“The SNP and broader Yes movement has so much talent across the country. We need to harness it and galvanise the campaign to secure Scotland’s future as a fairer, greener and socially just independent nation.” – These were words of First Minister electoral candidate Humza Yousaf ahead of polls opening this week for the leadership of Scotland’s largest party.
With the current turmoil at the heart of the SNP one might be forgiven for thinking that the indy movement is in freefall or has, at least, stalled. Yet support for Scottish independence is up 4 points in the polls – higher than it was before Nicola Sturgeon announced her pending resignation. If the independence movement is to ultimately win out though it will take far more than just the professional politicians to make this happen.
Enter the ‘Chain of Freedom’. The grass roots campaign has gained a growing following and expression of interest since it was mooted back in January and aims to create a human chain across the breadth of Scotland reminiscent of the mass protests in the Baltics against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The event aims to galvanise 70,000 people in Scotland to make a stand against the Tory Westminster regime and is set do take place on the 14th of October, just 5 days before a proposed referendum was due to take place which has since been shut down by the U.K Supreme Court.
For chain founder, and head of online indy podcast platform Cridhe gu Cridhe, (‘heart to heart’ in gaelic), Siobhan Blaschek, the diktat from the Supreme Court was the breaking point.
“The supreme court decision is just confirmation of what the yes movement already knew”, she said, “that we are an exploited colony.”
She continued: “It became clear we do not have a say in our own future. I thought, well, something has to be done. I was looking for a new idea and on Christmas Eve it just popped into my head. Let’s do a human chain across Scotland.”
The concept has drawn parallels between protests within the Soviet Union prior to its imminent collapse and has received widespread support from grassroots independence supporters, particularly among the non-party affiliated. Siobhan agrees that there are an increasing number of similarities in the situations and acknowledged the inspiration saying: “The Baltic peoples sang national songs in public places and formed a human chain across the three nations of Estonia Latvia and Lithuania to resist the decades long Russian occupation of their nations. Then I googled and discovered that this human chain idea has been used throughout the world by many oppressed peoples as a way to say – “This is not on! World, please notice us and our situation! Within a couple of years, the entire Soviet block of nations had collapsed. People power works. Oh yes it does!”
The ‘Chain of Freedom’ began life in January of this year as an online Facebook group. Within the first week it had gathered 7,000 participants, (a tenth of the required number needed for the chain to remain unbroken across the country). It now aims to link up with Yes groups across the nation to help deliver one of the most impactful peaceful protests ever devised in support of Scottish independence.
Events in national politics of course soon brought the focus of attention back to Holyrood when Nicola Sturgeon announced her decision to resign as Scotland’s First Minister last month on February 15th while declaring that: “The cause of independence is so much bigger than any one individual. All of us who believe in it contribute in different ways, at different stages of our lives.”
Siobhan couldn’t agree more. While she admires and supported the First Minister she has always been clear that the movement should not be about personalities and that its strength lies in the passion of its legion of supporters.
“People are dying of hunger and stress”, she said. “We can’t even afford electricity in the potential renewable powerhouse of Europe. It’s so ridiculous. It’s a terrible criminal joke! If this were France, we would be rioting every weekend for the past 2 years, or 50! That’s why I’m doing my bit to get us out of this dystopian nightmare.
“The politicians will do their thing and we, the people, the grassroots, have our role to play.”
Miss Blaschek’s harrowing experience as a Scottish person living in London in her youth helped to shape her views on independence which were crystalised around the time of the last referendum in 2014.
She explained: “I am Scottish and grew up in London until I was 12 when we moved back home. London was becoming dangerous. This was after the rise of the National Front. We lived in Southall or “little India” as it was known. Blair Peach, a New Zealand teacher, was killed in an anti-Nazi protest that escalated into a riot. We had to board up our downstairs windows from upstairs. Police on horseback chased anti-Nazis down our street and beat them with batons. Some say the special branch beat Peach to death, all because the NF chose to hold their AGM in an Indian community’s town hall. The ANL, (anti-Nazi league), had organised a peaceful sit down 100 metres from our front door. What a day. I will never forget! So, we moved here in 1980.”
“People are dying of hunger and stress…That’s why I’m doing my bit to get us out of this dystopian nightmare.”
Siobhan makes it clear that she sees history repeating itself, and in some ways worsening with the current far-right trajectory of the Conservative government in Westminster and their anti-immigrant rhetoric which has been on the rise for years, but especially since the Brexit vote in 2016. Never-ending austerity and the denial of Scottish democracy for her, as for many, have been the final straws.
She said: “As that song goes, ‘the revolution will be televised’. Our marches are not covered by the U.K media, they are ignored. We bypass them and go direct to international film crews. Of course, it will make stunning incredible footage. Folk in Scotland need to realise our country is loved around the planet and there is an awful lot of sympathy for our plight, whereas our colonisers are seen as the laughingstock they truly are – a decrepit class system that should have been overturned centuries ago. A criminal cabal extracting the wealth of the people. We just need to join hands and be counted and sitting at home complaining – being a ‘keyboard warrior’ – is just not enough on its own. We need to up the ante. We need to be seen and heard.”
The route planned by event organisers aims to form a chain which stretches from the west coast, through Glasgow, over the Forth and Clyde Canal and right through to the Edinburgh coast – a link of over 70km.
“Let’s come together”, said Siobhan. “Country before party!”
You can find the group on various social media sites and can sign up for the Chain of Freedom event via your local Yes group anywhere in the country or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.