Saturday 7 December 2019

Better Together spot-on in shootout

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander took part in a football competition for charity
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander took part in a football competition for charity

The No campaign has secured a narrow victory a fortnight ahead of the referendum - on the football field.

Key figures in the Yes Scotland and Better Together camps put their political differences aside to stage a charity penalty shoot-out competition in Edinburgh.

The Scotland United Against Motor Neurone Disease (MND) contest was held to help raise awareness and money to fund a cure for the disease, which currently affects about 400 people in Scotland.

The Better Together side - helped by goals from shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and the occasional lucky deflection off the woodwork - took the honours on the day, winning the shoot-out 5-4.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Alexander said it was "a good event in the service of a good cause".

His colleague, Better Together's research director Gordon Aikman, was diagnosed with the condition just over 12 weeks ago and has already raised more than £60,000 for the charitable cause.

Mr Alexander said: "The team put in a great performance and got a good result, but it's important to remember that with Motor Neurone Disease there are no winners.

"Too many people across Scotland lose their loved ones to this terrible disease. They don't know what causes it and there is no cure.

"The real positive result of this shoot-out is that whether you're voting Yes or No, Scotland can unite in fighting MND."

On his team's victory, he added: "I hope it anticipates how we're going to feel on the 19th of September. I think it shows that Better Together is a winning team for Scotland."

Yes Scotland were first to take to the spot, with an assured finish from Paul Brannigan, star of Ken Loach's The Angels' Share.

The penalties were evenly matched until Better Together goalkeeper John Park pulled off a save from a spot-kick by Yes Scotland captain Blair Jenkins.

But Mr Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes campaign, did not seem downhearted after his team's narrow defeat.

"The Yes campaign has won everything else this week so if there's one thing we were going to lose this week, I'm happy it was the penalty-kick competition," he said.

"I think we all really enjoyed it. I'm used to people not fully appreciating my football skills and I'm sure that will carry on for the rest of the day."

He went on: "It's very important that people know there are friendships across the referendum divide and lots of us have known each other for a long time.

"I think what today was about was the two campaigns getting together in a really good cause.

"MND is a terrible thing to afflict people and anything we can do to draw attention to the cause and bring more money into it, that's something we can all get behind."

Mr Aikman, who has launched the website gordonsfightback.com, said after the contest: "It's not often that you get the two sides of the referendum agreeing on something, so it means a lot that they stand united today to help fund a cure for Motor Neurone Disease. It shows that no matter what your politics, Scotland is united against MND.

"MND is a death sentence for me but if we keep raising money we can find a cure for future generations."

People can donate to the campaign by texting "MNDS85 £5" to 70070.

PA Media

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