All Under One Banner organiser Manny Singh challenged an article in The Herald which argued the demonstrators “had got it pretty badly wrong”
SCOTLAND will eventually become independent no matter how many referendums it takes as long as aspiration for change remains strong, an organiser of Saturday’s [5 May] independence march in Glasgow told CommonSpace.
Police Scotland estimated the demonstration, organised by campaign group All Under One Banner, to be at least 35,000 strong, but organiser Manny Singh said he it estimated it to be “at least 60,000 – it was over three miles long.”
Either way, the march was the biggest in Scotland since the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh in 2005, and has been widely interpreted as a message from the grassroots of the independence movement for increased urgency for SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to push for a second referendum.
But Singh said that the message of the demonstration “was simple”.
“We want freedom. People round the world want freedom, and we are the same. We’re showing that we are just going to keep fighting for what we believe in.”
Some activists and advisors have cautioned Sturgeon against pushing for another independence referendum in fear of going the way of Quebec, where a second referendum defeat in 1995 saw the independence movement stall, but Singh said that this was the wrong way to look at the issue.
“It doesn’t matter how many referendums it takes,” he said. “The politicians can say “once in a generation” if they want, but at the end of the day if there is an aspiration for change it will happen, so I’m sure that we will eventually win.”
Singh said the march included people “from all over Scotland and all over Europe” and said a spirit of unity would be essential to the movement’s success.
“I’m a member of the SNP but I know will win it from the grassroots as a united movement for freedom.”
Responding to media coverage of the demonstration, Singh stated: “Well they couldn’t ignore it this time could they? They said All Under One Banner was ‘angry’ and ‘militant’, but we weren’t angry or militant – we were happy, smiling, the march was full of families and kids, even a couple getting married join the demonstration.”
There was a small counter-protest by supporters of Scotland staying in the United Kingdom, and Singh laid down a challenge to unionists: “Why don’t you do a march, see how many you can get?”
On Monday [7 May], writer Mark Smith wrote in The Herald that that he thought that the “marchers had got it pretty badly wrong” because they assumed all Scots agreed with them, thought the march could change the opinion polls, wanted a vote on independence “to take advantage of Brexit” and before the General Election.
Responding directly, Singh refuted each of Smith’s charges.
“Firstly, we don’t think everyone thinks like us. We know there’s lots of people who aren’t ever going to vote for independence. But we also know that there’s people in the middle that we can convince.”
“Secondly, we know the marches aren’t going to change the opinion polls. The marches are about showing that we’re not dying out. Marches inspire people, especially young people, to get involved in this movement. They show we don’t need to rely on any politician. They are important because they show we’re still here putting our case forward.
“[Scottish Conservative leader] Ruth Davidson hasn’t stopped making her case since the 2014 referendum. She’s kept going on about why independence is a bad idea. So we need to keep putting the arguments forward about why we should go for freedom.”
“’Power never concedes anything without a demand. It never did and never will.’ We need to remember that – we need to keep putting our demands for freedom forward.” Manny Singh
On the issue of an independence vote before Brexit, Singh said Smith was wrong to assume everyone on the march believes that.
“My personal belief is that we shouldn’t tie our vote to Europe, we should vote for independence first then decide on the EU. I personally voted for Brexit. I don’t want Scotland controlled by the UK or to the EU. I think it could backfire to have the referendum as a vote against Brexit. We need to have another referendum when we’ve got all the right policies in place about currency, about jobs, that’s when we need to go for it.”
Elaborating on his vision for an independent Scotland, Singh said he wanted independence “because he wanted Scotland to lead the world” with a new economic and social model.
“We need to create a country that is self-sustainable, that is a collaborative commons where we’re not relying on anywhere else for food or energy, and where we have our own sovereign fiat currency. And if we can do that we can show the rest of the world that they can do it too.”
The next All Under One Banner independence march will take place on 2 June in Dumfries, one week before SNP Conference, and Singh was keen to emphasise the importance of supporters attending demonstrations outside of the central belt to “prove that this is not a localised movement, that this movement is willing to travel and show up in big numbers all across the country.”
The group, which is not political party linked and has no big money backers, has organised a crowdfunder to finance future demonstrations.
Quoting Frederick Douglass, the anti-slavery leader in America in the 1800’s, Singh concluded: “’Power never concedes anything without a demand. It never did and never will.’ We need to remember that – we need to keep putting our demands for freedom forward.”
Political scientist John Curtice told BBC Sunday Politics Scotland yesterday [6 May] that it was “inconceivable” that the UK Government would grant the Scottish Parliament a section 30 order for another independence referendum before the Brexit process is concluded.
Speaking at the demonstration, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights campaigner Craig Murray called on the independence movement to push for a second referendum now.
“We have to move, we have to act – the time is now. We won’t do it until the campaign starts – we must stop shilly-shallying, and start now.”