George Galloway and I launch our campaign by filming a ‘Potemkin rally’ in the pub carpark – all that we can do during lockdown.
We are met by the village loudmouth, ostentatiously masked by a black scarf against the Covid on the cold March breeze. “What’s going on here? Did you no see the saltires as you drove in? We don’t want you and your Union here.” He patrols the one street in the village while we are filming, just in case any ‘Yoons’ think about joining in.
Despite this several older people do come and quietly give us words of encouragement, “We’ll be voting for you George. Good luck.”
Later I speak to a retired police sergeant, who comes up to greet me and meet George. An ex-soldier, like me, with whom I parade at the war memorial each Remembrance Sunday. I have him down as a floating voter and probable Unionist. He and George blether about football. George has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and had trials for several Scottish clubs in his youth.
Then the bombshell:
“I’m sorry but I’m going to vote SNP this time. I want independence. I want to do it for my boy here.”
George looks astonished. “Seriously? After all the failures and the sleaze and corruption that’s coming out? You still trust them?”
“Och they are just as bad in Westminster, what about the corruption down there?”
The standard excuse, how depressing. No they really, really aren’t.
He then proceeds to tell us, without any doubt or irony, how Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK, something that has apparently been suppressed since Denis Healey took the decision to classify the exact amount back in the 1970s. And, without the dead weight of the rest of the UK, Scotland will definitely have a much brighter future, especially when we get back into Europe, he opines.
Our amazed rejoinders about the black and white evidence of the GERS figures showing Scottish reliance of the Barnett Formula fall on deaf ears. He doesn’t buy the near impossibility of getting back into the EU either. As Mark Twain said, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.”
And there you have the nationalist formula ladies and gentlemen: Intimidation on the streets…The Big Lie Theory, patented in Nazi Germany and still being put to good use by the SNP…sprinkled with ‘whitabootery’ – the Teflon coating that smothers any criticism of the Great Helmswoman.
Later that night Unionists on Twitter erupt with Gotcha tweets after David Davis’s hammer blows in the House of Commons. The Ceausescu Moment is surely, surely imminent.
The next morning BBC Scotland and STV hardly report it. Our friendly police sergeant will barely have caught it, and, if he did, all he will remember is “Nicola Sturgeon dismissed allegations….”
Next up is Ayr. As we cast our words into the salt air of the Irish Sea on the beach front for the benefit of passers-by, and journalists from the Scotsman and Daily Mail, two single vapour trails cross in a clear blue sky behind us in the shape of the Saltire, a happy omen.
We appear to be well received by the townsfolk then our security people draw my attention to a large 4×4 across the road. It has two men wearing sunglasses in it and SNP stickers in the windscreen. One of them is talking into a phone, the other stares at us fixedly.
“The opposition have turned up. They have been watching us for a while.”
Suddenly I am back on patrol in Northern Ireland. There we would frequently be subjected to ‘dicking’ where IRA sympathisers would satellite patrols, reporting our whereabouts to the terrorists. Often it was done overtly and deliberately to intimidate young soldiers.
As we disperse the police turn up. They have had an illegal gathering reported to them. They are satisfied by our explanation and we go on our way. But it leaves a bad taste.
The more we get into this election the more we realise what our country has become and the more our resolve hardens. To be continued…
Jamie Blackett is leader of All for Unity (the Alliance for Unity). Follow him on Twitter @Jamie_Blackett.