AN impartial public education campaign must be mounted ahead of the independence referendum, academics at Edinburgh University said today.
They said it was vital to ensure that on such a crucial issue people had enough information to make a reasoned judgement.
The call came following yesterday’s launch of the Yes Scotland campaign, when First Minister Alex Salmond announced its aim of getting a million people to sign the Yes Declaration in favour of independence by 2014. He said: “If we achieve that, then we shall win an independent Scotland.”
Mr Salmond told supporters at the launch at Cineworld in Fountainbridge they were there to “unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth” that “the people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland”.
Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who appeared on stage with Mr Salmond, said Greens were not nationalists but he would help “develop a clear and compelling case for Scotland to take a bold and radical step and vote Yes to independence”.
The academics, including Professor Charlie Jeffery and colleagues Dr Nicola McEwen and Dr Ailsa Henderson, said there should be “an impartial, informative and accessible” public education programme on Scottish independence and suggested it could be led by the Electoral Commission, drawing on appropriate expertise in universities, the voluntary sector and other non-aligned groups.
In a statement they said: “A referendum involving such a fundamental option for change as independent statehood is clearly an event of enormous significance. Given that significance, we believe that particular emphasis should be given to ensuring that all groups within the electorate are sufficiently well-informed to be able to give a reasoned judgement.”
They pointed out such an information campaign had been carried out in Quebec ahead of referendums in 1980 and 1995.
Celebrities including Hollywood star Brian Cox and X-Men actor Alan Cumming joined the politicians at yesterday’s launch of the Yes campaign.
Cox told the audience: “We have arrived at the moment to realise our potential.”
Cumming said Scotland had “blossomed” since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. He added: “I believe independence can only add to our potential. The world is waiting for us. Scotland is ready.”
There was no personal appearance or video message from Sir Sean Connery, but actor Martin Compston read a statement from the star, in which he said: “This is a historic day. The Yes campaign has centred on a positive vision for Scotland. It is rooted in inclusiveness, equality and that core democratic value that the people of Scotland are the best guardians of their own future.”