ALL Under One Banner is grateful to the Scottish Independence Foundation (SIF) and The National for this opportunity to write to everyone, updating you about what has happened so far this year and also sharing some information about our plans for the immediate future and further ahead. We will talk about what we had planned for 2020 before the restrictions were imposed, how we adjusted to lockdown, and how we are looking forward to the future.

The resilience and determination of the independence movement is one of the touchstones of the campaign. In 2014 some people thought that they had quashed us, but we simply grew stronger. In 2020 others have written with astonishing but unsurprising naivety that “Covid could torpedo independence for Scotland”. If only these writers spent a little more time watching and listening in Scotland and a little less time polishing their military metaphors with which they seek the attention of their masters in Westminster.

In case anyone does not know what AUOB is for, we organise marches and rallies in support of independence for Scotland. These inclusive, happy, noisy demonstrations show to the world why civic nationalism is the route to living in a small European nation which is at peace with itself and its neighbours and which gives priority to looking after the people who choose to live and work here.

We play one part in the broad Yes movement, bringing people together and giving them the opportunity to be seen and heard on the streets of the towns and cities where they live.

In some ways 2020 began as expected – a schedule of monthly marches was in place from April in Arbroath to October in Edinburgh. Otherwise, January was unusual. In response to the General Election in December 2019, we called an emergency march in Glasgow. That event attracted in excess of 80,000 people who braved gale-force winds and horizontal rain to show their relentless resolve to assert the right to decide Scotland’s future. The sight of so many people participating in the teeth of a Scottish winter was inspiring, as was the sight of so many folks dancing under the bridge at Clyde Street.

February marked an evolution for us when we hosted the first AUOB Assembly. Representatives from Yes groups, SIF and other activists debated the way forward for the movement. Everyone was keen to discuss what we could do to accelerate the journey to independence. Then in mid-March, not long before lockdown was imposed, we realised that everything was about to change. Before the First Minister formally announced that mass gatherings were prohibited, we postponed the Arbroath march to April 2021. This was a blow to everyone who was looking forward to a fantastic weekend but it was also well-received by the independence movement who recognised that we were behaving responsibly and acting in the best interests of all the people of Scotland, not just those who were planning to attend the event. Once the lockdown was imposed, everyone’s world changed and for AUOB it was clear that the marches arranged for Glasgow and Peebles would also have to be postponed.

It was at this point that we drew on the resilience and determination of the movement and switched our offline activities into an online world. Broadcasting Scotland proposed to AUOB a live online ceilidh could be broadcast to mark what would have been the Arbroath march. I’m a musician and singer-songwriter, so agreed to host the show, which had a variety of artists joining via Skype and then broadcast on YouTube. It was a great success and so it was agreed that online ceilidhs would be broadcast for every AUOB march that has been postponed. The AUOB Peebles Ceilidh is on Broadcasting Scotland this Saturday at 7pm.

We are keen to do more online, so we began by hosting a talk on Zoom with the writer Murray Armstrong, who has recently published a book on the 1820 radical uprising. This was a great success and fuelled the desire for more Zoom events, so we also hosted an evening with George Kerevan. We will host at least one of these Zoom events every month for the foreseeable future.

All of the marches and rallies planned for 2020 have been postponed to the same weekends in 2021 and this has allowed us to focus on future plans. Just as we adapted to lockdown, we will adapt to the future. We will play our full part in maintaining and expanding the campaign and so we will call a press conference on Tuesday, June 23, when we will outline our position and set out our plans for the months ahead, continuing online and also returning to the streets of Scotland until independence is won.

Neil Mackay runs All Under One Banner