Beyond the bog-standard debate

Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce
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Many years ago as a very young teenager, I joined a bus trip heading for Stirling. My motives were twofold – I wanted to take part in the annual Battle of Bannockburn celebrations and I had taken a fancy to one of the young ladies who was also making the journey.

I succeeded in joining the muster on the battlefield below the monument to the mounted Robert the Bruce and the parade in ancient Stirling which has played many important roles in shaping our – Scotland and the UK – future.

I failed in my second ambition – even Bruce had to agonise in defeat at times – but I’ll never forget that day. I knew where I was and why I was there – but my parents didn’t. I neglected to tell them that I was heading for Stirling as a paid-up member of the Scottish National Party.

My dad was a staunch Liberal – or at least a staunch member of the Liberal Club in Galashiels, which I had aspirations to join when I reached 18 because of the live music the club provided and its full-size snooker tables. I didn’t want to blot my copybook.

And so my first visit to the spot where Bruce and his outnumbered army sent Edward II packing remained hidden from my family – at least for a couple days until the jungle drums began beating. There were no repercussions from that secret trip and I suppose I was foolish to think that there would have been.

And, yes, I was admitted to the Liberal Club shortly after my 18th birthday and spent a number of years on the committee.

And getting onto that committee was almost as big a battle as the bold Bruce faced at Bannockburn. At that time the club was governed by what we – the new influx of young blood – saw as a bunch of boring fuddy-duddies. We came to learn that most were fine chaps with the club and its members at heart.

But we were determined to invade the committee room and fill it with youth. It was a foolish battle plan and was doomed to failure. Instead we put up just three candidates at the AGM with the target of getting two elected. We exceeded ourselves and all three won a place at the coveted committee table.

But any hopes of bringing a new song to the affairs of this club were quickly dispelled – we were blatantly ignored. We three drew up a plan. Toilet blocks and loo rolls. Mop heads and disinfectant. Those were our weapons.

Let me explain. At each committee meeting, invoices were passed around the table for approval. This had been a trouble-free process. Until now. We three challenged almost every invoice.

Did we really need so many toilet blocks, loo rolls, mop heads and disinfectant? The answer of course was yes. But our tactics meant that a meeting which normally lasted an hour or so now took almost three. We got our message across and won the recognition we had sought.

The debate on Scotland’s independence is at the loo-roll level now, so don’t be fooled by the dross that’s being thrown around by both sides. The debate proper won’t start until after the New Year.

That’s when the battle truly begins.