In George Square
'I came down here to support Tommy,' the man said when I asked why he'd given over his Sunday to stand in the middle of George Square and listen to a stream of speeches, mainly about the perfidy of Albion. 'I think he's had a raw deal.' Tommy Sheridan was on stage in a Yes T-shirt. Between the bronchial sound system and us was a sea of Saltires and homemade signs. A trio of mocked-up heads with the faces of Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Alistair Darling bobbed above the crowd, with a placard labelling them the '3 stooges' and 'traitors'.
The five-hour event on 12 October – which apparently featured more than thirty speakers, but I only stayed for half a dozen – was called 'Hope Over Fear', but there was little optimism on show. George Square looked the same as it had on the heady evenings before September's referendum – all yes banners and political chatter – but the mood was different: some grief, and lots of anger.
A woman hanging off the second rung of the Scott monument in the middle of the square bellowed at me: 'MI5 is in the audience!'. I put my notebook and pen away but she kept shouting: 'Traitor! Traitor!' until a well-built man in a kilt appeared behind me, roaring: 'Hope faith humanity!'
It has been a very long month since the independence referendum. Everything has changed, and nothing has. Tens of thousands have joined pro-independence parties. The SNP has more than tripled in size, to over 84,000 members. Alex Salmond has pledged to 'hold unionists feet to the fire' over the infamous 'vow' for more devolution. Next month the Radical Independence Campaign will hold a conference in the massive SECC auditorium. And yet already it feels as if the life is being sucked out of the grassroots movement. There is a lot of political energy, but nowhere for it to go. Devolution is a wonkish subject, and the Smith Commission will not quicken the pulses of the men waving Lion Rampant banners and calling for 'Freedom'. A referendum is off the table for the foreseeable future.
Among the speakers last Sunday was Naomi Wolf, who has been collecting tales of electoral irregularities. Wolf, to great applause, called for a judicial review of the referendum. The notion that the ballot was rigged has gained currency on the margins of the independence movement. One man told me about boxes filled with votes being taken over the border to England; another said they were maliciously miscounted. Wolf's theory, involving ID numbers on the back of ballots, has attracted legions of followers on line. (A group called Lawyers for Yes dismissed the various claims as 'an impressive collection of misunderstandings, conspiracy theories, and legal howlers'.)
A man wandered through the crowd with a placard that said: '45% My Arse'. Another told me that the vote had actually been 60:40 in favour of independence, urging me to 'look on Facebook' to discover the truth. A huge, broad-shouldered man with a tie dotted with Saltires and a Lion Rampant watch chain had travelled 170 miles from Inverness to remonstrate. 'There is no way Inverness voted no. Not possible.' He wanted the Scottish government to declare independence. He was not alone.
This is the problem facing Nicola Sturgeon, the new SNP leader and Scotland's first female first minister. The party is now the third largest in the UK, with legions of energetic new recruits. But many have only one thing on their mind: independence.
The modern SNP's story is one of co-opting broad coalitions in the service of 'the national movement'. Sturgeon, a careful, highly capable politician, has made clear that she will listen to the new members. She has announced a series of rallies across the country next month: 'I am looking forward to meeting as many of our new recruits as possible and sharing with them my vision for the future,' she said. The SNP, too, is wary of shedding support to the pro-independence margins. The flagship event will be held in the Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday 22 November, the same day and a couple of hundred yards from the Radical Independence conference.
Scottish politics could change radically under Sturgeon's tutelage. The SNP is widely predicted to win a third consecutive Holyrood election in 2016. Sturgeon, many expect, will move the party to the left and towards her Glasgow base. Last week, the party's finance secretary, John Swinney, announced a radical overhaul of property taxes to make the most well off pay more. The party has reiterated its support for the recognition of Palestine. Sturgeon recently wrote two essays: one for Left Foot Forward, the other for the Scottish Left Review.