Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Surely the writing is on the wall for bullying tactics


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Although he had been chatting to his nationalist counterpart monitoring the polling station in Alexandria, James Smart, a Freddie Mercury tribute singer, was probably one of the lonelier No volunteers in Scotland yesterday.

The polling station, in Jamestown parish church hall, was briefly notorious after someone painted a “Vote Yes or Else” slogan across its front wall. By afternoon it had been removed and there were “Caution: Wet Paint” boards where the ominous graffiti had been.

But Mr Smart could be forgiven for wondering why the vandals had bothered since, at least at first sight, the ward appeared to be an already impregnable bastion of Yes.

Voters leaving the station – from 78-year-old Margaret MacGregor, an SNP member since 1965, when it was a lot less fashionable than it is now, to a large (if unscientific) sample of Alexandria’s 16- and 17-year-olds voting for the first time – were all pro-independence.

Both Mrs MacGregor and another Yes supporter, Marie Kirton, 66, were quick to condemn the graffiti.

“I think about it the same as any graffiti in the world,” said Mrs Kirton. “Crap.”

She added that she had not herself seen the slogan – photographed and tweeted earlier in the day – but had only heard about it.

Nonetheless, a probable minority of No supporters in this fairly nationalist ward may be among several refusing to say how they voted as they left.

The quietly spoken Mr Smart, 41, who runs an entertainment booking agency in the West Dunbartonshire town aside from performing as the late Queen frontman, said he was “worried”. But he added: “I do get the odd wink, or nod or thumbs up from some people, which suggest they are on our side.”

At 73, Charles Smith was not so reticent. Why had he voted No? “Currency,” he started tersely. “We’ve been together too long. I’m an ex-Navy man. And I worked for 30 years at the Clyde submarine base in Coulport. And my son works there now, so I’m not going to vote him out of a job.”

But here, at least, he was an exception. “I think decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland,” said Courtney Wilkes, 17, who said there had been a “lot of discussion” among her fellow pupils at Vale of Leven Academy.

“They ask me about it because I’m the only one who’s read the [Scottish government] White Paper [on independence]. “There are some Nos but most are Yes,” she added.

Back to Mr Smart, who is also a singer-songwriter and has written a unionist song – you can hear it on YouTube – with a chorus starting: “Keep our land united/  Keep our country strong/Home is where the heart is/That’s where we belong.”

Yesterday, he was hoping a lot more people would be ready to sing along than there seemed to be in Alexandria.