Giant ‘yes’ sign targets flying referendum voters

Eccentric independent councillor Peter de Vink has erected the huge Yes banner on a hill within his rural estate. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Eccentric independent councillor Peter de Vink has erected the huge Yes banner on a hill within his rural estate. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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IT’S a sign of the times that’s more Hollywood than Holyrood.

A huge Yes banner – almost twice the size of the famous landmark overlooking Tinsel Town – has been unveiled on a Midlothian hillside in a bid to convince air passengers to vote for Scottish independence.

Towering 20 metres high and stretching more than six double-decker buses in width, the titanic white tarpaulin sign has been fixed to Huntly Cot Hill using 300 metal pegs.

It has been mounted on a colossal rural estate belonging to eccentric independent councillor Peter de Vink – a former Conservative member who 
converted to Yes following the SNP’s shock electoral majority in 2011.

He believes the banner will turn the heads of tens of thousands of airline passengers in the remaining two weeks before the September 18 crunch vote.

While it may not quite be visible from space, Cllr de Vink said he hopes it encourages fellow campaigners to “reach for the stars”.

“All the people who fly in will be asked by the pilots to have a look,” he said. “It’s big when you stand close to it.”

An earlier bid to erect a giant Yes banner above the Midlothian Snowsports Centre at Hillend was scuppered when officials ordered it to be removed because it was sited on council land.

While Cllr de Vink frets that thieves could steal or sabotage his sign, he believes it will remain intact until polling day.

“I have a modest 800-acre estate,” he said. “I thought it was brilliant how they put up that Yes sign on the ski slope but then had to move it because it was council property.

“This one doesn’t have to be moved because it’s mine.

And Cllr de Vink added: “I passionately believe that Yes is the answer. I’ve studied it carefully. I used to be a No [voter] until about four years ago, when I started to become interested in it.”

Blair Jenkins, Yes Scotland chief executive, said the enormous sign would inspire campaigners to greater heights.

He said: “If our supporters are looking for a sign other than the improving polls that we’re closing the gap on No, then maybe this one will provide them with added inspiration as they pound the streets with the Yes message.”

Edinburgh-based pilot Martin Russell, who flies for airline Thomson, said the sign would quickly become a talking point amongst the flying fraternity.

He said: “Signs on the ground do catch your eye, and in the air they can too. That’s why some airlines put their name on the underbelly of the aeroplane. Passengers coming into Edinburgh will notice it.

“The approach speed is quite slow, so you will be in the approach phase descending into the city for anywhere up to five or ten minutes.

“As a campaigning ploy, it’s really quite good.”

And Mr Russell did not rule out some pilots doing a banking manoeuvre to give passengers a better view of the sign.

“We’re always trying to make the public announcements to the passengers more interesting, and trying to point out areas of interest, so if pilots were used to seeing it, they might point it out.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com

Cultural impact – Pages 8-9