Last Saturday, thousands of Yes supporters came to my home city of Perth to show their solidarity together and their support for Scottish Independence. It was a pleasure for me to join them all. It was a wonderful experience to lead the march through our city with my Westminster colleague, Pete Wishart MP, along with many of our local campaigners who do so much, week in, week out, to promote the cause of Scottish Independence.
It was a joyful experience to join over 20,000 smiling, happy marchers in Perth. The warmth that was consistently on display from those in attendance was an example of what politics should be – a celebration of our values and our aspirations. It was an expression of our hope for our Nation.
Last week’s gathering followed the pattern of all previous independence marches, with a vibrancy, excitement and energy befitting of a carnival. Perhaps most striking was the wide cross-section of society represented, with marchers of all ages, backgrounds, geographies, faiths and orientations. This was a march which represented the best of our nation, and paid tribute to the rich tapestry of our modern Scottish society.
Moreover, last week’s march reinforced my belief that independence is tantalisingly close. Indeed, in my forty years of campaigning for an independent Scotland, I have never felt more confident or optimistic that we will achieve our goal than I do today.
This is not a belief born of wild fantasy, nor of blind optimism. Rather, it is based on hard evidence. One look at the recent polls or a collection of conversations with people who voted No in 2014, show that we are winning the argument. It is clear that the catastrophic consequences of Brexit are sharpening in the public mind, as is the reality of life under a dishonest, charlatan Prime Minister in a broken political system which has been shown clearly and emphatically to have failed Scotland.
If polls can be dismissed as fleeting, elusive pictures of what may come to pass, then recent electoral results provide an even sturdier assessment of our chances going forward. Whether it was cutting the Liberal Democrat’s majority in Shetland, the safest seat in the country, by more than half, or winning the European elections with an 8.8% increase in our vote, or the spectacular by-election win in East Kilbride, the SNP is riding a wave of momentum that will carry our independence movement to future electoral success.
This is a fact made all the more remarkable by our twelve years in power. Where conventional political thinking would dictate that there would be voter fatigue, there is instead enthusiasm. Where there should be scepticism, there is instead a willingness from those who have previously scoffed at the notion of an independent Scotland to give the SNP the opportunity to persuade.
It is almost five years ago to the day that Scotland voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom. Since then, almost every vow has been broken and every potential negative consequence of remaining in the United Kingdom has come to pass. Worse still, the UK Government seeks to stop the people of Scotland from re-assessing their choice in the face of five subsequent years of farcical governance.
In the next few months, I am certain that we will be faced with a General Election. I am confident that the eventual results of this election will only strengthen the mandate that already exists for a second independence referendum, and that Scottish people will again be given a chance to have their say on what sort of country they want to live in. To deny us this right would be a democratic and a moral outrage.
In the interim, the pro-independence movement must stay active and engaged. Above all, it must continue to make the positive case for an independent Scotland. We must reach outwards and engage those who are not yet persuaded of the benefits of Independence.
Ours is a movement of inclusion – of kindness, respect and tolerance. Of a modern, forward-thinking Scotland that looks outwards to our friends. A movement that welcomes all within it, whether they have been believed in the cause for decades or are a recent, even reluctant, convert. Above all, ours is a movement whose time has come. So, keep marching, keep knocking doors and keep believing, because we are so very close to making our dream of a fairer and more prosperous independent country a reality.