PERHAPS not surprisingly, given his expressed views on Scottish independence and independence marches, Mark Smith’s report from his first attendance at such a march was predictably negative ("What I have learned from my first independence march", The Herald, January 13). He could have written it from the comfort of his living room and avoided having to suffer the dreadful Glasgow weather on Saturday along with the estimated 80,000 marchers comprising men, women and children of all ages, from all over Scotland and beyond.

Yes, there was a handful of offensive placards, but these were totally insignificant compared to the masses of Saltires, many with the EU flag superimposed, and banners supporting our wish to be an independent country once again. There was also significant anti-Trident support.

He highlights the anti-Tory placards and chants (like "Tories, Tories, Tories, Out, Out, Out) and wonders why? I have to wonder why he wonders, since the reality is that it is they who are in power in Westminster and have the ability to deny Scotland the right to hold another referendum following the significant change being brought about by Brexit. Remember that we were told in 2014 that the only way to stay in the EU was to vote no.

Mr Smith apparently felt so bad during the brief few yards when the march passed the handful of counter-demonstrators that he wished he wasn’t there. My experience during this very brief stage of the march was one of humour.

The conclusion of the article – aside from his comical and ironic wrestle with the wet Saltire near the end of the march – that the same people doing the same thing will achieve nothing ignores the fact that these marches are part of a series of events that have been, and will be, held all over Scotland in order to ensure that the public profile of the issue of Scottish independence is maintained. Some, but not by any means all, who attended in Glasgow will have taken part in a similar march in their local area. It also ignores the fact that no change has ever been achieved by those people who are looking for change sitting back and doing nothing.

Allistair Matheson, Selkirk.

LIKE Mark Smith I too was at the independence march in Glasgow on Saturday and like him it was my first such march, so I was interested to read of his experiences.

Throughout the march I recognised Mr Smith's accounts of what he saw and heard, so I must have been near him throughout the march, though our interpretations differed; not significantly but subtly, but that is a moot point depending on one’s perspective.

I therefore would like to put my slant on what he saw and heard and give one or two additions. I met people from all over the UK, not just from Aberdeen. I was surprised that as a journalist he didn’t speak to more people. There were people from Wales who were very noticeable as they were speaking Welsh, a contingent of "From England for Yes" waving the St George's Cross, and people from Inverness and Orkney.

I agree on the age differential but was inclined not to put a political slant on it as Mr Smith did; I take a more pragmatic view. As a pensioner myself who has led a busy working life it is unlikely that in my middle age I would have had the time to devote myself to marching at a weekend. That is normally done by students and older people who have the time to do these sort of things. I do not think one can take anything other than that from the age distribution. The march was lined by a lot of middle-aged people who had come out of shops and offices.

I also was disturbed by the sight of an alternative group cordoned off by the police and supervisors and thought this might spell trouble. On two points I disagree with Mr Smith. There were certainly a lot of Union Flags being waved, as the photo accompanying the article showed, but in fact I estimated about 20 people waving them. Mr Smith mentioned one lady shouting "Scotland". So that was one person out of thousands that he seems to have hyped into an outrage against democracy. Indeed, the vitriol came the other way. Everyone around me waved and smiled to the Unionists and as far as I can tell this continued till I was well out of sight of them.

On most other points I agree with Mr Smith that it wasn’t a rowdy, noisy march and I too was surprised about the anti-Tory chants and would have preferred if they had kept to the topic of the march.

I enjoyed the march thoroughly and met some really great people and yes, they did have similar views to me. but isn’t that what the march was about?

Ronnie Scott, Croy, Inverness-shire.

IT was good to see Mark Smith dip his toe in the chilly waters of an All Under One Banner (AUOB) independence march. I'm sure he was as drookit as the rest of us last weekend. I read his comments and agreed with some, but would have to take issue with others.

Anti-Tory sloganising in some parts of the march, yes this was true and although the general advice was that there should be no coarse or negative language, that was there among us. The march was called to protest about the Johnson Government and there were banners that I would not have supported, but it is a public event and we generally don't have the banner police sorting us out.

Where he seemed rather po-faced was in the failure to describe the joyous atmosphere that attends such events. And despite his comments, many families are happy to bring their children, knowing that they will have fun and be part of a great democratic carnival.

His comments about the marchers being the same 80,000 people turning up and offering each other mutual support are not accurate. The first Glasgow AUOB march I attended a couple of years ago had about 20,000 people and we were pretty pleased to have that number. In my section of the march we had two new folk who joined us and two or three promised who didn't come because of the rain. AUOB has also made the wise decision to go to venues where demonstrations don't happen much and areas where people voted no. This allows local people to see the strength of feeling for independence which is never reflected in the media, with the exception of The Herald and the National.

There is a huge buzz within the independence movement which never finds itself reflected in the popular press or television with the above exceptions.

People are meeting and talking about a new currency and a new type of economy without the domination of casino banking. There are meetings about how we work on a new green economy which is driven by environmental and societal benefits, not greed. Many new ideas about taxation and tackling poverty are being talked about in village halls and town centres – not the "narrow nationalism" and "separatism" promoted by the popular press.

Mr Smith is to be commended for his venture into this great popular democratic movement and I hope he will think about coming again.

Maggie Chetty, Glasgow G13.

CREDIT to Mark Smith, first, for venturing forth on a foul January day apparently with his heid bereft of any protection. It seems that as the march progressed it was not only the weather but the language of some that deteriorated to unacceptable levels. "Maggie, Maggie … deid" or " Tories, Tories … out" hardly enhanced proceedings. Surely any gathering should realise there are various shades of political persuasion present. Tolerance and respect to others must be a basic principle.

The absurdity of such chants coupled with obscene shouts by zealots obsessed by the "cause" counteracts any public sympathy. Perhaps Mr Smith's closing sentiments on becoming unwillingly wrapped in a sodden flag illustrates the dangers of dissuading a potential supporter.

Allan C Steele, Giffnock.

SITTING at a window seat in a pub in Glasgow city centre, three of us attempted to count the marchers at the independence march. After the first group arrived outside the pub led by 40 motorcycle bikers at 12.46pm, up to the police vans following them at the tail end of the march at 13.57 – a total of 1 hour 11 minutes – they all passed our vantage point. Because of the irregular shape of the group the density of the ranks of marchers fluctuated like a concertina and it was difficult to gauge precise numbers; at times there was as few as 90 per minute, and up to 330 per minute passing our stationary position. The pace of the marchers was determined by police, traffic lights and photo shoots which meant it moved slowly at about 1 /1.5mph and stopped frequently, causing it to congest.

There were several small groups of supporters lined along the route which would help swell the numbers overall. Even taking this into account the most congested parts of the march meant no more than 23,500 could have taken part at its height. Claims of 80,000 to 100,000 are wildly inaccurate, this would have meant approximately 1,200 marchers per minute passing a fixed point continuously for 71 minutes. This did not happen. Given the sedentary pace and loose formation of the marchers a figure of 15,000 would be a generous estimate.

These marches are fast losing their significance and now only represent a vociferous minority of Scots.

Allan Thompson, Bearsden.

THE nationalists’ pointless marching season has begun again. The motley crowd of about 10,000 (not 80,000 as reported) waved banners many of which were liberally sprinkled with the "f" word, and worse, the "c" word. Decent people don’t use these words and certainly don’t expect to see them printed on large banners whilst shopping on a wet Saturday afternoon.

Decency has deserted these desperate nationalists. They are not going to be allowed another referendum and they know it. By all means let them state their case and march if they must, though it’s a terrible waste of time and police manpower.

If they really want to encourage others to their hopeless cause, then perhaps they should clean up their act, quit the filthy language and stop dressing up like extras from Brigadoon. But the chance of that ever happening is as remote as Nicola Sturgeon actually dealing with the mess she’s made of Scotland.

Sheila Joyner, Fife.

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