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17 September 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 12:58pm

Climbing for independence: meet the woman who scaled a cliff to support the Yes Campaign

Lindsay Jarrett climbed the cliffs beneath Edinburgh Castle in the dark to place a foil YES sign somewhere everyone would see it.

By Hope Whitmore

On the morning of Saturday 13 September a bold white YES appeared on the cliffs leading up to Edinburgh Castle. It had been placed there overnight and at first people didn’t know where it came from. All they knew was that whoever put it there must have scaled the steep cliffs in the darkness, a daring and fearsome act of dedication to the Yes campaign. The deed became even more extraordinary after the identity of the climber was revealed.

Lindsay Jarrett is a 43-year-old mother of five. She used to work as a police inspector in the Highlands of Scotland, but she is now retired. She has an incurable condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, which has lead to her needing a double lung transplant. Several of her children also have this horrible disease.

On 12 September Lindsay was in Edinburgh to see a transplant consultant. He told her he sees patients with twice her lung capacity who struggle to even stand.  That night Lindsay, a disabled athlete, would place a tank containing four litres of oxygen on continuous flow in her rucksack, alongside the foil YES sign and ties to hold it in place.

She describes the thrill and pain she felt as she climbed: “Trains rumbled below me and I kept in tight to the rock face. As I got higher up I was able to clip my harness onto the mesh wiring to take rests. I took lots of rests! My main problem apart from an inability to breathe is that my heart rate rises to a ridiculous level, so I need to stop and let it settle before I go again.”

She describes “panicked moments”, when she could not draw enough oxygen into her lungs and “the pain of my heart going at 200 beats a minute”. However, she says it was worth it and she “would do it all again for a free Scotland”.

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I asked Lindsay what prompted her to take on such a drastic task, after making contact through the Independence Climber Facebook page.

She describes the action as a “direct message to Gordon Brown”, a politician she feels horribly deceived by. “He led us to believe that cross border organ and blood donation would not be available as it is now, if Scotland became independent. He led us to believe that my life and that of others would be at risk. Some of my family members sent off postal votes as a No in order to protect me. Then NHS Blood and Transplant put out an official statement declaring that the system would remain exactly as it is regardless of the referendum outcome. I want to send a clear message to Gordon Brown on behalf of myself, my family and anyone else vulnerable or disabled.”

She continues. “To pick on the most disabled and vulnerable members of society you have to be the lowest of the low.”

I asked Gordon and Sarah Brown’s office for their response to this, and so far have not received one, although I would be keen to hear what Brown has to say on the matter.

Independence Climbers are a group of about twenty people in the Highlands of Scotland, who travel round, clandestinely scaling cliff faces, steep buildings and monuments to put up YES signs. They’re not directly affiliated to the Yes campaign, but they have a common cause, a passion for an independent Scotland, alongside a love of the outdoors. There are people who make signs, people who work on logistics, those who provide transport and some who ensure there is food and drink and place to sleep for the night.

As their activities are secret, often done under cover of darkness, Lindsay is unable to tell me about the work of the rest of the group. But their Facebook page shows a Green YES placed on trees in Castlemilk, just outside of Glasgow. Another picture shows a large YES on uninhabited volcanic island, Ailsa Craig. A large YES reminiscent of the ones used by the group has also appeared in the Pentland Hills, within clear view of drivers travelling along the Edinburgh City Bypass. Most of the group are also climbers, but it was of great symbolic importance to Lindsay that she should be the one to place the YES sign on the cliffs below Edinburgh Castle.

“I wanted to send a clear message to Gordon Brown: ‘You do not scare me’. Knowledge dispels fear. We are made of stern stuff in Scotland and will not take kindly to it. We will protect those in need, not frighten them into doing as we please.”

When I speak to Lindsay, she is en route to Glasgow, with her colleague Niall who shares her passion and looks after the press for the group. Tonight Lindsay will speak in George Square. Tomorrow she will vote, and then go home and spend time with her children. She anticipates a Yes majority.

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