I followed closely the entire referendum campaign and I listened and watched as both sides in the debate worked their socks off to put their points across. I saw numerous reports and statements made by supporters of the "Yes" campaign stating that they had been threatened and intimidated by supporters of the Better Together campaign and my heart sank. Not because there was any truth in their allegations, because that is all they were. Unsubstantiated allegations.
The only evidence was hearsay and rumour. No, my heart sank because I knew right away what was being done.
Having been called a traitor and a "fucking hun" for having the audacity to wear a polo shirt with a small Union Flag badge on it while walking in Dumfries, by a group of people sporting "Yes" flags who were heading into town to either put up a stall or canvass potential voters, I saw at first hand who the real perpetrators of intimidation were in the campaign. I was a bit slow in getting out my phone to film them, but then I didn't expect to be abused for wearing a shirt with a small badge on.
Maybe Ralph Lauren was a "Better Together" supporter, but to be honest I was unaware of that when I bought the shirt. I actually said to them that they had no right to insult me bearing in mind they had no idea how I was going to vote, and I was told that the badge on my shirt said it all. If I hadn't had more important things to deal with at present, I would have followed the group and reported them to the police for hate crime and sectarian behaviour, but it was eight against one, and with no video evidence I would have been stuffed.
By claiming that they had been intimidated by "No" supporters, the "Yes" supporters had managed to turn the allegations of intimidation full circle. Deflect and deny, a tactic used throughout history and particularly evident during the referendum campaign as used successfully by the "Yes" supporters.
Of course events of Thursday past proved beyond doubt that the majority of the population of Scotland want to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly all of the members of the Vanguard Bears were overjoyed with the result, albeit a few had probably the most nerve-wracking day of their lives while waiting on the results coming in. Members of this group were informed that there was to be a coming together of people who had voted "No" in George Square, Glasgow on Friday night. There was also a time for reflection on the campaign and this forum were quick to recognise that the "Yes" campaign had used the Saltire as a symbol of independence, whereas we had perhaps failed to highlight that the Saltire is our flag too and it is an integral part of the Union Flag.
Our group contains many people who are proud to be BOTH Scottish and British. That is our right. Members of our group were asked to take Saltires as well as Union Flags to the celebration on Friday night as a show of unity, and many did so. Members of our group were reminded that the eyes of the world were on them and that any opportunity for the anti-British media in Scotland to attack Unionists would be pounced on and used endlessly in their attempts to further vilify the Unionist people of Scotland. And so it proved to be.
Some Vanguard Bears members may have been present in George Square, but they were not involved in any of the unrest which has been emblazoned across every front page in Scotland since the event. The celebration was good natured and much in the spirit of Last Night of the Proms, until supporters of the "Yes" campaign decided to voice their displeasure at the fact Unionists were being allowed to celebrate. Members of Celtic supporters group "The Green Brigade", a group with links to the IRA, who have long championed the actions of terrorist groups around the world also turned up in numbers, solely intent on causing trouble.
The trouble appears to have been triggered by a bottle thrown from the direction of a group of "Yes" supporters who had gathered. The bottle was aimed at people celebrating the decision made by the majority of the population of Scotland to maintain the Union, and it was undoubtedly the catalyst for subsequent events. Flares were set off from both sides and at the time of writing 11 people have been questioned by Police Scotland over acts of disorder.
The Herald newspaper, a tawdry rag which has long been a home to republicans with a real and bitter hatred of all Unionists has been at the forefront of blinkered reporting of the events; blaming all Unionists, including our group, while at the same time failing to mention or recognise the guilt of the pro-independence supporters in not just inciting the trouble, but thereafter being in the middle of it.
By doing so, they have shown themselves to be nothing more than a platform for republicanism at its very worst. When accusing groups like ours, they have no proof at all.
Like the original accusations of intimidation made by "No" supporters to "Yes" supporters in the run up to the referendum, their claims amount to no more than unsubstantiated allegations made by people with a radical hatred towards the Union and our group. Any attempts made by pro-unionist members of the public to put forward their version of events on Friday night have been censored and removed. It appears that while democracy still counts at the ballot box, the same cannot be said for the Herald.
Deflect and Deny. The referendum may be over, but they will not stop in their campaign of hatred towards Unionists and the Union. Their propaganda war continues at pace, and we must be ready for it.