Thirty years ago most of Scotland was in a state of shock, disbelief, anger
and despair as the results of 1992 General Election sank in. The fourth
consecutive Conservative Government had just been elected. Against all
hopeful, exit poll predictions, we were heading for nearly two decades of
callous and destructive right wing politics.
Three quarters of Scottish votes had gone to parties which promised a
devolved assembly in New Parliament House. Here it was within hours on
the 10th April, hundreds gathered to protest at democratic dysfunction. The
ballot box in Scotland had become utterly useless. No one knew what to do.
Eventually, assembled strangers agreed that extreme politics demanded an
extreme response. That night they set up a 24 hour, seven days a week
camp and called themselves ‘Democracy for Scotland’. People would sleep
on the pavement around a brazier. With a rota system they would stay as
long as it took, even if that meant waiting weeks for John Major’s
government to begin electoral reform. In this way the Vigil for a Scottish
Parliament was born. It ran daily for the next five and half years.
It was an endurance test and people came and went. Even when the first
cabin was installed it hardly took the edge off winter’s blast. There was
however superb organisation, support from local people in the form of food,
firewood and cash donations but mostly two factors ensured survival. It was
run by people who were more determined than very determined people and
crucially it was non-party political.