Nationalist Scots have not given up

By Alice Ritchie ,AFP

GLASGOW — The Glasgow bar is half empty, the televisions showing sport while inoffensive pop music plays. But the students huddled around the table are oblivious — the talk is all about Scotland’s future. It is three weeks since Scotland voted to reject independence on Sept. 18, but the energy behind the nationalist campaign, which won 45 percent of the vote, shows no signs of dissipating.

“We have lost the referendum but it doesn’t mean the dream has died,” said Mhairi Black, a 20-year-old politics student and campaigns officer for the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association (GUSNA). “The vote result was absolutely heartbreaking, gut-wrenching. But less than a week later I was raring to go. Everyone is pumped up, saying, what’s next?” The association’s small membership has almost tripled since the referendum, prompting this week’s meeting of the new committee in a bar — a better venue will need to be found to accommodate the larger numbers. The enthusiasm was palpable among the dozen or so students present, many of whom voted for the first time ever last month. “The reasons I believed in the ‘Yes’ vote were good reasons, and they’re still good reasons,” said Roddy Cairns, a 26-year-old law student and GUSNA’s president.

Free student tuition, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) — “these are the kind of things we need to defend” against budget cuts, he said. It is no surprise that there is nationalist feeling in Glasgow, a city which voted “Yes” to independence, but across Scotland tens of thousands of people are showing a new interest in politics. The ranks of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which runs the devolved government in Edinburgh, have swelled by 52,000 to more than 77,000 members since the referendum. The pro-independence Greens tripled their membership to 6,000, while the Scottish Socialist Party recorded a rise from 1,000 to about 2,500 members. The Radical Independence Campaign, a grassroots left-wing organization, has booked a 3,000-capacity venue in Glasgow for its conference next month. Even the parties which opposed independence — the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats — have recorded a slight rise in numbers. “It’s heady stuff,” wrote commentator Lesley Riddoch in The Scotsman newspaper this week.