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The Attraction of Scotland's Yes Campaign in One of Glasgow's Suburbs

Young pro-independence activists from Glasgow’s impoverished Easterhouse suburb explain why they’re fed up with Scotland’s Union with Britain.

by Jake Hanrahan
Sep 19 2014, 2:40am

Photo par AP/Matt Dunham

In Glasgow's impoverished Easterhouse suburb, it's easy to see why many residents there live with a sense of hopelessness. Walking past row upon row of abandoned flats with metal grills drilled into where the windows and doors used to be, young pro-independence activists explained to me why they're fed up with Scotland's Union with Britain.

"Independence is a way out of this for us," said an 18-year-old Scottish Socialist. "Look at this place. What have we really got to lose?"

In an area where the life expectancy for a young man like him is only 53-years-old, he had a point.

I'd arrived in Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, on Thursday to cover the referendum. It looked to be a potentially life changing event, as the country would finally decide whether or not it wants to sever its 307-year-old union with England to go it alone. The ballot paper has the simple question of "Should Scotland be an independent country?" with an answer of yes or no.

Scotland wraps up a historic day of voting as the first referendum results are declared. Read more here.

I made my way to George Square in Glasgow's city center, where hundreds of yes voters had gathered to listen to a speech made by politician Tommy Sheridan, who was growling into a microphone about socialism, Nelson Mandela, and everyone being his "brothers and sisters." Sheridan, a staunch socialist and vehement pro-independence campaigner, had the crowd transfixed for the better part of 15 minutes.

"This referendum tomorrow is not about the millionaires, it's about the millions!" he shouted.

Sheridan is a well-built pillar of a man, with the blue-collar charisma of a bar fighter. Every time he screamed into the microphone, the crowd screamed back. There was a tidal wave of symbolic saltires, yes posters, and giant blue pointy hands.

"In the words of the immortal nelson Mandela," Sheridan continued. "May your life choices be informed by hope, not by fear!"

"No more fear!" the crowd chanted back.

Residents of England's northernmost town share their thoughts on Scottish independence. Read more here.

There was so much conviction and emotion among the crowd that the attraction of the yes campaign, based on solidarity alone, was obvious. While not the best foundation for building a successful independent country, all those present seemed adamant that they could do it.

As the night wore on I found myself amongst a group of Loyalist no supporters. There were maybe 20 of them hemmed on to one side of the road while hundreds of yes supporters chanted at them from the other.

"It's a disgrace," screamed one unionist supporter. "[The yes voters] have had the square to themselves for three nights in a row!"

The no supporters weren't doing themselves any favors though. One young lad who told me he was from the impoverished east end of Glasgow, tied a union jack around his face like a ninja mask, hopped up onto a wall and unravelled a big Orange Order flag for all the pro-independence supporters to see. The police moved in and pulled him down as roaring and booing came from across the street. Despite the minor aggression, the police managed to keep both sides separated.

The next day, on the eve of the referendum vote, Glasgow was tense. An unprecedented 97 percent of people in Scotland had registered to vote. It showed. Everywhere you went people were talking about voting, independence and the union.

Tomorrow will prove whether all the grass roots community efforts of the yes campaign — which as far as I could tell are immense — will give Scotland its independence from what many see as an imperialist monster at Westminister, or if the more silent protest of the no campaign will keep Scotland and England's 307 year relationship together. 

UK's nuclear missiles could be headed for the US if Scotland wins independence. Read more here.

United Kingdom
Nelson Mandela
union jack
Orange Order
Yes campaign
Tommy Sheridan
George Square