Hardcore readers of the blog (I think there are three) will have noticed an absence of posts in the past week or so. With 50 days to go before the referendum it seems like a poor time to take a holiday, but there you go – you just can’t get the staff any more, can you?
I previously wrote about taking my wee #YesPleaseVan on a tour of Scotland; initially from Aberdeen to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games and then up to Fort William for a week with visiting relatives from New Zealand so I thought I would share some observations from the trip, relating to the referendum.
Our initial plan had been to spend most of the week based in Fort William enjoying the amazing mountain biking on offer in that corner of Scotland. This would have entailed the van being driven about and left parked up in various places while we earned our cake (more on that later) but, for one reason and another, this didn’t happen and no bikes were ridden and the van spent pretty much all week parked outside a lovely wee chalet in Torlundy, encouraging the squirrels and visiting English fishermen to read my favourite websites (which was a bit hard to do with the absence of wi-fi, but the views of Ben Nevis more than compensated). Instead I spent much of the week as a passenger in my cousin’s entirely neutral grey Audi acting as navigator and tour guide.
Let me just say that Scotland is an incredibly beautiful place and that my love for the country, especially the west Highlands, has been refreshed and deepened. With all due respect the lovely areas surrounding Aberdeen, the area around Fort William is just stunning and had my NZ rellies in raptures over the beauty of the landscape.
I’ve travelled from Aberdeen to Glasgow then up the road, across the Rannoch Moor and through Glen Coe, to Fort William. I’ve gone to Mallaig and back and then circumnavigated Loch Ness and gone through Inverness and past Urquhart Castle. There were trips to Kinlochleven and Oban and up to Glenelg. The return trip home was from Fort William through Aviemore and Huntly and the culmination was yesterday’s trip from Aberdeen to Braemar and back via the rivers Dee and Don. All in all, I have covered in excess of 1100 miles in the last two weeks and this is what I saw:
Yes signs everywhere and, with the extremely notable exception of the Dee and Don valleys, a complete absence of any banners associated with the No campaign.
To be fair, a visitor to Scotland could be forgiven for not realising there is a referendum on because there really wasn’t much in the way of advertising wherever I went but I saw Yes signs in people’s windows and the odd large sign in a field or a Yes saltire flying. I saw a few Yes car stickers but only counted three No ones (two in the NE) in the whole time. I saw one No Thanks poster in a window in Glasgow (outnumbered by several Yes ones nearby) and nothing further until I returned to the east. This is not a scientific measurement because I am sure I missed countless examples of both Yes and No but by the end of the week I had my family trained to point out independence signs so I think it is a fair indication of the level of public support being shown around much of the Highlands and North East.
The No Thanks banners on Royal Deeside have made the news in recent weeks due to someone vandalising them and I had a brief discussion with a friend (who claims to be neutral but clearly isn’t) on Facebook about how such vandalism ‘clearly shows how weak the Yes campaign is if they have to resort to such measures’ (complete garbage; a genius doesn’t lose IQ points simply because some idiot makes stupid remarks while quoting her name – remember to look at the message, not the messenger). I saw some of the evidence of the damage still standing and I would say that the large No Thanks signs probably outnumbered the large Yes signs but there were still plenty of Yes signs in people’s windows and gardens to balance things out.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Morar & Mallaig Highland Games on Sunday 3rd and received a warm welcome from Elisabeth Schmitz and Bill Lees at the Yes Lochaber stall, as well has having my photo taken with the renowned (and tall!) Lesley Riddoch who was Chieftain of the Games and was, very properly, not using the day to advertise her position on independence. The van went down well and, while it got semi-hidden in the carpark, the large Yes flag I was flying from it no doubt attracted some attention (as well as helping me find it again – a great idea that I intend utilising with a different flag once the referendum us done and dusted).
My return trip on Friday saw the van get a proper outing in Aviemore and I left it on the main street, flag waving, while we went for the Best Cakes in the World™ at the Potting Shed at Inshriach (all the cakes are amazing but for fellow gluten free people, the two they make with almond flour are to die for. I had two pieces, just to make sure) while watching birds and a red squirrel feeding outside the window.
I can’t say I have had any conversations with people about independence (other than my non-voting NZ relatives who were slightly bemused by the whole idea but quickly caught on when I related it back to the circumstance the indigenous New Zealanders, the Maori, are in) and the van has, so far, only attracted side-long glances and no positive or negative reactions that I can tell. But if the number of people sporting Yes badges, posting Yes banners or flying Yes flags is anything to go by, our campaign is the ascendency regardless of what the polls might be trying to suggest. (On that subject, read this.)
We are winning this people, I am sure of it!