Kate is a seasoned blogger (A Burdz Eye View) and Yes campaigner who agreed to share her journey to Yes!
I’m three beers to the good. A lovely social night among the guid folk in the Yes campaign in my local patch to blame for that. So it’s probably the worst possible time to be writing this. But in these last few frantic days, it’s the only time I’ve got.
I didn’t quite get to the #yesbecause – I was busy all the day it took off and only caught on in the evening. When all the good reasons had gone. And also, I found it hard to do. I know, unimaginable to some, but true. Because when you have believed for so long in something, it can sometimes be hard to articulate why. Especially in 140 characters.
So anyone pitching up to this expecting a dispassionate analysis of the pros and cons of supporting independence, well, you might as well leave now. This ain’t a tortuously calibrated Scotsman editorial. It’s from the heart.
I’m #yesbecause of…
Margaret Ewing. Or actually Margaret McAdam as she was before she was married. And Maggie Bain as she was first known in the nationalist movement.
Maggie and my mum were best friends at university. They clicked immediately. She became my godmother and my mum was her matron of honour. She was a fairly constant presence in my early years. Oh my, she was glamorous. All that zipping about hither and thon in that beat up Hillman Imp with her huge black dog, Skean. I used to sneak down the stairs to ear wig on all the chat, when she and whoever was around blew into our house, which was fuelled by god knows what into the wee small hours. I adored her. And I learned so much about campaigning from her in later years.
She was the one who insisted we go to school gates, supermarkets and the bingo during SNP by-elections. For even though she’d never have considered herself a feminist – god no – she knew how important it was for the SNP to court the women’s vote. Not in a cynical way, but from an instinctive belief that they had to be wooed and won over to what was quite a male construct. Not by insisting women came to the male-dominated world of politics, but by taking politics into spaces women felt comfortable in.
Margaret was a traditionalist, a loyal party supporter who always put the cause and the party first. Would she have welcomed Women for Independence? She was a party woman through and through but I like to think she would have been proud of all that we have achieved in engaging women in this debate, enabling and ensuring that women’s voices have been heard and indeed, listened to in this campaign. And she would have approved of our methods, our purpose and our aim.
But I’m also #yesbecause of other mentors, absent friends and colleagues. Allan Macartney whose inclusive approach and twinkle in his eye drew people in and who was loved dearly by all who encountered him. Allan was a generous sort, kind and gentle, in spirit and in material ways. He basked in watching others he had encouraged, succeed. It is his work on a constitution for Scotland which I think will give us the blueprint for the founding stones of our nation once independent.
And then there’s Danny Coffey, who discovered the cause of independence in his teens and promptly set about recruiting and converting all his teenage pals. Still, the memory of his funeral sits large in my mind. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. A man respected and revered by his community – and that community was legion. The story of how he became Provost of Kilmarnock is a lesson for all in the art of tactical politics. But it was also a good decision because no man, then or since, can claim the title of Mr Kilmarnock as he did. He loved his country but he loved his town and his community more. I miss him still.
Then there are the figures who blazed the trail, long before it was fashionable to do so. Who took a stand in support of Scotland’s independence and suffered social opprobrium as a result. People who helped to engineer the first surge in the 70s like Allan Ure, who supported the young guard to steer its second in the 90s and who has not lived to see these times, sadly.
In the resurgence in the 90s, it was instructive to hear his and his wife, Anne’s, tales from the old days. Of the campaign that saw George Thompson elected, of the high jinks and japes and the much more serious social ostracisation they suffered for the cause. The insidious attacks are much more subtle today, but no less wounding for some. Anne, on the 19th, when I raise a glass to toast the end of the beginning of our nation’s journey, there will be a toast to you both.
The old guard are still involved, present and correct, putting younger folk to shame with their commitment. It’s been a joy to spend time with James Lynch, who first joined the SNP in 1966, kens everybody in the movement, who has been there through good times and lean. Neither of us ever thought we’d see this time arrive. It is within touching distance – and I am proud and humbled to stand alongside such giants in this campaign.
And then I’m #yesbecause of the less well-known figures in the movement. People like my Granda who was a proud patriot and prouder still of his grand-daughter’s achievements and commitment. One of the main reasons I became an SNP councillor was because every afternoon, my Granda would get in a taxi and travel to my house to have his tea and watch his great-grandson to let me out campaigning.
Visits back home this summer have brought to mind many who helped in the election of Alasdair Morgan as Galloway and Upper Nithsdale’s MP in 1997. Some gone, others still there, part of this campaign too. People like George Swarbrick who took up leafleting after his first heart attack as a way of getting a regular walk every day. Who was a stalwart in that campaign, and the devolution referendum which quickly followed and whose attention to detail was a godsend on polling day itself.
But mainly I’m #yesbecause of my parents. They brought me up to believe in my country’s right to self-determination and my own inalienable right to be my own woman. Even if they still suffer the consequences of that from time to time. They raised me always to strive for better, for me, for my community and my country. They taught me to believe that no battle is a hopeless cause and that ultimately, hope will triumph over fear, to believe that Scotland can be and should be an independent nation, taking its own decisions, finding strength in responsibility, providing better and fairer for her people.
We’re here, all of us, in this campaign that we longed for but dared not wish for or expect. I might be #yesbecause largely as a result of my upbringing – you don’t get to climb stairs in maisonettes in Cumbernauld in 1974 for your godmother and shrug that experience off lightly – but in truth, I’m not #yesbecause for them.
I’m #yesbecause this is about my sons and the grandchildren I’ve yet to enjoy. And the future generations I will never live to see. This is for them. Folk think I’m mad to have taken three months out of everyday life and work to do this – I only wish I could have done six.
I feel the ghosts of my formative past every moment of every day in this last hurtle towards Referendum Day. They are with me, at my shoulder, ever present. And it spurs me on.
But on mornings like today’s, when the soul is willing but the flesh craves just another hour in bed, the ones who drive me out from under the cosy duvet are my sons. For I want them to have better, to grow up and grow old in a country called Scotland with rights, responsibilities, choices and opportunities that I could only dream of and hope for.
I hope the 19th September ushers in the dawning of a remarkable democratic achievement, for Scotland to have seized this one chance of different. To be a nation again. Not just for the sake of it. But for the need of it. For this generation and future ones too.
Because I don’t want to have to spend my middle age and beyond making the case to be allowed to do this all again. I don’t want to be in my 70s campaigning for independence – I, somewhat selfishly, want to be able to enjoy what others have helped deliver. I want these ghosts to lay to rest, knowing their life’s work is begun.
Not complete, because that would assume that independence was an end in itself and desirable though statehood is, it is only the start. The powers we assume, the decisions we take – those are just the start of things. To enable my sons to have different life chances and choices – to allow everyone’s sons to have better, especially the one I spoke with last week. Aged 17, with no job, no prospects and a bleak future, I asked him what he’d like to change. “the lot” was his world-weary reply. He’s a boy, still only a boy, and life’s already thrown his towel in.
So I’m #yesbecause not just for my sons, but all our sons and daughters. I’m #yesbcause I want them to have, in the words of the late Margo Macdonald, “a much bigger world” instead of “narrower horizons and lower aspirations”.