The Young Nationalist
Association was a group of young Scots who wanted Scottish Independence
even as the dark clouds of war, 1939-45, moved closer. Its birth and
demise within 10 years, 1936-46, encompasses an organisation of its
time, accomplishing much of what its members hoped for, and also helped
to stabilise the S.N.P. which, this time was in a state of flux.
The S.N.P leadership was
composed of relatively well known individuals, with attachments to the
various British political parties. These individuals were liable to
revert back, at a moment’s notice, to the British political system.
Those who were confirmed Nationalists, however, were concerned that the
S.N.P., faced with such uncertainty, would collapse, with all the
consequences of disorganisation and ridicule. Therefore, they
compromised and were "led up the garden path" at every turn.
The Branches, who were
looking for leadership, did not get any. Policies adopted at the
National Conferences were completely ignored, and if referred to at the
national Council, a great hate campaign was raised against the
protester. Naturally, at branch meetings, the state of the party was
raised on many occasions. Fortunately, the Chairman of the Edinburgh
Branch, Robert Hurd, was very helpful and understanding of the
When the idea of a Youth
Movement was raised, the Branch agreed, through various young members,
that a group should be formed, and the name Y.N.A. was adopted from a
former Branch Youth Group in the National Party of Scotland during the
early thirties. That was started by a young lady, whose name I don’t
recall, and its members were composed of ex-members of the Scottish
Watch which was a Scottish Cultural Organisation, started by the ‘Daily
Record, and Wendy Wood was its leader.
It was a very successful
group - in Edinburgh there were at least 250 members - and grew very
rapidly. It became very pro-Scottish, and Wendy made sure that all
facets were highlighted, especially the importance of being Scottish. In
consequence, the "Record" dismissed Wendy and foisted a
Colonel of the British Army onto the ‘Watch’s’ leadership. This,
as expected, was very unsuccessful. The members did not want a re-hash
of the Boy’s Brigade who showed obeisance to the British Raj and a
religious piousness which helped to stifle rebellious spirits. They left
the ‘Watch’ en bloc, much to the ‘Daily Record’ and the Colonel’s
dismay. The Colonel became a General during the war, and quite a good
one it seems.
Thus the original Y.N.A.
was born, and for about eighteen months was actively engaged in
leafletting and door-to-door canvassing. The young lady got married and
went to live in Ireland, and without her enthusiasm, the group lost its
impetus, and sadly stopped functioning.
The new Y.N.A. began in
1936, and had the full support of the Edinburgh Branch of the S.N.P. At
its first meetings, we tried to make our members realise that, although
the weekly propaganda work was a heartless task, a good social side
could ease the pain. The Party Office in AIva Street was open each
evening, and the local pub, the ‘Melville Lounge’ in William Street
was about 40 yards away.
Thus the gathering of
Nationalist friends began. Every member carried a small tin of white
paint and a brush, because every night was a propaganda night. Also
public speaking was encouraged, and the Mound, at that time, was the
spot. I shall expand on our activities in the next chapter.
These were the beginnings
of a very energetic group of people.
Which leads us to the
individuals in the Y.N.A. At this time, there was a number of bright,
intelligent youngsters, from all walks of life, who were ardent
Nationalists and were looking for a lead in the quest for Independence.
There was no in-between. For them, it was INDEPENDENCE or nothing.
Douglas Young and George
Campbell Hay arrived back in Scotland from Oxford. Douglas joined the
Aberdeen Branch of the S.N.P. George joined the Y.N.A. which was quite
an acquisition as he was a Gaelic poet and a writer of short stories for
the ‘Scottish Field’ and other such magazines.
Frank Cameron Yeaman, who
was Edinburgh Branch Secretary, became a member ( a very steadying
influence) who kept us on the rails in more ways than one - such as
advising not to annoy older members of the Branch by our activities.
Iain Haig was a pupil at
the Royal High School, a lad with a mischievous nature and a
devil-may-care attitude, who eventually became an architect. As to his
activities, he had mountaineering ability.
Duncan McDonald was an
apprentice printer, a cheerful soul, and as we had a small ‘Adana’
printing press, a right handyman. His girlfriend, Margaret Green, who
became his wife in later life, joined as a fully active member.
Others to mention were,
Elizabeth Taylor, very "George Square", but a nice and loyal
lass; Ross Gibson, a bank teller, who was very honest and sincere;
George Little, a very extrovert character, who was an able speaker;
Stewart Forbes, a great royalist - loved Bonny Prince Charlie, and was a
good propagandist; Bob Pringle, a stalwart, a good attender, dependable
- what’s more his dad had a car - Douglas Craigie; Hamish Russell;
Stuart Maxwell;( all former Scouts ); Stewart Govan; Andrew McLelland (a
school teacher); Gibb Pennie (an Episcopalian Minister). Walter Ross,
Donald Cameron, the Paterson and McDonald girls, J. Glancy, Hugh Graham,
Henry Peden, May Thomson and Margaret Deas, all came latterly.
At the head of the
Nationalist Movement, all was not well. The men at the top were not
straightforward in their attitudes to Scotland’s freedom - it was
obvious that some of them had other fish to fry, and they still wanted
to be attached to the colonial past, with all the so-called advantages,
and home rule thrown in as a bonus.
They were determined to
keep dedicated nationalists out of the movement and were very
apologetic. "Oh no, we will not loose our ties with the rest of
Britain and, of course, we will not take full responsibilities in
Government. Defence will be jointly shared, and so will foreign
affairs". How could any true nationalist take these statements
seriously. I will go into more details about individuals concerned, also
in the next chapter.
I shall try to give an
honest and truthful a story of what happened with the Y.N.A. during the
time approaching the war and during it.
Some information has come
from Government sources, and other from our members.
As with all serious
points of view, certain principles have to be adhered to, and these
shall not be explained in this narrative.
If you are a true
Nationalist, I’m sure you will enjoy our adventures into the past