Fellow Scots, our Independence movement recognises that within the history of our ancient nation have lived giants, their names proudly etched forever in our books and in our hearts.
This week we remembered with mirth and tears one such hero, Ian Hamilton, who helped recover our sacred Stone of Destiny on Christmas Day 1950. Never underestimate the guile and courage so required. To break into Westminster Abbey, repatriate the Stone and keep it safe – rarely since the days of Wallace has a band of Scotsmen managed to outwit, albeit temporarily, the might of the British establishment so comprehensively under the world’s fascinated gaze. And make no mistake that the world’s gaze is upon Scotland now; as once more we take on the might of the British Establishment. This is the fight of our lives; the fight for our souls, for the very soul of Scotland.
Ian’s ambition and that of his accomplices, Kay Matheson, Gavin Vernon and Alan Stuart, was to persuade the people of Scotland of the existence of a Scottish identity. Our talk today in hallowed terms of the symbolism of their escapade surely proof of their success.
But in 1950 the NHS in Scotland was just 18 months old; thousands lived in homes with no plumbing and outside toilets. Rickets, TB and polio remained rife. Though many lucky souls got a black and white television three years later in time for the coronation, rationing remained until 1954. There was still National Service, student grants hadn’t been invented, cold damp homes were heated by coal fires and people like my Dad left school at 15.
Time marched on; teddy boys of the 50s overtaken by the beatniks of the 60s, Winnie Ewing’s demands that the world stopped for Scotland and the discovery of oil gave Scotland’s people hope. But there was no oil fund for us. No Stavanger or Stetson, only constant jibes that we were too poor ,too wee and too stupid to stand on our own two feet.
Courageous souls – Donald Stewart, Gordon Wilson, Billy Wolfe, Wendy Wood, Willie McRae, Maggie Ewing, Margo MacDonald ensured that our movement continued to build momentum, educate, and persuade of the benefits of independence, the restoration to our nation of full economic levers, the powers to realise the potential of the people of this country. The ability to ensure a people warm, fed, healthy, educated, thriving. Not cold, hungry, weak, ignorant, failing.
So we fought for our Scottish Parliament, despite the gerrymandered referendum of 1979 and the discredited 40% rule. We survived Thatcher’s privations and privatisations, the miners strike, the poll tax, but our industrial heartlands became ravaged wastelands.
We did not give up or in.
I stood wiping tears from my eyes as Jim Sillars proclaimed the purpose of Scottish independence – to wipe every unnecessary tear from every Scottish cheek – and 1999 brought the devolution predicted to kill Independence stone dead.
Soon, SNP victories achieved by efforts of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Kenny MacAskill and countless others brought the chance of freedom in 2014.
I stood in this square with thousands on Yesmas Eve 17 September. Tommy Sheridan proclaimed that while Scotland had 10 years of oil left, the UK had but ten hours. Had we mobilised every supporter of Independence, every person who’d benefit from our country’s liberation, yes would have had a resounding victory. We’d have been a free country ever since, a sovereign nation in more than name. With, if we so chose, a state owned energy company, our own currency and the confidence of knowing we controlled our own destiny. No longer subsidising the rump of the UK.
But despite 2014 we still never gave up. We will not admit defeat. 2014 was a dress rehearsal. And we know that support for our cause is on the rise. That is why they seek to ridicule us and divide us.
For not only are we still standing. We are gazing upon a different Scotland. A changed world.
We are looking at a political landscape barely recognisable. The new case for Independence is not the same as the old.
We’re the lucky ones because we’ve lived through a pandemic. And we are here to fight another day, for this independence campaign is a fight for our very souls, for our very lives.
The rickets, TB and polio of Ian Hamilton’s 1950 have returned.
Brexit, which Scotland rejected 2:1, renders our supermarket shelves bare, our economy fractured. Inflation in double figures, grave shortages of skills provided in medicine and other vital services, lacking the right to create our own immigration and related policies. We are praying for the return of the coal fire because in this energy rich country 70% will soon be in fuel poverty and daily power cuts of 3 hours at a time are predicted. Tory spivs and profiteers have stolen our recent past – we will not allow them to steal our children’s futures.
I stood in this square a year ago and spoke of Scotland’s history, of heroes of world renown, Jimmy Reid, Matt McGinn, their views of the need for education, employment, self respect and community. By God, Scotland needs their fortitude now, more than ever.
6 weeks ago I listened in this square to heartbreaking life stories of people in recovery, experiences of those who had lost their dearest to addiction. I learned that when you’re skint and down in Scotland 2022 the cheapest quickest way to get a heat is a handful of street valium at 20p a go. We still don’t even claim the legal right to create safe consumption rooms.
40% of the children of this great city live in poverty, and there are thousands of single working poor living hand to mouth, relying on food banks, lacking dignity and worrying themselves into an early grave. How in the name of creation can a working person who grafts for a week be skint at the end of that week and unable to eat, heat and enjoy a little leisure? Why are homeless being fed outside under the Heilanman’s Umbrella in this country which is self sufficient in energy and a producer of food of all kinds?
And life expectancy in Scotland has reduced in the last two years. What a shameful, telling statistic – I call it the price of the Union.
Deaths from addictions, and suicide, remain unacceptably tragically high.
Homelessness continues to shame Scotland.
20,000 people have perished in Scotland as the result of Tory austerity. For austerity read state enforced starvation, privation, hardship. Slow tortuous death.
Such unnecessary grind and want in a land of plenty. Political, manmade and able to be eradicated when with courage and determination we remove our country from enforced conditions of fear and desperation to become the place we know we can and should be. Instead we’ve a reverse Robin Hood budget stealing from the poor to give to the rich.
And so I say to you consider Ian Hamilton’s view – let us renew our determination to recognise the Scottish identity he held so dearly; strive to use every power and sinew at our disposal to shape our future, to cast a new Destiny – a Scotland which is strong, a country powered by a movement united in our determination to forge a country of which we will all be proud. A country populated by citizens, not subjects, where equality and wellbeing matter more than privilege and an old school tie.
These current days are hard and this winter will be a killer – but the darkest hours are just before dawn . I predict a Scottish dawn, when we say together
If you cannot fly, you must run,
If you cannot run, then walk,
If you cannot walk, you must crawl,
But whatever you do, you must keep moving forwards.
My friends, forwards, together to our nation’s independence and prosperity for all. It is within our grasp provided that we are not diverted.
We must not fail. This is our time to create history, to build the Scotland we know we deserve. Let us rise together to that challenge and may we become the giants who deliver our country’s freedom.