A PRO-INDEPENDENCE campaigner has been assaulted on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile by a woman who was outraged at his Yes placard.
• Police examine CCTV footage to catch elderly man’s attacker.
• ‘Monstrous woman’ broke campaigner’s wrist by pushing him to the ground.
In what are believed to have been the first physical blows of the debate on Scotland’s future, frail nationalist campaigner James McMillan, 80, was sent spinning to the ground by the woman – after she wrestled a banner supporting a Yes vote from him.
Mr McMillan had been entertaining passers-by with an independence-inspired song when his attacker raced at him from the direction of a Royal Mile kilt shop.
It is understood the woman did not say anything to Mr McMillan and then ran off with him lying on the ground.
The attack hospitalised the OAP and has underlined the uglier side of the independence debate.
The Scots-Canadian, who returned to the Capital with his wife, Gillian, three years ago, suffered a broken wrist, severe bruising and cut to his head in the assault which occurred outside John Knox House at 5pm on Tuesday.
Police Scotland last night confirmed they are hunting the attacker and are examining CCTV footage in the area.
A shocked Mr McMillan said: “This makes it clear to me the Yes campaign has got them rattled.”
The Yes supporter was wearing a kilt and singing his adapted version of the hymn The Cross of St Andrew while carrying a placard which read: “Time to get rid of the scourge of the Normans. Sign up to the Yes side”.
He became engaged in an amicable independence debate with two passing men. However, their conversation was soon interrupted when the woman attacked him. Mr McMillan, who lives in sheltered housing, said: “I was talking to two guys when all of a sudden this monstrous woman – who was around 5ft 9ins and about three foot across – came barrelling at me from out of a shop.
“She grabbed hold of my placard and then pushed me over. As I lay on the ground I looked up at her and she had a look on her face like, ‘My God . . . what have I done?’
“I’ve been waving my placard and singing my songs around the city for the past few months and have never had a confrontation like this. I think it goes to show that the unionists are fearful of us because we have them on the run.”
A tourist who witnessed the incident called for an ambulance and Mr McMillan was taken to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was treated for his injuries.
The Pilrig pensioner remains unbowed by the ugly stramash. “Even if I’m in a wheelchair I’ll continue to head out and campaign,” he said. “This has only served to make me more determined.”
A Royal Mile resident who saw the drama unfold said it was an ugly scene. He said: “This woman came storming out of a shop, snatched his placard and then turned to walk away. The guy went to grab his sign back and she pushed him.
“She was quite a big woman so he went flying. He had a cut on his head and looked a little concussed.”
Detective Constable James Philp, of Police Scotland, confirmed they are probing the attack. “We know that a small crowd had been watching him sing, so we are appealing for any witnesses to this incident to come forward,” he said.
While nasty attacks from both sides have been apparent on social media, the Royal Mile assault is thought to be the first physical attack linked with the independence debate.
Comment: Don’t allow it all to get out of hand
By Ian Swanson
FEELINGS are bound to run high over the indep-endence referendum – after all, it’s Scotland’s future that is being decided.
But both sides need to be careful that the debate does not get out of hand.
The attack on a pensioner with a Yes placard in the Royal Mile comes on top of long-running concerns about the level of abuse being hurled around on social media.
The so-called Cybernats have become notorious but independence supporters say they suffer just as much. Even some exchanges in parliament have become a little ill-tempered.
Whatever the referendum result, Scots will need to work together afterwards. When he visited Edinburgh earlier this year, former United States president Bill Clinton knew better than to take sides, however he did urge both camps to behave with respect and weigh up the pros and cons without “tearing the place apart”.