IT would be in the best interests of the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, if not to regain control of the annual Bannockburn Rally, to at least accept All Under One Banner’s invitation to speak at the event.

Not so long ago, the annual rally was the SNP’s most important social event, where members met and kept contact, as they did at conferences and by-elections.

Old acquaintances were renewed and new ones cemented and high heid yins mixed and kept in touch with activists and new members.

Labour’s Public Order Act was designed to hinder, if not end such gatherings, just as the Tories’ new acts will be supported by Sir Keir’s New Tory Party.

It was Kenny MacAskill who ended the SNP’s support for the rally, much to the chagrin of the membership and in particular the local Bannockburn and Stirling branches and the Scots Independent paper, based in Cowane Street, Stirling.

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Kenny claimed, at the time, that “rallies were for protest and that the SNP was a party of government”. He was, of course, referring to the devolved Parliament in Edinburgh, whose very existence is now under attack.

As Enoch Powell infamously said: “Power devolved is power retained”.

The cross-party Scottish Republican Socialist Movement and myself, as organiser at the time, reluctantly decided to apply for the annual event, in the interests of continuity, until the SNP took control again.

We were surprised and shocked at the open hostility from the titled and landowning executive of the National Trust in Scotland, which sat silently, allowing a young student to rail against us.

Of the 12 board members, it is my understanding that only one is actually Scottish. That is the Duke of Buccleuch, who was once Scotland’s biggest private landowner. Later, Neil Oliver and Kirsty Wark were to be their native continuity spokespersons.

The NTS student representative was against the rally, alleging that she witnessed kilted, “ginger” persons racially abusing English tourists.

When I challenged her if she reported this at the time to the police; SNP, or stewards, she refused to answer. When I reminded her that I have always heard such anecdotal accusations without proof, she remained silent.

On the day she “secured the perimeter” with students all wearing hi-viz yellow vests. The rally ignored them, under police protection.

The police always behaved professionally and impartially in all negotiations, unlike the NTS and Unionist councils and officials, who always had their own interpretation of the rights of free assembly.

The police stressed that they were not there to steward the parade, but to keep the peace. Only on one occasion did we encounter a hostile police sergeant at a meeting, who saw it as his duty to protect the “Queen’s Highway” from Scottish republican socialists and uphold a complaint from the local Orange Order and LibDem councillor.

The complaint was thrown out by the Procurator Fiscal. The sergeant was not present on the day and his senior officers did not interfere with the speakers, ignoring his restrictions and solely imposed conditions.

In exasperation, we handed the rally over to AUOB, to create a bigger and better event, always hoping the SNP would return to the fold, not only by the First Minster agreeing to speak, but to lead the rally and see the local SNP organising the event again.

Donald Anderson