UNDER a brilliant azure sky, a blue river of hope flowed through Edinburgh yesterday. It was a human river coloured blue and white and tartan, but all the rainbow shades of so many national flags were also pouring behind one banner, the Saltire.

It ran down the Royal Mile on a sunny afternoon in the capital, a signal that something had changed. When somewhere between 75,000 and 100,000 people (the organisers’ estimate) give up their Saturday to march and rally for Scottish independence, it can be safely concluded that this nation now harbours an irresistible force ready to sweep away all the dams and barriers that have stood in our way for too long.

READ MORE: AUOB marchers: 'We didn’t want to stand on the sidelines of history'

The largest march and rally for independence in the history of Scotland turned Edinburgh into a festival of determination – make that self-determination. The sheer scale of the All Under One Banner event, the joy on the faces, the humour of all the participants, meant this was no mere tributary, no burn, but a torrent blasting aside the naysayers with that greatest of words – Yes.

There will be those for whom, no doubt, the marchers were invisible. They include Edinburgh Council who told the police there were only 20,000 taking part.

Regardless of the exact number – 75-80,000 would be much closer – the Unionist parties and their lackeys in the media will no doubt find ways of ignoring what happened in Edinburgh yesterday.

They would be wise not do so. This was nothing more or nothing less than a rising, an outpouring of the people’s dissatisfaction at Scotland’s status quo within the Union.

Put it this way – if the numbers yesterday were replicated on a UK scale, it would be the equivalent of the million-plus who marched in London against the Iraq War of 2003. Tony Blair ignored them, but no one should ignore this.

There was some disruption in the capital. The driver of the 42 bus stuck on George IV Bridge looked as if he had chewed a wasp, but again the capital showed its ability to absorb huge numbers and still look serene.

At precisely 1.02pm the pipes and drums sounded the start. Police officers cleared the way for AUOB organiser Gary Kelly with his giant banner. The AUOB stewards under their chief Manny Singh then did a superb job of marshalling the marchers, whose self-discipline was admirable.

The tens of thousands were out to enjoy themselves. But they were also there to make a point, and they succeeded magnificently.

Everything was done with a good humour that created an atmosphere of positivity and urgency.

The most common slogan of the day by far was “What do we want? Independence! When do we want it? Now!”.

A few recollections seemed to me to sum up the day:

  • The busker piper on the Lawnmarket who must have thought Christmas had come as coins rained into his “beer fund”.
  • The wedding party on the tour bus who cheered the marchers and were given a rapturous reception.
  • The choruses of “Are you watching BBC?” rang out, even as they were filmed by, ahem, the camera crew from STV.
  • The marcher from Yes Linton holding a placard saying “Look, you are not alone”.
  • The huge contingent of disabled people, wheelchairs rattling across the cobbles.
  • Mystified tourists standing at the side of the Royal Mile. “Please sir, is it like this every Saturday?” asked an American. “Not yet,” was the reply.
  • The special cheer for the English Scots for Independence. Two young people from Yorkshire saw their banner and promptly joined the march behind them.

Rolling on down the Royal Mile, the Blue River passed the counter-demonstration by Union Flag-bedecked A Force For Good people – all 36 of them. One man quietly slunk away rolling up his flag – you suspect the odds of 3000 to one were not to his liking.

In the shadow of St Giles, the air was cooler, and down the Canongate it took a backward look up the Mile to show just what an eye-popping show of strength this had become. Later in the Canongate came a moment of sheer beauty as the Indy choir sang Hamish Henderson’s great alternative national anthem, the Freedom Come All Ye.

“But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin

Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day”

Hamish would have loved the blue river and the harmony singing that brought a lump to many throats.

He would have clapped and cheered the youngsters with their banner: “We are the next generation and we are no longer feart.”

Past the Scottish Parliament, the pipes and drums sounded louder, and we had the incongruous sight of a steward on roller blades racing ahead into Holyrood Park to tell the rally organisers the march was coming. One man stood wearing a Union Flag, perhaps not appreciating the irony of supporting a Union that is trying a power grab on Holyrood.

No one had given him any trouble, he said, and the banter was all done in good grace.

In the end, Historic Environment Scotland’s "ban" on the Holyrood Park post-march rally for being "political" backfired spectacularly, for many people came along to show that those in authority cannot challenge the democratic will of the people.

All credit to Police Scotland for taking the initiative when AUOB told them yesterday morning that the numbers expected had soared beyond 50,000. When the application was originally made in March, AUOB’s own estimate was 15,000 but that was before large attendances at marches at Glasgow, Dumfries, Stirling, Inverness and Dundee.

A Historic Environment Scotland spokesperson said: “Our priority for today is to work with our partners including Police Scotland to facilitate the march safely through Holyrood Park. We will review the situation after the march.”

You might just want to review your whole "political" policy, HES.

High above the rally, hordes of people waved Saltires along the Radical Road, Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat itself – a stunning sight in the sunshine.

Singer Davie Holt kicked off the rally with his premiere of a new song, appropriately titled “All Under One Banner.”

SNP big hitters Philippa Whitford and Keith Brown were the first to speak.

The good doctor showed just why we need independence to secure our NHS with the sort of rallying call she is becoming rightly famed for, while deputy leader Brown ripped into Westminster’s “unfolding disaster of a shambles that is Brexit”.

He continued: “We have the cheek of Theresa May saying that austerity is over... Well she can come to my constituency, to Tullibody and Alloa and Sauchie and tell the parents that are going to food banks to feed their kids that austerity is over.”

Brown also made a point of calling for appreciation of the efforts of the men and women who have just walked 500 miles for independence, all the way from Skye to Edinburgh and who at last were able to sit on the grass and hear the loud approval of the crowd.

The speakers and musicians – you can see some of them on Independence Live – came forward to inform and entertain the blue river that was still coming into Holyrood well after 3.30pm.

Across the huge expanse of the Park, impromptu concerts broke out as people picnicked in the sun.

The largest ever contingent of the Yes Bikers – more than 250 bikes in all, and plenty with pillion passengers, then brought their thunder to Holyrood, and were cheered to the echo. With the pipes and drums, they are now part of the essential sound of the AUOB events.

One police officer was adamant that the march took two hours to pass his stationary point of duty. The smile on his face when he and his colleagues were thanked for their service spoke volumes. It had been a good day to be a cop for there was no trouble – just one arrest for a minor offence – and as he said, “I hope you enjoyed it”.

After a day like yesterday, the Yes movement will be reinvigorated across the land. The marchers came from all over Scotland and the variety of accents was music to the ears.

The voice of Scotland is not uniform but multiform, and it was heard loud and proud yesterday.

Had he been able to attend our own Paul Kavanagh would have ended his speech at the rally with these words: “Scottish independence is nothing more than the radical and dangerous idea that Scotland can and will be a normal country. It’s an idea whose time is here. We are the tide that cannot be stopped.”

The blue river is rushing to the sunlit sea of the future. The tide is in our favour. We must take it at the flood.