Ach weel - Chris Harvie engaged in an extended historical lecture on the faults and foibles of the UK. Bill Butler replied with a peroration on how a working-class Glaswegian has more in common with a working-class cockney than she does with a middle-class Glaswegian and other suchlike things, protesting his belief in the right to self-determination. I had a wee rant on how Scotland would be better off independent, able to take her own path in the world and rejoin the family of nations, and Yousuf rattled out Labour's stats on oil and deficits.
Then the audience had a chance to contribute - and not one of the contributions from the floor mentioned anything that any of the four of us had said! That punctures the ego balloon a bit. The straw poll at the end was about 75-25 against independence - slightly better than I was expecting from that audience.
Yousuf was actually not bad, considering he'd come in at the last moment after a text in panic from the organiser. Got to learn to put forward his own arguments as well as use party figures and to accept that if Scotland's economy is in a mess at the moment it's Labour's fault - Labour forms the government with control of the levers of economic power and has been in that position for 12 years. Labour's incompetence isn't an argument against Scotland's ability. Other than that, he was fine. Except ... that jumper's got to go - burning's too good for it (and when I know it's a bad jumper, you can guarantee it's a bad jumper):(For illustration purposes only, nicked from the Bad Sweater Guy blog - must be related to Yousuf ...)
I got in a wee tussle with Bill Butler - I remember him being opposed to Labour party members working with any other political parties' members in organisations like Scotland United and I had that confirmed by a former Labour party member who suffered a bit during that period. In fact, I have a memory of Bill being one of those opposed to devolution. Bill denied it in quite strong terms on Thursday. I would hate to think that I had miscalled him, but I'm fairly certain I'm right - anyone else remember either way?
Part of my speech on Thursday revolved around the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (simply because that was the subject matter when I last spoke in an ESU event at the tender age of 14), and I compared the daring to dream of the anti-apartheid campaigners of South Africa to the daring to dream of Scottish nationalists. Bill thought I was comparing the oppression rather than the ability to dream a better country, I thought I'd made it clear, here's the passage:
"the people involved in the anti-apartheid campaign did not restrict their ambitions, they dreamed of the nation they wanted and they set out to get it. They went through suffering that we can’t really imagine, but the big things weren’t the suffering and the pain, they were the ambition, the imagination and the dreams that sustained them.
They were the embodiment of Parnell’s observation that “No man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the march of a Nation.” It’s that ambition that drives nations forward, it’s that belief and those dreams that not only sustain a nation but let it grow. That’s what Scottish nationalism is, it’s the dream of what can be, of how our nation can advance ..."
I was partly inspired by the conversation I had with Kumi Naidoo as we drove him from SNP conference in Aviemore one year to catch his flight at Glasgow Airport as he told us tales of his adventures in fighting apartheid (including how to evade passport control - before the added security we've got now); how much he loves Scotland and his wonder that Scotland doesn't dream more about what she can be; and how his friend had told him that the greatest thing you can do for your cause isn't to die for it but to live the rest of your life for it. He told the same story at the launch of Every Human Has Rights in Cape Town in 2007:
Kumi's gone on now to drive another challenge (he organised Civicus after apartheid, and helped start the Make Poverty History campaign) which should help make another difference in the world. He's an inspiring bloke (forgot his notes for the SNP event, scribbled half a dozen key words down on a sheet of A4 and spoke for 45 minutes with no interruption, deviation, or repetition) - if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, grab it with both flippers!
Mind how you go.