Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
I’d heard talk of how engaging, inspiring, and positive the ‘Yes’ campaign was and my experience of being on the campaign trail on Monday supported this entirely, here are some highlights from the day.
For many hours I was based at the ‘Green Yes’ police box on Leith Walk, where I encountered dozens of members of the public who are enthusiastically supporting independence. They gave thumbs up, shook our hands and shouted support. The day was filled with smiles and friendliness, both amongst the campaigners and between campaigners and members of the public. In fact, the line between campaigners and public was blurred because so many people shared such a strong commitment to the cause. Probably my single favourite expression of the public enthusiasm came when, amongst all the cars that had driven past beeping to show their support, a fire engine loudly honked us with all the firefighters inside putting their thumbs up.
Plenty of people, both ‘Yes’ supporters and those who were undecided, took the time to stop and talk to us as well. One of these was an English ex-soldier who wasn’t sure whether to vote even though he lived in Edinburgh. Part of the reason was that he was concerned about the future of the military and wondered what kind of force Scotland would have if it goes independent. As a pacifist this was not my natural campaigning territory but I could honestly reassure him that the country would not be without a military and that soldiers in the force would arguably be better looked after than their counterparts in the rest of the UK because none of the military budget would be used to support the (at best hypothetically useful) Trident nuclear missile system.
This seemed to be a point that he was particularly open to, and he went away saying that he’d been swayed beyond 51 per cent in favour of independence. This isn’t the reason for me counting the conversation as a highlight though. Instead, it was a heartening interaction because it was open, honest, and nonjudgemental. He hadn’t stopped because he wanted to argue, and he wasn’t expecting to hear a particular answer. He told me when he wasn’t convinced by what I was saying but he was still open to hearing more. Likewise, I didn’t feel defensive and I was very happy to listen to his different point of view and his concerns. This is how political discussions should be, and what’s remarkable is not only its quality but the fact that it wasn’t a one-off. This kind of public engagement is an incredibly valuable thing regardless of the outcome tomorrow.
Another of the people who stopped to talk to us was a young man who’d only been convinced of the case for ‘Yes’ (by his mum) the day before. He wanted to pick up materials because he was on his way to a friend’s to convince them of the case. The fact that someone who has only started supporting a campaign the day before is immediately becoming active in it is remarkable in itself. Again, this was not a unique experience; plenty of people came to pick up materials not just to convince their friends and families but also their colleagues. This speaks of people being empowered, realising the opportunity for change that is in their hands, and actively taking responsibility for it.
This was also reflected by a pair of teenage lads who slightly sheepishly approached the stall to ask for some ‘Yes’ stickers for their skateboards. When I enthusiastically handed them over they didn’t leave straight away but instead struck up a conversation about how they wanted to convince their friends to vote ‘Yes’, and how they felt it was their responsibility to do so. Then, just as they were about to leave, one of them looked at me and said that, because of the referendum, he’d gone out and got a job. He said that he didn’t want to be on benefits any more, not because of some stigma but because he felt like there was a future for his country and he wanted to contribute to it. This was a wonderful moment for me, and represented the perfect manifestation of all the positivity that has been poured into the ‘Yes’ campaign. That positivity is already being reproduced.
I stayed in Edinburgh to join what I suspected would be an amazing ‘Yes’ campaign and I wasn’t disappointed. I encountered enthusiasm and positivity in the streets, met lovely campaigners, and caught up with great friends. Whatever happens in the vote, I’m so happy that I’ve been able to share in a campaign that represents the beginning of something so good.
(Thanks to Ric Lander for the photo)
This post was originally published on Joe’s personal blog.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny