I have had to suspend my ‘No Thanks’ independence referendum tour of Scotland.
It was back in June that I announced my plan to tour the country. A hundred events. All outdoors in Scotland’s summer. Me, my makeshift stage of two upturned Irn-bru crates, a microphone, one of those small speaker-amps, a one or two-strong road crew, take it to the streets.
‘From Barrhead to Barra’ was my catchline. Barrhead is in my constituency and is synonymous with an industrial Scotland, a half hour’s drive from Glasgow. Barra is another Scotland, twelve hundred largely Gaelic-speaking fishers and crofters at the southern end of the Western Isles archipelago. The tour is old school politics, reconnecting.
Thousands of people have taken part. Most of them have never been to a political meeting in their lives but this is aimed as politics coming to them on their high streets. Some meetings start small but Scottish people have very British attitudes to queues – once they see one they join in. So the crowds grow sometimes to a few hundred standing on street corners. It has been real people from all sides of the debate having passionate discussions. It works best when there is genuine disagreement and heated questioning.
But recently something else has happened. Things have become much more sinister. Groups of Yes voters are being organised to turn up to intimidate the No campaigners and silence undecided voters at these street corner meetings. This isn’t about the odd impossible to control idiot that every political campaign has. This is concerted and coordinated. It has caught the media attention because one man in these crowds threw eggs at me. I don’t care that someone throws eggs at me – that’s just the sometimes messy pantomime of politics.
The tone of the meetings took a turn for the worse after the first TV debate.