SCOTLAND’S capital city provided a scenic backdrop to the 21st All Under One Banner (AUOB) march, attracting more than 200,000 people, every one of them hoping the occasion will come to be remembered as an “I was there” day when the history of Scottish independence is written.

It was the biggest mass gathering to be seen on the streets of Edinburgh since the Make Poverty History protest in 2005, when G8 leaders were meeting at Gleneagles and generating headlines around the world.

The itinerant AUOB movement, promoting the independence cause and the case for a second referendum, first emerged in October 2015. It pitched up in Edinburgh yesterday having built momentum over previous years and months with weekend parades in towns and cities, including Aberdeen, Glasgow, Campbeltown, Galashiels, Ayr, Oban and Perth.

READ MORE: All Under One Banner Edinburgh: 200,000 descend on capital

ScotRail had to press into service every available train on the network to have sufficient capacity to bring the crowds into the city from all parts of the country and beyond. Police Scotland had a comprehensive policing and traffic control plan in place to ensure the event passed off without incident. The council was poised for the clean up.

On an afternoon of unsettled weather and threatening skies, people congregated in Holyrood Park beside the Parliament with thousands forming a “human Saltire” to add to the flurry of ubiquitous flags on display.

The only source of dissension among the crowd was the best tactics to deploy to achieve the common goal of independence.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not attend the march but tweeted yesterday morning: “Good luck to everyone marching for independence in Edinburgh later. I’m not able to be there in person today, but I will be with you in spirit. Have a great day. And be in no doubt – independence is coming. #indyref.”

The National: Marchers began their route at the Scottish Parliament. Photograph: Colin MearnsMarchers began their route at the Scottish Parliament. Photograph: Colin Mearns

And those in attendance did not doubt. The message of Lorna Smith and Elizabeth Purdon from Cumbernauld, regular attendees at AUOB events, was straightforward: “We are here to get independence for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Middle-aged couple Karen and Atholl had similar ambitions. “We have been coming to these things since 2015. If we are going to make a difference we have to keep doing marches.

“The independence campaign is a Pandora’s Box, the lid is open now and there’s no shutting it.”

Hugh Lyall, from Erskine, said: “It is time for our Scottish Government to do something now the people have done their bit by turning out on demonstrations, but the politicians are still twiddling their thumbs. They might have a special plan up their sleeve, who knows? But they need to tell us because we are beginning to get awfully impatient.

“Marches like these help but they are not the full story because I have been coming to them for years. Every time they get bigger and bigger but the fact remains that politicians really need to follow through and they need to do it soon. If they don’t, the people will never forgive them. Simple as that.”

Gavin McLeish, backed by his Glasgow University pals, said: “It is days like this that folk will look back on as stepping stones to full independence. It’s coming. It won’t be so long now.”

READ MORE: 23 of the best tweets as marchers massed for AUOB Edinburgh rally

As the pipes and drums played and the rain began to fall, first off were Bikers for Independence closely followed by marchers setting out on the prescribed route. The procession passed between Parliament and palace to wind its way up the narrow sloping road of the Canongate past the Saltire-bedecked statue of tragic 18th-century poet Robert Fergusson and the unseen grave of Enlightenment economist Adam Smith into the heart of the Old Town.

Along the way a small pro-Union squad played Rule Britannia on a ghetto blaster to try and drown out the skirl of the pipes but came second best in that particular contest.

The marchers filed past the Court of Session, where Scottish judges recently ruled the UK Government acted unlawfully over the suspension of business at Westminster resulting in MPs being recalled, and where judgement will be handed down next week on whether Boris Johnson can be banged up in jail if he doesn’t heed the will of Parliament and, by extension, the will of the people.

At the Lawnmarket the marchers turned onto George IV Bridge to come together again at the Meadows as the skies delivered on their threat and the heavens opened to drench the seemingly endless crowd which just kept flowing down Middle Meadow Walk to join the rally.

The National: Independence supporters travelled from far and wide for the AUOB event. Photograph: Colin MearnsIndependence supporters travelled from far and wide for the AUOB event. Photograph: Colin Mearns

From the protection of dripping tents, high-profile SNP MP Joanna Cherry promised Scotland was on track to be in charge of its own destiny, despite the best efforts of the UK Government and the Tory minority in Scotland to deny it.

“Independence is coming soon,” she said, body-swerving the argument that it wasn’t coming soon enough. “In the current fog of British politics it is hard to see when the opportunity will arise, but arise it will and we will be ready.”

Inverclyde Council’s SNP group leader Chris McEleny told the crowd that though numbers had yet to be confirmed “it is clear from where I stand that this is the largest gathering of free men and women in the history of Scotland here to demand that the people of Scotland are given their choice on their own future”.

HE added: “I’ve heard some people recently say that these marches don’t do any good, that waving flags won’t win Scotland her independence. But when I look out over this field today, I don’t see a sea of flags, I see a sea of hope and possibility, I look out and in every single one of you I see the same dreams and aspirations for Scotland that I have myself.”

Scotland, he insisted, had the right to chose independence and he warned if “feckless Franco” Boris Johnson would not hear its calls Scots would “take the choice into our own hands”.

While the AUOB event was under way social media channels were buzzing too. Playwright David Greig admitted he was surprised to find himself taking part.“Though I dislike flaggy nonsense, I yearn to be loosed from this rotten raft,” he tweeted. “Europe, social democracy and a written constitution please.” Author and co-founder of Bella Caledonia website, Keven Williamson, weighed in with his tuppence worth. “Same. I haven’t been on any AUOB marches. Going today though. Time to send a message to both Westminster and Holyrood that Scotland needs to get out of the British madhouse as soon as possible and stand on our two feet.”

The day was not only a resounding pro-independence gesture but a clear warning sign to PM Johnson of Scotland’s mood and its opposition to any No-Deal Brexit, in fact to the very idea of leaving our friends in Europe.

AUOB founder and organiser Neil Mackay described it as the biggest and boldest demonstration in favour of independence ever to have taken place in Scottish history. He, like 200,000 others, will be hoping politicians got the message.