‘The law is an ass!’: Street protests after verdict in Scottish independence case | Scottish independence

Written by

Iit was one of the coldest nights of the year so far, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering outside Holyrood this Wednesday night to protest against the Supreme Court ruling that Scotland could not legally hold another independence referendum.

Scottish flags were worn as capes – some protection against a chilly Edinburgh night – and Yes signs strung with lights were waved against the darkening sky. Anti-Tory posters appeared, some recycled from 2014, others with a fresh angle. “Our colonial status has been confirmed – and the law is an ass!” read one.

Groups of bagpipers huddled together, warming up their instruments and stopping for a cigarette break. The Proclaimers were blasted from a stereo system on stage, funded by the Scottish Independence Foundation.

A small but lively counter-protest across the road shouted over a tannoy and called for the leaders of the independence campaign to be put on trial for treason. “The union has been working for 400 years,” said Ronnie Kane, co-director of the pro-union campaign group A Force For Good. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

UK union supporters outside Parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday evening
UK union supporters outside Parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday evening. Photo: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

The pro-independence supporters were equally lively. Jim Brack described the court’s decision as a “win win” and said: “It has revitalized the situation. We maybe got a little complacent.”

Julia Stryl, 52, agreed that the result would give a boost to the independence movement. “[Westminster] hoped the Supreme Court would be neutral. Now it is Westminster that is clearly blocking the democratic right to independence for the Scottish people.”

The evening’s audience was diverse, with speakers from America, France, Catalonia and other places. The fallout from Brexit was a strong consideration for many who had voted pro-union in 2014 but have since changed their minds.

“I regret it,” said Elise Tallaron, who is French and has lived in Britain since 1996. “Even then I could see strong arguments for independence.” She is now the treasurer of the Yes For the EU movement.

It was clear that anti-Tory sentiment was always strong Scotland, had gathered strength amid Covid, Brexit and the cost of living crisis. One poster read: “Scotland cannot afford to be part of the UK.”

Scottish National Party MP Tommy Sheppard, who took the train from London to attend, declared that Scotland no longer needed to be “enslaved” to a “declining, post-Brexit isolationist” union.

David Spacey, 56, believed Westminster had played the wrong card in a new referendum. “After the ‘penalty budget’, things get bleak. Currently, the chance of independence is 50/50. [The union] could win it. If they wait and people become poorer and struggle to pay their bills, support for independence will only increase.”

The crowd cheered loudly when Nicola Sturgeonthe first minister, made a surprise appearance.

“Today it has been made clear that Britain is not a voluntary partnership of nations,” she said, adding that the outcome would only bring “temporary relief” to union members. “No Westminster establishment or anything else will silence the voice of the Scottish people.”

Sturgeon faced strong calls from those present to get her proposal for an SNP convention next year a cross-party movement.

Colin Fox, co-spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party, said: “Today could be a historic day if supporters of independence realize that we need a better strategy to beat the British state forces that are blocking our way.”

Between the speakers, pipers provided short musical interludes. The unofficial national anthem, Flower of Scotland, was sung. One person was reported sick and removed by ambulance. The counter-protest did not let up from the other side of the road.

Lesley Riddoch, an independence campaigner and organizer of the rally, summed up the overall feeling when she told the crowd: “We may not yet have convinced people that independence is the answer, but certainly Westminster and any belief in Westminster is gone and that is massive progress – and something for us to build on.”

About the author

Leave a Comment