Thousands set for Yes rallies as SNP members up

Supporters of independence have further events planned to keep the pressure on. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Supporters of independence have further events planned to keep the pressure on. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THOUSANDS of people have pledged to attend major rallies outside the Scottish Parliament to reaffirm their support for independence despite the referendum result.

The events – two this weekend and another for Saturday, November 29, the eve of St Andrew’s Day – come as the biggest pro-Yes parties, the SNP and the Greens, reported a further boost to their membership.

Labour acknowledged it needed to reach out to people in the party’s traditional areas of support who had voted Yes in the referendum.

A rally on Saturday at noon, organised under the “Voice of the People” banner is aimed at encouraging a vote for the SNP at next year’s Westminster general election.

More than 6000 people have signed up on social media to attend the event.

Organiser Mel Moore said Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Tommy Sheridan had all been invited to speak.

She said the rally was not only for veterans of the Yes campaign. “We are open to No voters who have changed their minds and regret their decision.”

She made clear the event was a peaceful, family-friendly rally and there would be none of the violence seen in Glasgow in the wake of the referendum result.

She said: “I want to show people we can fight with our hearts and not our fists and be proud at the same time.”

A separate rally outside the parliament on Sunday will call for a “revote” amid claims of vote rigging. A Facebook page announcing the peaceful demo at 1pm has attracted more than 7000 pledges from people planning to attend.

More than 70,000 people have signed an online petition demanding “a revote counted by impartial international parties”.

But chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly issued a statement saying all counts “were properly conducted and scrutinised”.

She said the counting had been monitored by thousands of people representing both the Yes and No campaigns, as well as international election observers, media and police.

She added: “None of these people raised any concerns during the verification, counting and adjudication stages.”

The third rally, and potentially the biggest with 27,000 saying on Facebook they will be going, is being staged on November 29 as “The 45 Plus Rally” – referring to the 45 per cent Yes vote.

Meanwhile MSPs were returning to parliament today, with Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick due to lead the Time for Reflection and First Minister Alex Salmond scheduled to make a statement in the wake of the referendum.

The SNP says it has seen an influx of nearly 17,000 new members since the referendum, taking its total membership to 42,336 – almost as many as the Lib Dems have throughout the UK.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said the figures were “incredibly encouraging”. He said: “It is this new wave of democratic engagement which will hold the Westminster establishment to account on their vow of more powers for Scotland.

“People simply won’t accept the same old politics as usual from Westminster.”

The Greens said more than 3000 new members had joined the party since the close of polls on Thursday, taking membership to more than 5000.

Edinburgh’s SNP group leader Steve Cardownie said Labour should be worried about its support in the Capital at next year’s Westminster general election because so many of the party’s traditional voters had gone to the Yes camp.

Edinburgh overall recorded a 61 per cent No vote.

Councillor Cardownie said: “We knew Edinburgh was going to be difficult. There are a lot of affluent areas – it’s one of the reasons people want to come to live, work and study here – and that was reflected in the vote.”

He said poorer areas such as Niddrie, Craigmillar, Pilton, Muirhouse, Granton, Drylaw, Sighthill and Wester Hailes were “solid” Yes areas.

He continued: “What is there for Labour to celebrate when they lost their heartlands to the Yes campaign?

“It’s a sorry day for the Labour Party when people in the deprived areas did not vote the way they wanted but the people in Balerno did.”

He said next year’s election would give voters the chance to pass judgement on Labour and how it conducted its campaign.

“We talked up Scotland and tried to provide a vision of hope in the future, the opposition was all doom and despair. People will remember that – and it’s not long, it’s just a matter of months until the election.

“I would be surprised if people did not manifest their distaste at the Better Together campaign and their disgruntlement by voting for anyone but the three main parties.”
At the Labour conference in Manchester, Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran acknowledged the Yes camp had won support from Labour voters.

She said: “We need to understand why they are angry and what we need to do about it.

“We need to understand why people feel so let down that they want to opt out entirely.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the Scottish Parliament must be used to address a “deficit of hope”.

Former chancellor Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together Campaign, used a conference appearance to attack Alex Salmond over comments suggesting the SNP could seek a mandate to start independence negotiations without going through another referendum.

Mr Salmond said a referendum was “only one of a number of routes” that could be taken.

Before 2000, the SNP’s position was that winning a majority of seats at Holyrood or Westminster would be enough to trigger independence talks.

Mr Darling told the First Minister: “You lost the argument, you lost the referendum, you have lost office and now you have lost the plot.”

Organiser wants to see end to food banks

A SINGLE mum from Newtongrange is behind plans for the rally at Holyrood this Saturday.

More than 6000 people have said they plan to attend the “Voice of the People” event to demonstrate their continuing support for the SNP and an independent Scotland despite the referendum rejection.

Mel Moore, 28, who has a daughter aged seven, said she had not been involved in the Yes campaign in the run up to the referendum. The rally will include a collection of donations for local food banks.

Ms Moore said: “I’ve had to use a food bank myself and it’s not the nicest thing to have to do. One of the key reasons for voting Yes was to get rid of food banks, A lot of people feel strongly about them.” She also pointed to stark inequalities as part of her concern. “I lived down south, in Essex, for five years and I’ve seen what people have down there.

“You notice the difference. Children there go to school in Prada T-shirts. Our children go to school with empty stomachs.”

She said the rally was an opportunity for ordinary people to have their say about the future of their country.

“It’s to show our support for Alex Salmond for how far he has got us and try to get people to support the SNP at next year’s general election. And I want just normal, everyday people to be able to talk. Some of them have been messaging me about what they want to say. One man is talking about how he has a dream for Scotland and we can win this fight with our hearts, not our fists.

“We have made it clear to people we don’t want scenes like happened in Glasgow.”

She said she had never been interested in politics until the referendum.

And she made clear Saturday’s rally was not challenging the outcome.

“We still have a dream and the aim is to help get the SNP elected. People have lost the fight for their country and my aim is to get that fighting spirit back.