I’m not gay. Not that I’d think any less of myself if I was, although my fiance might be less than impressed by such a revelation.
Despite not being gay, I recall always being quite taken with Will from the excellent US comedy Will & Grace. Here was a man who was down-to-earth, calm, run-of-the-mill but doing well for himself and, for desperate want of a better word, normal. And gay.
Such was (and still is sadly), the lamentable portrayal of LGBT individuals on TV and the wider media that this character was terribly intriguing for those twin pedestrian reasons – gay and normal.
I daresay a comparison could be made to the mental image much of the public has (and certainly the media’s regular portrayal made of) those who intend to vote Yes in the referendum in 2014. How many minds have wondered, or mouths spoken out loud even, ”You support independence? You? But you’re normal’.
It’s easy to be pro-UK at the moment, expected even. The Olympics were a veritable slam dunk, the Queen has somehow conjured up some credible goodwill despite her constant crabbitness and London’s deep pockets have saved our wayward banks for which we are to be eternally grateful, or until after the referendum at least. It takes a strong nerve to say out loud and against expectation that you’d rather Scotland was its own country.
And yet, the more one looks at the polls and the more one considers the lay of the independence campaign’s lands, the clearer it is that more of the silent Yes voters are going to have to speak up to win the referendum. They don’t have to dress up like Braveheart, put on a funny voice or act in any way different to how they acted before, but, like gay Will, they do need to make their presence known. Come oot, if you will.
Margo MacDonald convinced me of this fact when she said yesterday “If a third of Scots believe in independence, then every one of us has two years to persuade another Scot, and we are home and dry” Well, we can’t be leaving it all to the tartan loonies, can we? And let’s be honest, there was a fair few on display streaming down the mound yesterday, mercifully outnumbered by families, refined couples and friends out having a good time and calmly making themselves known.
The problem in coming oot and getting people to join us in that regard (my Yes colours are pretty firmly labelled to the mast) is that there seems to be an irrationally deep-seated intransigence to even considering anything other than the status quo. I don’t mean genuine disagreement, which is to be very much welcomed. I mean a hard-headed ‘No!’ that carries no rhyme nor reason.
Take, for example, a very brief chat I had with a kilted worker in one of the Royal Mile’s finest kilt hire stores. Having noted that he was wearing Scots Nationalist tartan, I gambled with a bit of small talk, lost and was left thoroughly, thoroughly confused:
Me: ‘I see you’re wearing the Scots Nationalist tartan?’
Me: ‘You’ll be sad that you’re missing the rally then?’
He: *tut* ‘I don’t think so. If this country ever gets devolution, I’m leaving’
Now, where to begin. You work in a kilt shop, are clearly passionate about tartan, you’re wearing the Nationalist tartan infact, but if we ever get
devolution independence, then you’re out of here? I never said anything of course, just gave a non-committal blank look and we parted ways. Sorry Margo, my ‘one’ will have to be somebody else.
We’ve heard similar rhetoric before of course, homeruleophobia I’m minded to call it.
Michelle Mone made the really quite ludicrous and pointedly public assertion that if Scotland were to be independent then she would take her Bravissimo bra company down south (effectively sacking on the spot those hundreds of workers who wouldn’t want to relocate from Glasgow).
I can understand any Scot being ardently pro- or anti- independence and I can equally understand any Scot being easy-oasy on the subject, but there seems to be a conditional patriotism at play whereby certain unionist Scots will only support and play a part in Scotland if they get their way, irrespective of what the democratic majority may decide. It’s not much of a team spirit if you ask me.
That conditional patriotism doesn’t seem to exist on the other side of the debate. Scots who have longed for independence have made do within the United Kingdom for 300 years with a quiet resolve and relatively little fuss, particularly if you look at other scarred and charred countries around the world. Or over the water, even.
I’m not even necessarily criticising those seemingly proud Scots who would nonetheless reject their nation if it were independent, I’m just striving to understand them. Conditional patriotism; it eludes me, but it’s out there.
Not that people stepping back should stop others from stepping forwards, and that was my take away from yesterday given a turnout that was high when set against expectations but low when set against an electorate. The enthusiasm of a relative few can go a very long way. One wonder how many would turn out for a Better Together No rally? I bet even the conditional patriots would stay at home.
So, there may be an immovable, implacable unionist object in the way, but that’s no reason why more and more Yes voters shouldn’t come out and help try to build an unstoppable force. And if that force is to be beaten, let’s hope that it was the mountain of counter-arguments that was insurmountable, rather than the limitations of our collective ambition and imagination. Or even just deep-seated prejudice against an imagined enemy, much like homosexuality, that has been battled and largely beaten before, with as much help from the quiet Wills of this world as the louder, colourful protests.
I couldn’t make yesterday’s march despite briefly walking against and alongside it on two different occasions. I’m already looking forward to next year’s though and standing proud, if not terribly loud, as a part of it.