Glasgow, Scotland – Tens of thousands of pro-independence supporters rallied on the streets of Glasgow on Saturday despite torrential rain and high winds, calling for a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom.
Organisers estimated almost 80,000 took part in the march as strong gusts swept through Glasgow.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
Some carried Saltires – Scotland’s national flag – while flags of Palestine, England and the Spanish region of Catalonia were also seen in the passionate crowd that had come from all over Scotland to take part.
Banners messages including “We’re not anti-English, we’re pro-Scottish” while homage was paid to the pro-Catalan independence movement in Spain.
A small group of counter-protesters held a demonstration nearby, waving British flags in support of the UK.
The pro-independence march was organised by All Under One Banner (AUOB) – a Scottish independence pressure group established in 2014 just one month after voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55-45 percent in the UK constituent nation’s first sovereignty referendum.
“We don’t usually do winter events,” Gary Kelly, lead named organiser of AUOB, told Al Jazeera.
“We called this one due to exceptional political circumstances,” he said, referring to last month’s UK-wide general election that saw Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure a majority in Parliament and the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) take 48 out of 59 Scottish seats.
But despite the SNP’s success – and its continued dominance of the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh where it has been the governing party since its maiden victory in 2007 – Kelly lamented the UK government’s refusal to sanction another independence vote.
Speaking before the march, one protester told Al Jazeera that with local and national press still overwhelmingly supporting Scotland’s place within the union, such peaceful acts of defiance against the UK were the only way to make public displays of support for an independent Scotland.
“Given the way the media works, and given the propaganda machine you’re up against, the only way that you can sometimes show the visible support that there is for Scottish independence is through the very traditional and very old fashioned one of having these large demonstrations,” argued Willy Maley, a professor at the University of Glasgow.
Many pro-independence campaigners told Al Jazeera they preferred watching coverage on foreign channels.
Support for Scottish independence has fluctuated between the 45 to 50 percent mark, according to opinion polls.
Campaigners hope that the UK’s forthcoming departure from the European Union will push support beyond the 50 percent needed to secure independence. In the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership, Scotland – along with Northern Ireland – voted overwhelmingly to remain in the bloc, contrary to England and Wales.
A second referendum?
Non-party political, the AUOB has organised many marches recently across much of Scotland – including Edinburgh and the Scottish borders, with more planned this year – and has become a “hugely significant” part of the Scottish independence movement, according to political commentator and author Gerry Hassan.
“These are people putting these together off their own bat,” said Hassan. “What it tells you is that ongoing story of political power and authority shifting in Scotland.”
Passing through some of Glasgow’s iconic streets, including Kelvinway and Jamaica Street, the demonstrators battled the weather over some three miles, ending the march at the Glasgow Green park in the city’s east.
A rally was supposed to take place there but was cancelled due to the weather.
While a planned second referendum on independence this year is being pursued by SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, it remains to be seen whether she can get the UK Parliament to agree to another poll, let alone persuade a majority of voters in Scotland to vote for statehood.
Referring to the different nationalities in Scotland who have pledged support for independence, Kelly was proud of the turnout on Saturday.
“This is what Scotland is totally all about – being inclusive,” said the AUOB organiser.
“If you want to come to Scotland and live in Scotland, you’re classed as Scottish. You’re not a foreigner.”