By Jordan Daly & Liam Stevenson
Last Saturday’s Seize the Day rally in George Square was a day of positivity, hope and ambition; there were many speakers sharing their visions for the Left – for the future of Scotland – and the thousands strong crowd proved that the momentum that we built together throughout the referendum campaign is still thriving. Anyone who spent the day in the square will speak of the vibrancy that filled the air – the feeling that we were, together, stood on the brink of history.
Of course it was not long until this vibrancy was replaced with negativity and the expected bombardment of adversity, from both social media and the national press, as a result of the involvement of one individual – Tommy Sheridan. Far from being portrayed as the diverse, inclusive event that it was; the usual report that it was a one man roadshow was recycled – an accusation promoted by outlets lacking any real understanding as to what went on behind the scenes and built purely on assumptions. A wide and varied collection of individuals and organisations played a pivotal role in the rally; The Indy Girls were there, the inspirational Lindsay Jarrett – Independence Climber – gave an impassioned speech, the Yes Bikers were a fantastic spectacle as they roared around the square, Storm Holytown secured the event and Loaves & Fishes again received copious amounts of food. Despite this, the credibility of the event was called into question, with suggestions that it was nothing more than a front for the Solidarity Party. As two people who sit on the organising committee, that was democratically elected in January, we know that this could not be further removed from the truth. Tommy has no role on the committee – it is filled with people from more than one political party – indeed, we are both SNP members. The only two meetings that Tommy attended were those that were open to non-committee members: one when the committee was formed, and one three days before the rally. He was invited as a compere and speaker, and had no input in committee business. As for the both of us, we have allegiance to no one; no politician, no party, no organisation, no splinter group, no activist, no sect – our loyalty lies in the fight for independence.
At our first committee meeting it was agreed that all other independence supporting groups would be approached with the intention of uniting for one day to ensure that everyone could be represented – and, most importantly, that those who were attending the rally could hear all views from across the political spectrum. We personally reached out to several well known organisations and individuals; only one accepted our invite – Robin McAlpine. The opportunity to deliver a message was taken – and why shouldn’t it be? Aside from an SNP or Sturgeon endorsed event, Hope Over Fear has consistently had a massive pull, and the momentum that it helps to maintain should not be dismissed. We are open to working with any of the organisations that arose throughout the referendum campaign; we are not asking you to stand under our banner indefinitely – we are not trying to swallow you up and take any sort of illustrious shine from you. We are asking simply that, in the intermediate – at least – barriers be dismantled and we stand together in a collective display of strength. Hope Over Fear is not the shady band of deviants that the press and Leftist blogs try to portray us as. We do not rally around Tommy Sheridan and scream “Solidarity!”. Just like you, we are politicised individuals with opinions, views, ambitions and hopes for what our country can be. Some are mothers, fathers, grandmothers. We have individuals with impairments who dedicate time to working with us. Yet, some members of our committee fear releasing their names as a result of the storm of negativity that is sent our way. Is this what characterises the Left now?
Perhaps if we could see past Saturday’s rally as the alleged one man show that particular blogs and the mainstream media like to emphasise – and instead comprehend that those thousands of people who congregated in George Square were not there out of loyalty to Hope Over Fear, Tommy or the SNP; rather, they were there to uphold an idea: independence. They were there because they have a vision of a better Scotland and they gathered in that square to feel the momentum, unity and collectiveness that we all created throughout the referendum campaign. Should Robin choose to provide his voice to such an audience – then that is his prerogative. Should he be ostracised, penalised and have his own work blackened for sharing a message of hope? How can we all preach radical political advancement yet indulge so viciously in cattiness?
From our perspective, it is clear that the Scottish left is very fragmented to the point where any collective progress is now threatened. The referendum sparked a brand new political situation in our country; new activists and fresh voices were thrown into the mix and we stormed into the arena with our own ideas. We all speak of a “united Left”, “a strong collective force” – yet many continue to perpetuate and recycle old drama – the irony being that the progressive Left itself is standing in the way of progress. The principles of the Left wing movement have become very much lost in translation – what happened to unison, collectivity and consensus? The role of the wounded party is one that many seem keen to play, whilst ultimately failing to realise that those who are truly affected by this current schism are not those who are bruised by the past, nor those who spent this weekend vilifying Robin – but rather those of us who find ourselves embroiled in this antiquated battle. On Saturday there were many first time speakers sharing their visions for the Left, and for the future of Scotland; we have both been in that position also. Why should young, new activists with no allegiance nor links to any past occurrences feel pressured to justify why they took a platform?