Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scotland stays true to the spirit of 2 July 2005

On 2 July 2005 a quarter of a million people gathered in Edinburgh to form the huge human Make Poverty History white band.

I doubt if any person who was part of that white band could have failed to be deeply affected.

Yet those who delight in cynicism rather than hope rushed to tell us that the spirit of that day would soon pass away and be of no lasting significance.

I always believed the cynics were quite wrong. Indeed I always hoped that, simply because of what had happened in Edinburgh on that day, Scotland would be left almost with a special sense of responsibility to play her full part in ensuring that the spirit did not pass away and that the momentum of what was a global call for justice would be maintained.

It was a huge encouragement to believing that hope was fully justified when, in February of this year, SCIAF published survey results which indicated that more than three quarters of the people of Scotland positively wanted Scotland to take responsibility for the application of Scotland's contribution to development aid and that 90% believed the Scottish government should buy Fair Trade products whenever possible.

And then last weekend at an Oxfam Scotland fringe meeting I heard the answer to a question that had long been in my mind. It was hugely important that the gathering in Edinburgh on 2 July 2005 had been international and that people had come in their tens of thousands from outwith Scotland . At the same time I had wondered whether it would have been possible to assess how many of that quarter of a million were from within Scotland. The answer is that it had been possible and the figure was 80%-200,000 people. I think Scotland assumed that special responsibility I'm talking about from the very beginning.

Lachie McNeill



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