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By Jason Michael

It is estimated that over 100 thousand people marched through Edinburgh for independence on Saturday, making it the biggest show of popular support for independence on record. The weather was fantastic and the atmosphere electric. Watching a sea of saltires and Yes flags parading down the Royal Mile, down past the Scottish parliament, and out into the expanse of Holyrood Park in the sunshine was a vision to behold. This was heart-warming stuff. So, before I go on to drop a little shade on one particular aspect of the event, it is only right to acknowledge what the All Under One Banner (AUOB) organisers achieved. They pulled off something that has shown the British establishment and its lackey media that the independence movement in this country has become, as Martin Hannan put it, “an irresistible force ready to sweep away all the dams and barriers that have stood in our way for too long.”

We are all aware of the position taken by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the public body tasked with caring for and promoting Scotland’s historical environments. Quite unnecessarily – in my own opinion – HES decided not to allow a political rally in Holyrood Park. On 26 September the body released a statement stating:

[We] have not granted permission for the set up of stalls, staging, branding and other static presence within Holyrood Park. As a non-departmental public body, HES must remain politically neutral at all times and we do not permit political events of any nature to take place within our Properties in Care.

People would not be stopped from marching and no one would be prohibited from going into the park. HES, in liaison with Police Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, said it would facilitate the march, but felt – for the purposes of remaining politically neutral – it could not allow a political rally on the green. With or without permission, most of us who had decided to attend the march had decided we would be rallying on the park. On the Thursday before the march I published a blog post stating my own intention to disobey whatever authority attempted to stop us holding a pro-independence rally. At this point we were all on the same page.

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On the Friday, the day before the march was to take place, while I was travelling from Dublin to Glasgow news broke that AUOB had won the right to rally in the park. After an emergency meeting with HES, City of Edinburgh Council, Police Scotland, and representatives of the Scottish parliament AUOB made the following announcement:

We are proud to announce that Police Scotland have made an executive decision in the interests of health & safety and public order to facilitate our stance that we are rallying at Holyrood Park and are implementing emergency powers to make this happen.

The following day people came in their thousands to Edinburgh to march through the city and rally in the park in the belief this had all been sanctioned by the police, the city council, and HES. Elderly and disabled people came, families with children attended, and independence supporters with their famous and infamous ‘indy dugs’ came in abundance. In the days before the march people were voicing their concerns on social media that there might be some hassle, with the possibility that we might have to face police truncheons and run the risk of arrest to get to the park. On the morning of the march all that had evaporated. Folk were excited and felt at ease. This was certainly the feeling in the air as we walked down the Royal Mile. There was no trouble. The police were wonderful and all smiles. You’d never know they had recently changed their Twitter profile picture to the unionist ‘Yawn’ logo of Scotland in Union.

Shortly after the start of the rally, however, it was brought to my attention that everything was not as above board as we had been led to believe. One of the men I was walking with passed me his phone, on which there a statement published to the HES website open. It read:

Our position on use of the Park for any rally after the march remains the same. It has not been overruled by Police Scotland. To confirm, we have not given permission for the set-up of stalls, staging, branding and other static presence within Holyrood Park.

This was dated the day before and so must have been a response to the announcement made by the AUOB organisers. Someone was telling porky pies; either HES was trying to save face or AUOB was pulling a fast one to ensure a large turnout. Either way, this situation had me furious. No one seemed to know what the truth was and a number of those around me were upset with what was happening. Once the rally was over, when we had all had some nosh and were safely enjoying the craic in the pub, shortly after midnight, Mandeep (“Manny”) Singh, one of the AUOB organisers, posted what was frankly a disturbing message to his Facebook page:

Oh by the way police never backed us. Small white lie. The person who represented them tried his hardest to make us go to parliament… When we went this morning many things could have happened. You may ask why the white lie. Because if we said we will go and set up on land without permission many people would have started crying and backing HES… this could affect numbers what they have always wanted to do. They were never going to budge. So we made a decision we would not bend a knee… Sorry for the lie but it was for the greater good. Me, Gary, Neil did what we did. Someone had to lead… I come from a long line of fighters. My ancestors were at war since the 7th century against the Islamic invasions.

I have no idea what my ancestors were up to in the seventh century – probably picking fights with Angles, Saxons, and Danes and roasting the odd Christian missionary, but, and considering the light in which the British political establishment would like to put Scottish nationalism, there really was no need for this reference to Islamic invasions. Manny is a Sikh and is referencing the historical experience of northern India, but not everyone is going to get that.

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Back to the lie. Manny himself calls it a lie and says that it was a premeditated mendacity, the result of a decision made by a number of the AUOB organisers – Manny, Gary, and Neil. My first issue with the lie is that it was a lie. The irony is that we are an independence movement; struggling for the freedom to make our own decisions. How can we make informed decisions when those leading us – “Someone had to lead” – are telling us lies, getting us to do what they think is for “the greater good” under false pretences? By telling this lie AUOB – and no doubt with the very best of intentions – took from us our agency, making decisions for us and ensuring our compliance with a fabrication. That leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. I want to make informed decisions and be in a position to give informed consent based on facts. This is one reason I am an independentista.

Lies are corrosive to political movements. Sure, they wanted to ensure we had a massive turnout – and we understand that – but that AUOB lied about what the police had said – which may even actually be a criminal offence – means our trust in what it says in future is damaged. It may come as news to some, but independence movements are sometimes the target of police violence. Of course, we want to keep things democratic and peaceful in Scotland, but in the event things ever go a little Barcelona we really need to know that those organising and leading marches and mass political rallies are giving us the absolute truth and all the pertinent facts – all of the time.

Manny said it himself: “…many things could have happened.” I am a seasoned activist. I have been at protests that have turned into riots. I have seen mounted police baton charges. I have sat down in front of public order police and their dog units. I have been water cannoned and pepper sprayed. I even know what tear gas smells like. Trust me, I know many things could have happened. That it never went pear-shaped is no excuse for taking this sort of risk with people’s safety. On the morning of the march, as Manny admits, not one of the organisers knew how it would play out and the vast majority of those on the march were completely in the dark – trusting the lie they were told.

Had the police decided – as was indeed their right – to block the route from the parliament to the park, had they started dismantling the stand and the stalls, it would have only taken the actions of one or two hot heads to spark a riot and a more forceful police response. Police Edinburgh has already shown its support for the union. We can be in little doubt, in spite of the good humour of the officers we all saw, that there are at least some in their number who would love nothing more than to put a few of us in our place. Even without police heavy-handedness, a panic spreading over a crowd of that size would have been catastrophic. Those are narrow streets. Can we imagine people trying to flee the police or in blind panic while others are trying to protect small children, their elderly or disabled friends and relatives, their small dogs? We need to engage our brains here.

As I have already said, I was willing – and I blogged and tweeted as much – to disobey the police and any other authority in order to get to the park. Civil disobedience is an important instrument in the toolkit of any political movement. Without bringing violence, I and many others were willing and prepared to put it up to the police and assert our right to demonstrate our will at the time and place of our choosing. But not everyone could have done this. No way would I bring toddlers, small children, or even teenagers to an event where there was even the remotest chance of a police standoff. Not everyone even agrees that standing off against the police is the right course of action. People came and people brought their children and animals because they trusted a statement that was an out and out deliberate lie designed to achieve the goal of a very small group of organisers.

Okay, it is done now. There was no trouble and no one was hurt. Everyone I met on the Mile and in the park had a great time. Everyone was happy and excited. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I am glad it happened. I am thrilled we made it the biggest pro-independence event yet. But this might have been very different. As we get closer to independence, when the police may well be deployed against us as is now the case in Catalonia, there will be other marches and rallies where putting it up to the police is a crucial piece of the pie. People have to be fully informed. They have to have all the facts all of the time so they can make their own minds up.

I am writing this piece aware that some reading it might be very angry with me. We have seen how people were mobilised against employees of HES and how some have been treated on social media for speaking out against this lie. One source inside HES has told me that once AUOB encouraged people to complain, the “phone [was] going mental with folk complaining.” One employee was even called a “Tory f-ing pig” by an angry man who then shouted down the line he “hopes all of HES’s employees die!” Alex Patterson, the chief executive of HES, had to visit telephonists in person to apologise for “all the shit” they had had to take. Yes, this happened. That’s always what happens when you rile up a mob and set it loose. I am aware some might now want to point their rage at me. I am prepared for that.

We are better than this. We are not a mob. We are not thugs. We are hundreds of thousands of ordinary decent Scottish people struggling together for the independence of our country – for a better future. Better futures do not start with idiotic bampot behaviour and bully tactics, and they do not start with lies and deception. My hope here – and sincerely – is to be constructive. Manny and all the people behind AUOB are doing a spectacular job, but this was a mistake. What I am asking for is simple: No more stirring up the mob and no more wee white lies.

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Merrion Row Clashes – Dublin November 3rd 2010


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35 thoughts on “No More Wee White Lies

  1. I agree with you, Jason. We cannot condone lies. As you say, it could have had dangerous consequences if the police had decided to stop us going into the park. I am glad that cooler heads prevailed as many disabled, elderly and children may not have been so safe. I am thankful to the police. However I would still have attended the march if I had known the truth, even at the age of 75.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely spot on here Jason. “Little White Lies” can bounce back and seriously bite you on the bum!
    We get enough lies and half truths from MSM and other political parties,we certainly don’t want to be complicit in the myth that honesty isn’t really important towards one’s political ends.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely agree with you. It does not sit well with me criticising AUOB because I know what a thankless, uphill difficult task organising even the most modest public event is and as you say, AUOB have done a magnificent and admirable job with very little in the way of resources so far. However telling a lie about permission to rally in Hollyrood Park was dangerous. Yes, everything went well on the day but what happens next time? Some marchers will have doubts I’m sure and I can’t imagine the police will continue to be so sympathetic to the Indy movement if their decisions have been lied about previously. This could well have an impact on the permissions granted for future marches. I’m surprised Police Scotland haven’t made any statement about the whole thing though. I suspect we don’t yet know the whole story even now.

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  4. The vast majority of us who support independence behave with dignity and respect to those who hold a different point of view. This is necessary if we wish to persuade them see another path. After all it is their decisions that hold the key to Scotland’s return to self-government.
    There is a danger, as with all mass movements, that there will be within the ranks, a small minority of people who behave unreasonably and show an ugly face to those that disagree with them. Any such behaviour we can expect to be seized on gleefuly by the British nationalist media. Let’s hope this can at least be kept to a minimum.

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  5. I agree with your take on things. Actually, I’m sure that the stands and stage could have been set up at the Parliament. Salisbury Crags makes a great amphitheatre. The sound system was so good I could hear the speeches quite a way up. No need for lies.

    When I first heard about the political ban on HES properties I thought that was appropriate for inside but not in a public park. But the more I think about it, I would have no objection to the Tory party having a fundraiser in Stirling Castle. What’s the problem? The terms of reference for HES should be changed.

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    1. Actually I think that’s a bit harsh. They were most definitely wrong to lie to us all and I hope that doesn’t come back to bite them on future marches. They have made an amazing contribution to the YES campaign by bringing all groups together with marches all over Scotland and for that I thank them. Perhaps they should apologise to all for the lie and guarantee that this will not be repeated in the future.

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    2. Isabel, they have brought the movement down. But what you say is true, they have made an amazing contribution. Both these things can be true. All that we are asking as that they own the lie – which they are not doing – and apologise. We can and will move on, but this shouldn’t happen again.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for your article. There is no place for wee white lies. Had the truth been told there would still have been tens of thousands marching on the day. Given that the crowd on the day appeared to consist of many more females than males it would have been a brave police force that attempted to stop them. As I have been saying for some time now, Scotland’s women are leading us to our Independence. It has ever been thus, we only move forward when our women get us by the scruff. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well said, Jason. We Scots don’t need any more lies from anyone with any political agenda.

    I sincerely hope that Scottish independence is secured by entirely peaceful democratic processes but recognised that they may not work. In that case, Scots have the absolute right to decide for themselves if they wish to be involved with a political cause that chooses to use non-peaceful or unlawful means. The Independence movement has no right to suck people into potentially confrontational situations without their informed consent.

    I suspect there will be repercussions for next time resulting from AUOB’s actions this time round. This is not at all helpful in the long run.

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  8. The well has been poisoned.

    How can we ever trust it again. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    Leave the lying to the Yoons.

    It chills my blood to think what could have happened because people would think the decision to allow the march had been overturned, and would have been doubly indignant and likely very angry. There would have been some very short fuses even amongst reasonable people then.

    As you say, it’s terrifying to think of the consequences of an unruly mob with all those children around.

    Idiots!

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    1. OMG. It looks like some in AUOB decided to use the movement as their own personal foot soldiers.

      I always understood the power of YES was that it was a coming together of Scottish individuals into a collective movement. In essence the YES is akin to an avalanche….every particle brings equal power to the movement..when it takes hold it is so much more powerful than a cause that is only driven by a few leaders. History has shown that those who decide to use the movement are their own personal agendas are given short shrift.

      For all those who decried why SNP did not mention the AOUB march in Glasgow at the previous conference….Can you imagine the media frenzy if the SNP was associated with this.

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  9. This guy Mandeep Singh sounds mentally unbalanced, to be honest. Why all the weird raving about fighting against Muslims and the British? What does that have to do with a peaceful march? Angry, sleekit extremists like this are dangerous, and endanger others. He went into the thing lying, and with a violent, my-ancestors-are-warriors deranged mindset. He should not be allowed to organise any more AUOB events; neither should his two mendacious cohorts. Singh’s post was deeply, deeply troubling, and has brought disrepute on the independence movement, making people distrust AUOB now. Slow handclap to the lying, crowd-endangering fools involved. We can do without your type. At least nobody was hurt. Or there would have been Hell to pay.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I actually just looked at this man Singh’s Facebook page. There is a post on it about the march that reads like this:

    ‘So i made a post saying how we went ahead without permission. In the post i used the word white lie. I did not think in the buzz of the moment. I used the wrong terminology. Did not think people would take it literally. In my mind it was like parents telling thier kids about Santa.

    I apologise. No independence supporters were lied to. We just knew what police were going to do in the morning and invoke emergency powers and over rule Hes and thier ridiculous parks and regulations nonsense. Once we told them we were going ahead after using certain legislation. And only us three would face any subsequent actions and consequences regarding Hes.

    If i have upset anyone please accept my apology. No one was tricked. Just information said earlier to give people a morale boost. So they would come out no matter what. I hope this clears everything up we have always been open and transparent. I don’t know who else is open and honest as us. We also admit our faults..

    I hope this is acceptable.

    Manny Singh’

    So this man thinks of other Scottish people as ‘children’ to be told about ‘Santa.’ What a condescending, patrician, odd attitude. ‘No independence supporters were lied to.’ ‘No one was tricked.’ Except for, well everyone that marched…who were lied to, and tricked. Looking at this man’s Facebook page, he comes across as very angry, and spewing anti-English, anti-Muslim bile, as bad as anything Glasgow produces in its tired Proddy-vs-Tim eternal sectarian battle. I do not trust this man. At all. He seems very self-righteous and pompous and condescending and angry. And looking at a recent photo of him, he seems to have suffered some sort of serious head injury; I wonder if this has negatively affected him. I am not joking. He is clearly not of a rational, stable temperament; go check for yourselves.

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100027567403690

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Entirely agree. When we lie deliberately we make ourselves as bad as the Unionists for whom lying is as natural as breathing. We need to be better than this. Hopefully lessons have been learned.

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  12. Manny Singh is a compulsive liar as is Neil McKay is a racist n Gary Kelly is a vile racist Manny Singh sends disgusting pics making threats to people who challenge him Neil McKay is a crook he fraudulently obtained well inexcess of £1600 by buying likes to promote auob Ltd by stealing from Robbie Allen’s credit card thus committing fraud now there accounts are false as he’ll there paying them selfs they put up collection amounts from each march n individual costings the min they put false accounts up the postings by Sean Mellon disappeared off Mitch last post y because it proves they don’t match what they originally said with the false accounts they recently posted there having these marches to con people out of thousands n thousands of pounds whilst these marches are a good thing no one should profit period if you challenge them they lie to people Neil McKay n Manny Singh call snap activists of 40 odd yrs bastards any one who calls a woman such vile names is disgusting person it’s all a con by wannabes there conning people there that greedy they have put up a £20000 crowdfunder if it’s all volunteers then there is no need for these idiots to collect money illegally end of story

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  13. If, as is claimed, Mandeep Singh knew Police Scotland were going to invoke emergency powers to enable the rally (stage, PA, stalls etc.) then, in effect, there was tacit permission to proceed. Instead of rattling the bars over possibly duplicity, step back and consider the potential consequences of this not having happened and, also, that we may never know who leaned on whom to break the circular firing squad.

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  14. I was actually disappointed to see a stage had been set up, as was looking forward to peaceful picnic and a sing song. Set my picnic up far back from the stage in order to ignore it. As for HES at the end of the day they where only following their clearly set out rules, which in the past had also been applied to better together!

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  15. I think it sets a dangerous precedent to those of other views. They may choose to try and enjoy the same grace give to this rally to march and rally wherever they like by dint of force of numbers. This was a rash decision that may come back to haunt us.

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  16. While I agree with the general principle of no lies, I have to say the only lie was that “the Police backed us”. The fact that the Police said , depending on the numbers, they would enable emergency powers meant that there was, because of the Police’s good sense, no danger to the marchers. So in reality the Police had it right as they have to appear neutral and did the only thing they could do to protect the safety of the marchers.
    No more white lies please. We need to protect our integrity!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I had completely missed this blatant lie but I agree with you. Given the numbers the rally had descended into a pointless ego driven farce frankly – all over by the time we arrived & we were at about 40% of the march. These actions now perturb me, that someone claims to lead me? Takes decisions like this not just with my safety but my reputation, credibility and honesty is simply not on! Earlier ego driven in my opinion misguided posts challenging FM to speak were what nearly made me not march. Good leadership wouldve been a different approach. Toxic leadership creates this sort of situation sadly. I will think carefully about marching again. Id like an apology too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With strong views like this could you be persuaded to take part in the “leadership” of AUOB?
      To me AUOB means “ALL” UOB therefore all views.
      AUOB admitted/owned their “lie”on their post on FB. Some form of apology might go some way to making them admit it was a mistake and seemed like a lack of trust in us AUOB supporters to know the truth and judge for themselves.
      Reality check
      Police Scotland said they would asses the situation depending on the number of participants. This was good judgement on their part as they are required to protect our safety and, appear, neutral.
      I knew that when I marched. So why the “White Lie”. Poor judgement.

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  18. To be frank, I think your article takes away from the excellent job AUOB did in getting the march up running and going off without any trouble which I am sure many extremist unionists would have loved, certainly the UK MSM would.

    This quibbling is much in the vein of the supposed split in SNP over Alex Salmond’s Fundraiser – intended to divide the movement – and you are aiding and abetting them.

    Remember that HES were the ones who brought this whole situation about. They are the ones who tried to refuse access and refused permission stalls. They really should consider that they are Historic Environment Scotland, not Historic Environment Britain, and as such they are answerable to the people of Scotland. .

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