The speculation about numbers for tomorrow’s march is quite amusing, because both sides seem to be refusing to give a number.
“This is the first of three marches. We’ll be holding another one on almost exactly the same day next year and we’re hoping to quadruple the numbers we get tomorrow. Then in September 2014 we’ll be holding what we expect to be the largest march.”
He added: “We know there are going to be thousands coming along based on the number of seats we have sold on the coaches, but there are also those organising their own transport. Plus we imagine plenty of people already living in Edinburgh will attend, so we can’t really put a definite number how many will actually be marching. Only Saturday will reveal that.”
This is the March for Scottish Independence. (Jokes about Frodo and Bilbo Baggins – tomorrow is Hobbit Day – regretfully omitted.)
This is the first march of its kind: there is really no clue how many people will think they should or feel they can. It takes a certain degree of enthusiasm, even for a cause you support, to go on a march: the usual rule-of-thumb reckoning is that for every one person who goes on the march, there’s probably 10 at home who support. This is why the two million people who marched against the Iraq war all across the UK (over a hundred thousand in Glasgow) were such a warning that Labour should have heeded in February 2003.
The organisers will have been asked by the police to give some idea of how many will show up, but they’re not obliged to disclose that estimate to anyone else. “Yes in 2014” gets about 30%-40% in opinion polls, but no one knows how many that will represent in actual willing-to-show-up-on-Saturday-morning-and-march numbers (gay marriage gets about 65%, but rallies in support of marriage get about 200 people).
Partly it depends how beleaguered supporters of a cause feel – how important they feel it is to get out there and tell the world. In so many ways, the Yes Scotland campaign’s habit of talking only to itself is against them there: many Yes Scotland supporters don’t seem to talk much with anyone who doesn’t already agree with them, allowing themselves the impression of wide support, suggesting a march is unnecessary.
Guide to Marching – a simple selection of 12 basic suggestions that can help make our march a symbol of a modern, progressive and creative movement that wants to imagine a better nation.
I’ll bet more Scots went to London to march for fox hunting than @thesnp get at their “massive” march for Indy this weekend
— Iain McGill (@IainMcGill) September 20, 2012
(There have been several Countryside Alliance marches in London, and as I confirmed, Iain McGill has no idea how many Scots showed up to any of them.)
Obviously, the Yes Scotland campaign hope that they will at least get enough people that the rally in Princes Street gardens at the end won’t look too silly in overhead visuals. Choosing the Meadows for a starting point also suggests a certain confidence in numbers (and funding – you don’t get to use the Meadows for free).