I was in Edinburgh on Saturday. I had organised a day visiting a few art galleries and a special evening meal for a family celebration. I had not realised that a huge Nationalist gathering, march and rally was planned for the same day, so it was with some trepidation that I approached the weekend: would our special day be compromised by gangs of woad encrusted warriors and boisterous tartan army refugees clogging up the streets and bars and restaurants of our fine capital city?
The problem was compounded by the fact that our chosen hotel was only a few hundred yards from the Meadows, where the invading army was scheduled to bivouac before taking over the town centre. And the route of the march was close to the walk we hoped to take to one of our planned exhibitions.
Around midday we set off to town, prepared to be beset or accosted and delayed by the occupying army on the march. As we walked our view of the Meadows showed no hordes a-gathering and no blocked streets, no hubbub, no hum, no skirl of the pipes, no drums and fifes, no music of any description, in fact nothing....
Edinburgh old town is a tightly formatted swirl of narrow street and connecting closes. Any celebrations or stramash of any size or volume would be seen and heard around the town. It would seem impossible to hide a march or expedition of any size, in this enclosed and echoing space, from detection.
But we saw nothing and we heard nothing.
I can't say I was disappointed at the non-appearance of the Nationalist convoy. Just a bit puzzled.
Anyway. We crossed the Royal Mile and headed for the City Arts Centre and an exhibition of the work of the Scottish Colourist Leslie Hunter. It was great.
Two hours later we emerged and headed past Waverley Station where we glimpsed a single face-painted Nat clumping along the pavement. We then walked through the eastern end of Princes Street Gardens. It was a beautiful autumn day and there were - at least - hundreds sitting, strolling, playing and even picnicking along the gardens.
At the National Gallery there were even more people sitting out having coffee and cake.
We made our way to the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibition. Another fabulous two hours passed in a flash and we emerged blinking in the late afternoon sunshine onto the foot of the Mound.
By this time the march had passed and the rally was going on across the street, in the western end of the Gardens. I saw one man with a Saltire draped, football-fan-wise over his kilt-and-vest garb and another with a red and orange flag of Catalonia. An amplified voice carried from the rally, but no press or throng assaulted the streets. From what I could see, a not-very-large crowd were facing a stage. The space available was not taken up and, while respectable, the attendance was very obviously nowhere near the spectacular numbers (even pro rata) reported from Barcelona last week.
We walked up the mound and back to our hotel and saw no more of the Nationalist spectacular.
Truth to tell, Edinburgh was mobbed on Saturday, but not by political activists or galvanised voters intent on showing the strength of support for their chosen path. Edinburgh's throngs were tourists and shoppers and locals going about their business.
Sunday dawned and the papers reported 5,000 people at the rally. So few. No wonder they made no impression.
There were about a thousand people strolling and picnicking in the Gardens. There were tens of thousands mobbing Princes Street, the Royal Mile and the other main thoroughfares.
The problem for the Nationalists must be: why were these people, or even a small proportion of them, not on the march? What does it say for the attractiveness of the pro-independence message and the momentum behind the Yes Campaign that they couldn't even attract a crowd any bigger than either of the local SFL teams gets regularly, every Saturday, to watch their games?
Minister for the Referendum, Nicola Sturgeon,
looking puzzled as to why nobody turned up at her party.
We enjoyed our weekend and it wasn't spoilt by the pressing mass of Nationalist marchers. Because, rather to my surprise and I suspect the chagrin of the organisers, there was no pressing mass.
Good news, IMO. What Eck and his Minister for the Referendum make of it, I would really like to know.