IT started hours before it officially began, with Yes supporters staking their places close to the stage from long before lunchtime.

By 1.30pm, as the first speakers prepared to take the mic, the crowd for The National’s #indyref2020 rally filled Glasgow’s George Square.

EU, Catalan and Kurdish flags were held aloft alongside Saltires, Lion Rampants and Yes banners to the sound of the Saor Alba Pipes and Drums. And as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stepped onto the platform almost two hours later, the landmark event at the historic heart of the country’s biggest city was the focus of international media.

In her first independence rally address since 2014, Sturgeon told those gathered that “Scotland stands at a crossroads moment”.

“The future of our country is on the line,” she said.

READ MORE: The National's #indyref2020 rally: The Yes movement speaks

From her position at the centre of the crush barrier in front of the stage, Muna Dent was in full agreement. The catering company boss travelled from Livingston for the event with her daughter, arriving at around 8am in a tartan outfit resplendent with badges declaring “I’m with Nicola”.

Bishopbriggs woman Angela McNeil was another early arrival. The 53-year-old described Sturgeon as “amazing”, telling the Sunday National that the SNP leader is “the only who can get us independence – she’s been fighting for it all her life”.

“I’ve been waiting for this coming for a long time,” McNeil said of Sturgeon’s speech.

Independence, she says, “means the future, means hope for my grandkids and all the other kids growing up in Scotland”.

Many parents had brought their children along for the event. Four-year-old Irvine boy Benjamin MacMillan, wearing a knight costume and blue-and-white facepaint, attended with his father Robert and dog Angus – one of many four-legged attendees. “It’s important to teach your kids to stand up for what they believe in,” said his 28-year-old dad. “It’s all good to sit at home and say ‘I’m for an independent Scotland’, but that’s not going to make much difference. You come out, you speak to people, you tell them your motivations.

“I think the General Election will see landslide for the SNP in Scotland but gains for Boris Johnson and the Tories in England, and they’ll pursue a hardline Brexit. That puts independence in a stronger position. Scotland voted to Remain and, if we’re being taken out against our will, you can’t call that democracy.”

Sound problems early on in the rally were corrected as the two-hour event progressed. Members of the audience who could not hear properly raised their frustrations and let organisers know on social media. Richard Walker, editor of the Sunday National, apologised for those difficulties, which were tackled by the professional sound engineers on stage.

The day wouldn’t have been possible without the generous backing of the Scottish Independence Foundation whose banner had a prominent position. Many members of the group also attended the rally.

Buses were chartered to ferry folk to the city from Fraserburgh, Edinburgh, Innerleithen and more.

Retired civil servant Graham Pattie made the journey to Glasgow from Tayport with 25 friends in a specially-hired coach.

Pattie, 66, said: “We took the day off local campaigning to see the First Minister.

“I’ve been waiting for this. Nobody expected her to turn up at other marches and rallies because they’re Yes events. I’m really very happy she’s speaking at this. I’d like to hear a date for a referendum next year, regardless of Section 30.”

Meanwhile, a contingent of 150 Yes Bikers arrived part-way through the rally. Sandy Thomson, from South Queensferry, was amongst the leather-clad crowd. The 65-year-old hailed the “great” day, calling it “what we need”.

“It’s well worth coming out,” he said. “Every little bit of support helps and we are determined to do our bit.”

Friends Julie McGowan and Kellie O’Rourke also attended the event in style, dressing as Still Game characters Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade and protesting EU withdrawal with a sign stating: “Brexit ... that’s plenty”.

“We don’t normally dress up,” said O’Rourke, “But with it being Halloween we thought ‘why don’t we go and make a point?’”

The National:

WATCH: Nicola Sturgeon addresses our #indyref2020 event

McGowan agreed the pair had decided to “go for broke”, using charity shops to source their outfits.

But despite the comic approach, the Glasgow pair are serious about the future. “Having an election at this time of year is so disruptive,” said O’Rourke. “People aren’t going to go out with the weather and Christmas – you’re tired. This is an additional obstacle.”

But, said McGowan, “it’s so important”.

Sixty-year-old Jenny Collins, attending with her husband, shared that sentiment. “It’s really important to get out and register to vote,” she told the Sunday National. “I voted Yes in last referendum and I will again in the next. I think more people will this time, knowing what we’re going through.”

To the rear of the square, a police cordon contained a vocal pro-Union demonstration led by A Force for Good founder Alistair McConnachie, who was expelled from Ukip after denying atrocities against the Jewish people during the Second World War.

Standing close to the small counter-protest, where Union Jacks were out in force, mental health advocate Wren Chapman held up a sign bearing the words “love and peace”. The Strathaven woman took part in 2018’s 500 Mile walk for independence and said her presence next to McConnachie’s group was an attempt to promote those values. “That’s how I see a future Scotland,” she explained.

Elsewhere in the square, MSPs, MPs and councillors mingled with voters.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay attended, as did Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell and her family.

MSPs Emma Harper, Stuart McMillan, Tom Arthur and Jenny Gilruth also took part, as did MPs Hannah Bardell, Alison Thewliss and David Linden.

Mary Queen of Scots actor Jack Lowden added his star power, as did authors Sarah Sheridan and Lin Anderson. Stand-up Janey Godley bringing her comic talents to the stage with a her famous voiceovers including a parody of Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and her Richard Leonard “bouncing” gag was a crowd favourite.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon issues rallying cry for indyref2 at National event

And though the dry start did eventually turn to rain, the change in weather did little to affect the numbers in attendance.

An estimated 20,000 people were out in force, with Police Scotland putting this at the lower figure of 10,000.

Sky News, LBC, ITN, and STV covered the event, as did broadcasters from France and Norway, ensuring that Scotland’s demand for indyref2 in 2020 was seen and heard by an international audience.

George Buntu, from Burundi, said growing up overseas had informed his support for Scottish independence. Now living in Glasgow, the 46-year-old also spent years in Kenya, and said he sees the debate “from a different angle”.

“Burundi and Kenya are both independent countries, very small in size and with minimal resources in Burundi, but they still survive,” he said, with a Saltire flag tied at the neck like a cape. “It’s still better here than there, but the decisions about those countries are made in those countries. Since I came here, I feel I belong – Scottish people are welcoming – but everything to do with immigration has to go through Westminster and that hurts a lot of people.”

His friend Mark Forrester agreed, telling the Sunday National that “we’re one of the richest countries in the world and we should exploit that and make ourselves a wealthy, fair, welcoming country”.

Visiting from London, Forrester’s brother Frank said he was “open minded” about political change, but sceptical about the long-term outlook. “If people want to vote for independence, I’m all for that,” said the 58-year-old, “But I’m not backing Scottish independence.

“Independence is a good thing if it works, and I think it would work for 10 years but eventually it’ll go the same was as other countries like Ireland. It’s okay there now but they went through a terrible recession. You can only sell whisky and haggis for so long.”

But Bellshill woman Shazia Malik disagreed. The 36-year-old was at the rally with her husband and two children and said she believes full control of powers over banking, business and taxation would benefit the country.

“I think it’d be good for the economy, and good for people,” she said. “If the people want a referendum and independence it is their right.

“I’m here because we support independence. We’re for the people to count, to help the majority show that support.”

Joseph Ashmore braved the November chill with friends on a rare Saturday off work. The Glasgow University student arrived in Scotland from Nottingham three years ago and now doesn’t “have any intention of moving back to England”.

It’s not a decision that initially won support from his parents. “At first, my parents were like ‘what are you doing?’” the 22-year-old politics and history student explained. “But as soon as they came to visit for the first time, they fell in love with it.

“I don’t understand why a country capable of running all its own affairs is held back by Westminster. Independence just makes sense.”

Law student Harris Mahmood said the need for a fresh independence referendum is “extremely pressing”, given decisions on the constitution and foreign interventions taken by Westminster against the will of Scottish voters and parliamentarians.

“It’s particularly pressing in recent times with Brexit and also considering the military action taken since 2014 in countries like Syria and Libya,” the 21-year-old stated.

“We are one of the leading frontrunners in renewable energy and so economically I’m sure we’ll be able to sustain ourselves.

“A lot of countries, when they get independence don’t have the transition we have. We’ve already got devolved powers and established precedent as well and so immigration, taxation, these are big issues but they’ll require full processes, but we’ve already got the foundations in place.”

Electrician David Bolton, 36, is confident indyref2 is coming. He doesn’t talk politics at work – his colleagues don’t share his views – but is optimistic about the future. “I’d like to think it’ll be a Yes,” he said.

The Glasgow dad attended the rally with partner Kat Clark and their eight-month-old son Lewis, who slept peacefully in his pram as speakers including Justice Minister Humza Yousaf and National columnist Paul Kavanagh made their voices heard.

“I want a better future for my son,” said 30-year-old Clark, who runs sports therapy business Sports Life Work.

“I want him to have a future where his say counts, where he can do what he wants and we stay within the European Union and the nukes are off our shores, a safe country to group up in that has equal opportunities for everybody.

“I voted Yes the last time but this time I feel it’s even more important.”

That sense of urgency has been with retired languages teacher Jane Russell, of Bishopton, for decades now. “I’ve been fighting and campaigning for independence since the 70s,” she explained, “and I just want to see an independent Scotland taking control of our own resources, both in terms of land and people, for my children and my grandchildren. It’s the old cliche. But they’re true.”