WE were absolutely astounded to read that one of our SNP MPs and a former Cabinet secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is advocating for an independence rally with “unprecedented” numbers in attendance whilst we remain in such a precarious position in our fight against the coronavirus.

We say this as dedicated activists who have attended the majority of marches and rallies since 2014 come rain or shine. A particular highlight was The National’s George Square rally in November last year. The atmosphere was family friendly, optimistic just like all pro-indy marches are. Looking over the sea of Saltires, we were proud to be part of this inclusive, diverse group of individuals coming together to show our opposition to Boris and his cronies and our support for Scotland to choose another path.

Alongside that, these incredibly vibrant marches which conjure an almost carnival-like atmosphere serve a vital role in keeping our activists and supporters energised and showing the growing momentum our movement has. Our marches are the very antithesis of the kind of the Unionist thuggery entwined with intolerance and bigotry which is on display at almost every “counter-demonstration”.

However, in the midst of a global pandemic, with our suppression of this incredibly infectious virus at a crucial tipping point, and countries across the globe experiencing the beginnings of a second wave – is gathering together thousands of our own supporters and activists in close proximity really the best idea? You would think the answer to that question would be obvious. We cannot believe the point has to be made to one of our senior MPs that this a major risk to public health. Not only that it could well lead to the deaths of many of our own activists and their extended families. That is how serious this is. It is an absolute dereliction of his duty to the public to be advocating for this.

It’s also an incredibly surprising position for Kenny to be taking considering his famous “I’m tired of marching” speech he gave when he was speaking in favour of Nato membership at that infamous 2012 SNP conference debate. Unlike him we have always been in favour of marches and now is one of the only times we need to put our marches on hold.

We cannot believe we are having to stress this but it’s about people’s lives. If we don’t follow the guidance, people will die. This isn’t about politics.

We only need to look at the news from Aberdeen yesterday to see how easily this virus can spread when we let our guard down. The First Minister has said the scenes of lax social distancing (not to mention the fact an Aberdeen pub has been identified as a source of a local outbreak) “made her want to cry”. Can you imagine how any of us would feel if an independence march was the centre of a new outbreak?

We have built up immense goodwill in the handling of this pandemic as it highlights the benefits of Scotland being able to choose a different path. Time and time again, our friends and family have been telling us how they feel so much safer to be living in Scotland. Independence support is at the highest level it’s ever been. This march will sacrifice all of that good for the sake of satisfying an urge of certain individuals to be seen to be doing something.

We cannot wait to attend the next march following this pandemic amongst thousands of our friends and independence family.

The key question we need to ask is are we happy to very possibly see some of our fellow activists and their extended families in an ICU ward or, god forbid, dying as a result of attending an independence march while Covid is still a very real threat. In politics, these words are often over used but this time – it literally is a matter of life and death.