around the Buchanan Street steps. We ran the gauntlet of Jazz musicians, English Scots for Yes, silly hats, a MASSIVE Green banner, flegs, Women for Independence, the guy I once caught taking coke at my old work, Radical Independence and goodness know who else. There was definitely something missing though, namely people who weren’t voting Yes.
No sooner had we written off the No thanks mob, we spotted all 5 of them a bit further up Sauchiehall Street, they were (of course) joined by BNP splinter group Britannica activists Max Dunbar and Charlie Baillie waving massive Union Jacks outside Millets.
After vaguely obstructing bald men for about 5 minutes in our usual inept manner, we decided we were all referendummed out, so snuck off to the pub to get away from it all…where a Basque film crew were grilling a RIC activist on every aspect of the campaign.
A few pints down, we then did the whole thing in reverse. Our dutch courage made us mildly more obstructive to the fash and think shouting “Danny” at Douglas Alexander was really funny but probably not much use to anyone doing Yes stalls, so we quickly bolted back to the Buchanan steps for some general atmosphere soaking.
By 5pm, the star turn had taken the stage. He may well just have been some less well know fash bellend but he looked a lot more like a Labour type bussed up for the day, who was trying hard to give us all a lecture about much better we would be if we stuck with ra union/the British working class. Despite the media intent on reporting the sinister/violent/extremist/anti-English [delete as appropriate] side of the Yes campaign, this wee interlude was Yes – and Glasgow – at its finest.
At first a few boos were drowned out by a chorus of “let the liar speak, let the liar speak” from the assembled masses. Since some at the back were struggling to hear his wee sermon, he was handed a megaphone by one of the Yes stalls and engaged in a 20 minute debate with the crowd, most of whom basically thought it would have been a wee shame for him to have wasted a busfare without an opportunity to perform to the most hostile audience that could possible have been constructed – except it wasn’t hostile at all, it was just really, really funny. Particularly because of the two weans, one of whom nonchalantly stuck a Yes sticker on him, while the tiny wee girl stood confidently at his side, constantly rebuking every point he made and chucking questions at him he couldn’t hope to answer. If I had to guess, I’d say their combined ages might have got them to voting age and no more. When Dr. No had finished, we politely clapped, chanted “YES YES YES” and got on with our business. The same cannae be said of when Dunbar and Baillie showed up yet again and were quickly chased away to shouts of “nazi scum, off our streets.”
The next bits are a bit of a blur but I eventually realised it was nearly 6, I’d had 3 pints and 2 chips to eat all day and appeared to be angrily citing bible verses at No campaigners in the middle of the town, so I thought it best to head home before I got to the firey Revelations ending – only bumping into 2 more Yes stalls on the way.
It would be pretty unfair to say today was a tale of 2 cities (given how many made the trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh to join the LOL Brigade) but it was definitely a tale of two campaigns and two very different visions.
One was planned, the other spontaneous – one stands for hierarchy, the other revels in its lack of leadership – one looks outwards into to the world while the other stares shiftily at its neighbour.
Today was, whatever your view, a massive day for politics in Scotland. Whether it’s our last before we deliver the biggest shake up of our political system for a generation, we’ll soon see, but this was not just another Saturday.
Strange thing is, where are all the union flags?
In the concrete bunker, underneath Ibrox.