IN THE PAST FOUR weeks there have been two big, well organised, demonstrations against SNP/Green policy and legislation outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh. One was reported in mainstream media, the other wasn’t. This is an attempt to understand why.
The first of them, organised by For Women Scotland against the GRR Bill, had a decisive impact on getting the issue into livingooms, not just in Scotland but across the UK and onto the Prime Minister’s ‘to do’ list. It succeeded where ferries, the Salmond trial, the missing £600k and the padlocked indyref2 failed – accelerating Nicola Sturgeon’s rumoured trajectory towards a UN sinecure.
The other, the Glasgow Cabbie demo last week, has brought the grass root flames in the anti-Sturgeon undergrowth licking at the desks of pro-UK Scottish politicians and the studios of STV and BBC Scotland. It also created issues, questions – and opportunities – for other campaign groups in this space, including Scotland Matters, the organisation I co-founded, although I’m writing this article on a personal basis.
“Bring your pots and pans, horns, klaxons, whistles,drums, trumpets, bugles placards and banners, your saltires, union flags and your suffragette scarves to Holyrood on 12 January …. and show the FM and MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament exactly what we think of them!
We are the good and morally decent people of Scotland who care about the rights of women and children. The very people Sturgeon made promises to on closing our nation’s education attainment gap years ago, that has actually widened over the years.
That was the announcement by Stef Shaw, the Glasgow Cabbie, whose social media pages are evidence of huge anger about the SNP in general and their school sex education policies and gender recognition reforms in particular.
The “you” in the challenge: “are you ready to blow the roof off the Scottish Parliament” wasn’t just aimed at his 30k social media followers but also social media keyboard warriors, campaign groups like Scotland Matters, and, vitally, the media and MSP’s.
Scotland Matters decided to support this event by letting its supporters know about it and including a stopover in its digivan tour of Edinburgh’s retail parks and Bute House.
It was the only anti-independence campaign to do so, with these words:
“As a cross-party campaign focused on opposing the SNP and their separatist agenda, Scotland Matters offers no opinion on the main issues covered by the Glasgow Cabbie demo, our supporters and subscribers will have their own opinions.”
“But the GRR is an example of the SNP’s inability to legislate in a clear, effective and enforceable way that does not conflict with UK law – something we have been highlighting for some time. We note that the organisers “have many groups with various problems with the FM and her Scottish Government looking to come together at the event” and Scotland Matters intends to be there.”
At least 300 people were there. They made a hell of a noise, were well behaved and had a lot of banners. The main speakers were Stef Shaw (the Glasgow Cabbie), Richard Lucas of the Scottish Family Party who has done much to highlight sex education scandal in Scottish schools (as described by Regina Erich in her ThinkScotland article a few weeks ago), and Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer at Abertay University
It was a tremendous event, a credit to the organisers and those who attended.
Scotland Matters’s drive past and stopover was well appreciated by Glasgow Cabbie and the many people who spoke to us at the demo – and the 50k viewers of its videos and photos on social media and its website.
Unfortunately the demo was ignored by the MSPs who were inside at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) and all the TV and print media apart from The Times and the Scottish Daily Express website who also tweeted the demonstrator’s video statements that I recorded.
Why was this?
Only a year ago the schools issue was hot news. In a Glasgow Herald poll asking readers whether they would answer the same questions on sexual practices that school pupils as young as 14 were being asked, an average of two thirds said they wouldn’t answer.
One of the questions was :“have you had vaginal or anal sex (Penetrative sex) more than once?” and 77% of the 16,429 respondents (ie sixteen times more than a typical opinion poll) said they wouldn’t. So if the adults wouldn’t answer it, and Nicola Sturgeon herself refused to say if she would answer it, why should kids under 16?
From conversations I have had with MSP’s, some journalists and other campaign groups there were a number of reasons for the media and MSP blackout, including the timing of the event (it took place when MSPs were at FMQs), inexperience of and unwillingness to engage among campaign groups, the multiple messages, ie GRR andanti-Sturgeon and education, especially when it happened in a week when GRR was dominating the headlines.
All of these issue were anticipated and avoided by For Women Scotland which was tightly focussed. Its protest against GRR Bill was cross-party and included speeches by Conservative MSP’s Rachael Hamilton and Pam Gosal, SNP MSP Ash Regan (who resigned her ministerial role to vote against the Bill), former Labour leader Johann Lamont, Alba MP Neale Hanvey and SNP MP Joanna Cherry. Several MSPs visited the demo and spoke to protesters and the videos of the event are now stock footage in TV reports on the UK’s blockage of the GRR Bill.
Probably the biggest reason is that for some people Glasgow Cabbie is a bit too “grass roots”, thus the great and good of pro-UK Scotland are missing a trick by not engaging and actually meeting with him and finding ways to at least co-exist if not cooperate. His followers, and those of other groups, include tens of thousands people who often don’t vote.
These votes could win elections for politicians who engage with them and are willing to break the glass ceiling that is the fear nationalists will label them as anti-woke “Toary” Neanderthals when in fact this is all about prevailing common sense attitudes.
Print and online newspapers would increase their audiences and revenue, as would TV companies, especially BBC Scotland and STV, and the diverse anti-SNP movement (a bigger audience than the anti-independence movement) would be strengthened.
What these demonstrations have shown is thousands of normal Scots are sick and tired of what is going on in the SNP/Greens name. They are delighted and grateful that some people are putting their heads above the parapet, willing to attend demonstrations, engage on social media, speak to friends and family, and contribute cash (the Glasgow Cabbie fundraiser reached £5k in two days).
It is possible to get the mainstream media and politicians involved positively. To do so, likely and potential participants need to engage – actually meet – with each other to learn from experience and collaborate around core issues.
Getting together in the same actual or virtual room before the next demo and learning from each other and how to stay focussed, like the GRR Bill demo, must be the answer.
Stuart Waiton https://www.abertay.ac.uk/staff-search/dr-stuart-waiton/
Family Party https://scottishfamily.org/
Glasgow Cabbie main page https://en-gb.facebook.com/glasgowcabbiepoetry/
Scottish Daily Express compilation of Allan Sutherland video of protester statements (20) Scottish Express on Twitter: “Videos from Thursday’s Holyrood protest organised @GlasgowCabbie1 as Sturgeon is told what Scots voters REALLY think of her https://t.co/4ivTi3oABt” / Twitter
Scotland Matters Glasgow Cabbie pictures and video Holyrood/GlasgowCabbie Protest2023 – Scotland Matters