TODAY’S march and rally in Edinburgh marks a significant moment for the national movement with a clear agreement from, one hopes, all parts of the Yes campaign that visibly standing together and emphasising what unites us is good for us as individuals, beneficial for the independence-supporting organisations of which we are members and, most importantly of all, essential for our collective success.

This show of solidarity and determination has been slow in coming for all sorts of reasons but it is very welcome nonetheless.

Alas there will be those who will pour scorn on such a sentiment, no doubt pointing out that they have been marching frequently and moreover were marching first.

I got a bit of that type of sour reaction last week when I dared to say in this column that my opinions on land reform had hardened over the years and that I now backed legislative solutions that actually weren’t on the table two decades ago.

That dog-in-the-manger approach – also seen in recent weeks in the ridiculous attacks on Murray Foote for having the temerity to admit he was wrong about independence and the courage to try to set that right by his own hard work – is deeply unattractive and deters support just like the “I’m a better nationalist than you” preening I hoped we had got rid of in the 1980s.

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So does the type of demeaning dismissal of new faces and the emergence of a different independence leadership, as Richard Walker pointed out in this paper yesterday.

In fact, lots of good people have been trying to find ways to work together even during the recent very difficult times. Only 18 months ago we collectively managed to print and distribute a million independence-focused newspapers, with Believe in Scotland being crucial to that success too.

A number of Yes-supporting organisations have also managed to draft an interim constitution and at a local level there have been many instances of on-the-ground co-operation, proving that there is more to life than vicious social media bickering.

I was myself pleased to attend the Arbroath march and rally back in April 2022 which also belatedly commemorated the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and it is therefore with the greatest regret that I will not be in Edinburgh today, solely because

I will be honouring a very long-standing commitment to the annual Baird of Bute celebrations, as a trustee of a charity which is getting together for the first time since before lockdown.

However, I have already signed up to be part of the Chain of Freedom on October 14 which takes place across the central belt and is an imaginative tribute to the great Baltic Way demonstration in August 1989. You can get more details of that at and on the day you will be able to find me somewhere near Bowling.

The National: The Yes movement's ability to come together is integral to the independence causeThe Yes movement's ability to come together is integral to the independence cause

Marches or demonstrations, of course, rarely of themselves stop wars, change governments or free nations. Those protests in the Baltic states, for example, indicated beyond doubt a raging thirst for independence but it took an internal attempted coup in Russia to finally precipitate Latvian statehood which became complete just under two years later.

Closer to home, I spent much of my formative years as a politician marching to defend various parts of the Scottish industrial base which were being ground to dust by Thatcher but Ravenscraig, Gartcosh, Caterpillar and so many other industrial icons were still bulldozed and those who worked in them cast on the scrap heap.

Most memorably of all, 20 years ago more than 100,000 people marched through Glasgow to protest at the prospect of conflict in Iraq.

I remember the crowds in front of the Armadillo at the Scottish Exhibition Centre where Tony Blair was addressing the Scottish Labour Conference, while at the same time across Europe some five million people showed their fundamental opposition to his actions. Nonetheless the war took place.

Yet marches and rallies do form a big and often cathartic role in movements, helping to focus protest, energise individuals by demonstrating solidarity and mutual support, and show governments that people are not passive and cannot have their hopes deferred forever.

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Such events can also lay down markers for our future and give us starting points for the next steps forward. I vividly recall the event outside the Scottish Parliament on the evening of January 31, 2020, as the clock depressingly counted out the last hours of EU membership.

It was on one level somewhere I never wanted to be – but on another it was the only place to stand on that cold night, warmed by the determination and passion of those who like me were dedicating themselves anew to ensuring that one day they would be citizens of Europe once again.

The majority across Scotland in favour of the EU is now bigger than ever but rejoining won’t come without independence, which itself won’t come without continuing electoral successes at both Westminster and Holyrood, good governance in the Scottish Parliament; visionary policies – especially on the urgent imperative of climate change – being put into action for the benefit of all our citizens; strong and convincing arguments for independence being articulated again and again by all our most eloquent and well informed leaders; the active persuasion of voters on the doorsteps by a mass membership political party; and the hard work of every part of a positive, outward looking, encouraging and engaging Yes movement that is working all across our nation.

You can see the promised land from the top of the mountain but you can’t get there without coming down and overcoming those barriers that are strewn across our route every day by increasingly desperate opponents.

Today is a day for being on the mountain but tomorrow, together, we must resume the hard march and engage once more in the more mundane battles for our future.