Politicians move forward: the movement stands still

IssueApril 2010
News by Declan McCormick

On 13 March, Edinburgh appeared to host two manifestations of popular nationalist sentiment on the same Saturday, one considerably larger than the other. At Murrayfield, the Scottish rugby team met England in the Calcutta Cup (a 15-15 draw, by the way), while down in the Grassmarket, Scottish CND mobilised a relatively small gathering in opposition to the Trident nuclear weapons programme.

While the former was open about its flag-waving, kilt- and chain-mail-clad patriotism (yes, England fans in Monty Python and the Holy Grail style outfits!), the peace movement event was rather more subtly utilised for nationalist (and other political) ends.

Probably around 500 anti-Trident protestors marched from the Scottish parliament to a rally which featured a number of speakers, beginning with first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, who naturally took the opportunity to deliver a party political broadcast on behalf of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

It soon became a quasi-hustings with Edinburgh MPs Mark Lazarowicz (Labour) and John Barrett (Liberal Democrat) – and Chris Ballance of the Green Party providing er... balance?

Salmond wasn’t alone in electioneering, but, from a bus bedecked in saltires he played to a latent anti-British-government sentiment in the crowd.

Trident is seen as a Westminster imposition, but how real are the commitments to its cancellation from politicians on the Scottish side of the border?

At the moment, voices for direct action and for grassroots organisation that could bypass the party system are all but absent from large parts of the peace movement in Scotland.

A dependency on party politics and politicians delivering peace dominates debate about how we might de-militarise Scotland.

In the run-up to the Westminster elections this is unlikely to change but things may develop as “business as usual” returns when we have dutifully cast our votes.

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