Saturday 14 December 2019

Let's make history, Salmond urges Scottish voters

Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow yesterday
Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow yesterday
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond speaks at a Yes campaign rally in Perth
Unionist protesters arrive in George Square at Yes rally as emotions run high during the final day of campaigning for the Scottish referendum

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond last night called for his countrymen and women to make history - by voting for independence and giving Scotland a day it will never forget.

After a referendum campaign of claim and counter-claim which has lasted for more than two years and has led to allegations of bullying, scaremongering and outright lies, Scottish voters will today finally decide, from the privacy of the polling booth, whether their country should embrace independence or remain as part of the United Kingdom.

Last night, the final opinion polls before the vote suggested that the campaign against independence retained a very slight lead.

The Ipsos Mori poll found 51pc of people intended to vote No and 49pc Yes, excluding undecided voters.

A separate Panelbase survey had very similar findings, with 52pc saying they favoured keeping the union and 48pc keen to go it alone. Both polls suggested that about 5pc of voters remained undecided and could swing the result.

Impossible

But with both polls within the margin of error, the result will remain impossible to predict until the early hours of tomorrow - with the announcement expected around 7am.

The leaders of the campaigns for and against independence spent yesterday making their final cases on the airwaves and in front of the television cameras, while their armies of tens of thousands of volunteers mounted a final push on Scotland's streets and doorsteps.

In Perth, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond last night gave a rousing speech to Yes campaigners, telling them to prepare for "a day which Scotland will never forget" and hitting out again at the main Westminster political parties, which he described as "out of touch and out of time".

Mr Salmond hailed the "people power" of the pro-independence movement as the "greatest campaign in Scottish history". The SNP leader said they had mounted the "greatest campaign in Scottish history".

"Tomorrow is the opportunity of a lifetime. A precious chance to leave our mark in the pages of history. I have toured this country on many a campaign. But never have I experienced such a remarkable wave of political activism."

With the future of the United Kingdom hanging in the balance, Mr Salmond also highlighted the "enduring bonds" which will continue between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The First Minister added: "To our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom, I say this: we don't seek division, but rather equality. A new, better and harmonious relationship founded on our enduring bonds of family and culture."

British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted yesterday he was "nervous" that the UK may be on the verge of breaking up. In the event of a Yes vote, he will face intense pressure from Conservative backbenchers to resign as Prime Minister, having presided over the separation of England's 307-year-old union with Scotland.

Mr Cameron insisted that he would not stand down if Scotland voted for independence. "My name is not on the ballot paper. What's on the ballot paper is, does Scotland want to stay in the United Kingdom or does Scotland want to separate itself from the United Kingdom," he said.

"That's the only question that will be decided on Thursday night. The question about my future will come at the British general election coming soon."

In Glasgow, Gordon Brown delivered a barnstorming speech, telling an audience in Maryhill: "It is not less patriotic to vote No - Scotland does not belong to the SNP."

Declaring that "the silent majority will be silent no more," the former Labour British prime minister added: "This vote isn't about a Scottish parliament - we have that. It isn't about a shared currency - we have that already. The nationalists' aim is to break every constitutional link with the UK - and we will not have that. We are a nation, yesterday, today and tomorrow."

Blair Jenkins, the chief executive of Yes Scotland, said the polls demonstrated that the campaign for independence was within "touching distance" of victory, adding that he believed the expected record voter turnout would favour his side.

The No campaign accused the Yes side of aggressive tactics - with various unionist politicians taking it in turns to cry foul.

Nick Clegg, the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, said the campaign had seen some "pretty nasty incidents", while Ukip leader Nigel Farage accused Mr Salmond of fuelling "vitriol" on the streets.

Jack McConnell, the country's former First Minister who now sits in the House of Lords in Westminster, said police should be blamed for a "shocking" lack of effort at preventing intimidation on the campaign trail.

In response the Scottish Police Federation said the extent of the aggression faced on the streets by politicians had been exaggerated.

Irish Independent

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