A few months after the referendum, a requet popped up on one of my social media pages. It was a request to come along to Islay and speak to members of the Islay YES alliance which still existed. At the time though I worried about childcare it brightened my heart to hear some groups were still in existence. Of course I knew of a few closer to home but the thought of a wee Island getting together intrigued me. I also know folk with a connection to Islay who always call it home. I wanted to visit.
So last week Scott and I took the three and a half bus journey from Glasgow to Kennacraig. Islay is actually very close to Glasgow less than an hour by plane but I recommend the bus with its beautiful scenery. I felt as if I was on a pilgrimage and could feel the knots untangling from my neck. I started to relax and not worry about my everyday life and the political bubble I had left at home.
Lesley and Jim met us in Kennacraig and we travelled together to Islay. We flew the red flag on the boat and broke bread. Friendships were born and forged. I guess the biggest compliment I can give Islay is I took no pictures. I just soaked in its beauty and special air. Jim and Lesley had gone to such great efforts to make us feel at home and we did. We chatted and discussed everything from the referendum to Doctor Who. I got the impression that the folk in this little island had worked together to gain a YES vote. There was a sense of community and folk committed to helping others for no other reasons but because we are humans.
We had arrived at full blast holiday season so our gathering was around twenty. I was impressed by the number of women there not something you see so often over here. All with interesting questions about post referendum. One woman asked why we stood and did not seek an alliance with the SNP. It surprised many that our policy post referendum was to do so. I was touched that these were folk at the heart of their community. A local businessman explained many folk come to see him instead of the councillor for support. I saw parallels in how we support folk in our communitites. Glenburn where I stay is not so distant from a rural community as Islay.
After the meeting I met with some folk who wanted to hear more about socialism. We absolutely bonded over stories of the referendum. One of my favourites was a drive in movie in George Robertson’s back garden where Braveheart was screened. I think in a lot of ways socialism was alien to folk but human contact and shared experiences helped us see the humanity in each of us. We spoke to folk who were mostly SNP and challenged my socialist perspective and they listened to us.
Next day we had to return home but with new friendships and the promise to return out of season. I believe folk will vote socialism next year because they have met us not as creatures from a museum but modern thinkers with modern answers and shared experiences. Despite the fact there are many luxury homes on Islay many people worj for the minimum wage and struggle. It makes them stronger though. I was left with a deep impression that community is important and that all politics must germinate from there. As I said I am often caught up in “politicking” when what counts most is how you connect with others. Islay has changed that for me and I will be spending more time in my local community. I hope you will too.
Scott and I have made two lovely new friends in Lesley and Jim who personified hospitality. I can’t wait until I return. I have the fresh air of Islay in my blood and I don’t think it will ever leave me. Thanks to everyone who I met. I didn’t mean it Donald. Keep doing what you all do so well. Jim said a friend had said to him, if socialists were brave in laying out their policies, the world would be a better place and that is so true. We can change the world if we reach out to each others. Another Scotland is necessary.