Indy march organisers claimed up to 80,000 people marched on Glasgow Green on Saturday 5th May. AhDinnaeKen takes that with the large pinch of salt it deserves. More worryingly, Police Scotland alleged a figure of 35,000. Just how could they have got it so wrong? AhDinnaeKen investigates:
WHEN SANDRA White MSP proclaimed on stage that Saturday’s All Under One Banner Indy march in Glasgow had attracted “between 40 and 90,000 people” it made this correspondent snort with incredulity.
Having inspected the muster point at Kelvingrove Park and having walked the full route to Glasgow Green, my intuition settled on a ‘no more than 10,000’ figure.
It was an estimate that has proven to be scarily close to the mark.
The basis for this conclusion was based on standard crowd density dynamics, observation, calculations on square footage of areas occupied by the marchers, and photographic and Google maps evidence.
If you were to willfully cross into the area of, not at all credible, wishful thinking, you could reach a figure of around 18,000 maximum attendees.
But, by the reckoning of basic physics, photographic evidence and crowd psychology, half that number plus a few extra hundreds would be much nearer the mark.
Consider the illustration below.
The highlighted area above was the muster point and stage area. It measures approximately 4800 square meters. Subtract the space used for the stage, the stalls and the support vehicles and you’re looking at appprox 4500 sq metres, probably a bit less.
However, the object of this piece is to cut the marchers some slack. Therefore every estimate made is a clear overestimate – to boost the figure in favour of the Indy supporters.
The maximum credible crowd density we’re going to allow in this calculation is 1.5 persons per square meter.
According to Professor Keith Still, an expert in crowd density dynamics and crowd safety, at 1.5 persons per square meter, you don’t have a great deal of room in which to move but, you’re psychologically ‘comfortable’ and can move freely. If you want to move anywhere, you’re constantly squeezing past people and involuntarily touching/rubbing shoulders with them. Standing still at this density, you effectively have your own space and you’re comfortable.
Two persons per square meter is psychologically uncomfortable. It’s where you have no choice but press against each other. Imagine when you’re getting on a busy tube train, or squeezing into an elevator where a lot of other people are waiting. No one likes doing it but it only lasts for a short while: you can live with it given its short duration and purpose.
The reality of the crowd density on the ground at Glasgow Green was nowhere near the 1.5 person/sq metre mark. I stood at the barrier in front of the stage and could easily have sat down had I wanted to. Based on that observation, it puts the figure nearer the one person per sq metre mark.
Incidentally, Mr Peter A Bell walked past me with his black rod styled walking stick. Aside from one person who got in his way, he traversed the area with no issues or problems to beset him.
Based on AhDinnaeKen’s over estimated calculation, the absolute maximum number of people at the assembly/stage area would have been 7,200. And that’s based on the full 4800 sq/m being populated at 1.5 people per sq metre i.e. 4,800 * 1.5 = 7,200.
As can be seen from the aerial picture above – taken somewhere between 2:10pm and 2:30pm – the assembly area is nowhere near full. If anything, it’s half full.
The second larger, and less populated, area (above) is approx 8,800 square metres. The crowd density is clearly much lower than the assembly area, probably about 0.1 persons per square metre. Again, cutting the marchers some slack, we’ll go for 0.25. Doing so gives you a figure of approximately 2,200 people.
Finally, there were people milling about outside the two main areas covered above. If you check the aerial photo below, you can count them individually. Some are even recognisable to those who know them. At a rough estimate the philanderers numbered around 300-500, if that. Over estimation would result in a borderline credible figure of 1,000.
All in, using our overestimated figures, the total comes to around 10,400. That’s less than a third of the alleged official Police Scotland figure and nowhere near Ms White’s triumphant proclamation of 90,000.
A more realistic figure, lies around the 8,500 – 9,000 mark. That figure roughly correlates with the numbers which turned out for the Indy rally in Edinburgh back in 2013.
Again, in that instance, the SNP and organiser estimates were vastly inflated. They claimed attendance of 30,000. Edinburgh Police, not Police Scotland, officially estimated 8,300.
These figures do raise questions regarding Police Scotland. You would expect Sandra White and, by proxy, the SNP and the organisers to inflate the figures. They have a vested interest in doing so.
What’s more interesting is how Police Scotland arrived at the 35,000 figure. The BBC Scotland website and all of the newspapers attributed Police Scotland as the source for the figure. But there doesn’t appear to be any official attribution or comment. There was certainly no official figure given on the Police Scotland Twitter feed.
Perhaps a BBC, or any, journalist who repeated the figure could provide an explanation.