What happens to campaigning when the sun shines and Scots emerge into a Mediterranean climate, set up the barbecues, eat al fresco and briefly entertain the fantasy that café culture has come to stay in our towns and cities?
Despite the daily headlines charting the collapse of the United Kingdom into venality, corruption and gross incompetence, a Kingdom where the rich get richer, the bombs get bigger and the poor and vulnerable are punished severely for a crime they didn’t commit, it is all too easy to think things aren’t too bad after all, and, hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
If one adds to this the sombre background of the doom-laden Better Together’s Project Fear telling Scots that the Sun shining on this dying rump of empire will be extinguished completely if independence comes, outdoor canvassers may be greeted by a dismissive “It will never happen, we’re alright as we are …” response. Few want to focus on difficult decisions over a year away under clear, sunny skies.
So maybe the dedicated campaigners can relax for a week or so, enjoy their own well-deserved leisure time.
Or for those with unbounded energy, re-focus on approaches that are urgently needed in the campaign – the injection of some fun, life, colour, spectacle and music into the mix. It is, after all, Festival time!
Earlier in the week I was prompted by a last-minute call to join a photo-shoot on Calton Hill publicising the September 21st March and Rally.
When I got there, Cragingalt had quite a few tourist groups taking in the spectacular views of Edinburgh, and talking knowledgably about this history-soaked iconic area of Scotland. The Rally Group were understandably focusing on getting their banner unfurled and setting up the camera, and they had more than enough volunteers suitably attired to stand behind it, so I decided to talk to the tourist groups.
A delightful Taiwanese Glasgow University student asked me to take her photograph against the backdrop of the National Monument, the French students affably informed me that they had invented the entire concept of independence with the French Revolution (I more or less agreed with them, but claimed a role for Scotland in inventing democracy – well, yes, there was Athens, but …) and I spoke to some Danes on the way down – more of that later.
The photo-shoot group had their own agenda, which was aimed at subsequent use of their video, but more or less inadvertently they created a mini-event on Calton Hill, and this was totally due to their young piper, Connor (Conor?) Sinclair. Connor struck up at the end of the banner line, and as soon as the unique sound of the pipes – the sound of Scotland – hit the summer air, the tourist and visitor groups began to appear from all directions, converging on the sound emanating from the base of the Monument. But then Connor was hoisted on to the Monument itself, and stood there, a slender figure against the sky, played beautifully – and Calton Hill was transformed. The ghosts of the past seemed to rush in from all sides to join the tourists, whispering “Our moment is coming …”.
The French group spontaneously broke into a ragged version of La Marseillaise, and a wave of internationalism – the real internationalism of the new Scotland - was palpably present.
If this small scale happening prefigures the September March and Rally, it will be an event of unimaginable power, life, and impact. It is what YES Scotland desperately needs right now – I hope our politicians have the wit and imagination to capitalise on that moment without trivialising it and I hope our Scottish media have the good sense to cover it fully.
On the way down from the Calton Hill, I fell in with a group of Danes. We talked Borgen and rhapsodised over Sidse Babette Knudsen, then came the $64,000 questions (the 364,560.60 DKK questions?) – what are Scotland's chances of voting YES in 2014? What are the arguments for and against independence?
It was a short walk down, but a long, long moment …