AN online gathering of independence supporters is being planned to replace a march marking the 700th anniversary of Arbroath, which was called off due to coronavirus.

Thousands had been expected to take part in the All Under One Banner (AUOB) rally in Arbroath on April 4, but it was postponed last week amid growing concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers are now appealing to independence supporters to capture the spirit of the march through taking part in online activities on the day instead.

The plans include gathering as many pictures as possible of people and places with Saltires and streaming events such as music and speeches.

Andrew Wilson, from AUOB, said the majority of people had backed the action to call off the march with the coronavirus crisis escalating.

“There has been huge support from the movement, huge understanding and I have been speaking to the police who commented about how almost everyone was positive about the step that has been taken,” he said.

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“In that sense, it has been the right thing to do, although it is a huge disappointment. The current plan is that we have not cancelled the march, we have postponed it.

“However we are now facing an important weekend for Scottish history and there is no march on – so the question was what are we going to do?

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“People started to make suggestions to us during the week. At the moment we are still three weeks away, so there are no fully formed solutions and ideas yet – but we are looking for input and we are also looking for support to do whatever it is we do.”

The Arbroath event was one of a series of AUOB marches planned this year, but was particularly significant as it was due to happen in the week marking the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

One of the most famous documents in Scottish history, it was written by the barons and nobles of Scotland to Pope John XXII, asking him to acknowledge the country’s independence and Robert the Bruce as Scotland’s lawful king.

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Wilson said AUOB was keen to try to translate the key aspects of its marches into the “new world and environment” resulting from measures being taken to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

He said one focus was replicating the visibility of the Saltires and flags which characterise the events, which could include having flags flying from bridges.

“We are wondering about people either putting flags in their window or flying flags in their gardens and sending us pictures of that,” he said.

“There could be people generally carrying or holding or showing Saltires wherever they are and sharing that with us.

“We would put that all together so we would try and have just as many Saltires online as we would have in front of us in real life if we were running the march.”

He added it was hoped an online hub would be set up where people could share their photographs.

“We might get a particular flag for that day, given it is the 700th anniversary – we haven’t designed anything yet, but it is certainly kicking about as an idea,” he said.

Wilson said another aspect of the marches was around people enjoying themselves “no matter what age they are, where they are from, or what their background is”.

Events could be live-streamed or held virtually, such as a tour of Arbroath Abbey or music performances.

He added: “We could have folk sharing videos or pictures of themselves at home, supporting independence, with a range of online parties and events.

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“Even though we can’t be in Arbroath and we are not marching, I am wondering if the pipers scattered across the country could stream or send video of them playing bagpipes in different parts of Scotland, which we could bring together.

“Those are some of the ideas we have already had, but we are also looking for folks to contribute and share with us what independence means to them and what marching for independence means to them.

“I think there will be a number of things which demonstrate and underline the size and resilience of the independence movement online in these very unusual circumstances.”

Wilson appealed for ideas to be sent to AUOB through its Twitter, Facebook or website. He said harnessing the spirit of community of the independence movement was also important, particularly at this time.

“People understand the circumstances and we need to do something to react to that overwhelming positive response, to channel it and make sure people see it,” he said.

“In a sense, one of the aspects of the marches is for independence supporters to meet each other and see each other and be reminded of how large and how powerful and how positive the movement is.

“If we can translate that online then that would be a good thing.”