On 25 September the group All Under One Banner (AUOB) organised a march in Edinburgh from the Royal Commonwealth Pool to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament. This was the first major pro-independence demonstration since the beginning of lockdown back in 2020. The route that was taken was not the original plan, a number of rescheduled routes were routinely denied by Edinburgh Council until eventually, the day before the march, the location was set to the Commonwealth Pool.
This disruption to their plans led one organiser to give a speech during the opening moments of the march, in which he stated “it is outrageous that 38 orange marches are granted rights to take over Edinburgh in order to spread a message of hate, but our peaceful demonstration, which is intended to exercise democratic right to protest, was denied and interfered with.”
Despite the contentious organisation, I felt the march was well-attended. Perhaps it was the sea of saltires and other flags waving in every direction, but it seemed to me that independence advocacy was out in full force. 5000 demonstrators was the final estimate given by the end of the march. However, upon asking one of the participants on how they felt about the turnout, they commented that it just didn’t feel as active as previous demonstrations. Indeed, it is not uncommon for there to be a disparity between the number estimated by a protest’s organisers, and the official estimate by the police and council.
True to their mission statement, AUOB’s demonstration contained members from a number of different advocacy groups. Catalan flags, Saltires with EU stars on them, Pensioners for Independence, and climate activist groups all made their presence known. A large contingent of members from the Socialist Workers Party dotted the crowd, holding banners that sported messages like “Trans Rights”, “Refugees Welcome”, and “Scrap Trident”.
Talking to one of the marchers holding a Catalan flag, he explained his interest in Scottish Independence, saying “I know about Scottish history and UK politics [...] Scotland has always been a resourceful country with no polity.”
The only group that was openly excluded from the proceedings was undeniably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Conservative party members. Whilst the common chant consisted of “What do we want? Independence. When do we want it? Now”, the refrain “Tory, Tory, Tory. Out, out, out”, was just as consistent. Anti-Tory sentiment was near universal, many of the more creative signs held slogans calling Boris Johnson and his party words that are unfortunately unsuitable to reproduce here.
Although some of them are too good not to show:
Some graphic design points for that one.
Once the march reached its destination there were several speeches given by various leaders, including one by SNP MP, Douglas Chapman, whose monologue was interrupted by the Yes Bikers, a group of motorbike owners who support independence and revved their engines as they passed by. I was close to the speaker’s stage and could not see any of them, but they made their presence known.
Overall it seemed to be a mostly positive atmosphere, with the majority of speakers encouraging believers in independence to highlight the positives of the argument, rather than the negatives of the Union. Personally, AUOB’s commitment to bringing together every independence supporter does not always sit well with me, as it opens the door for advocacy groups like Alex Salmond’s Alba party, but the attitudes at the march were positive, inclusive, and I hope indicative of future demonstrations.