Campaigns reach fever pitch as referendum nears

Fergus Henderson and daughter Iona with the giant Yes sign on their chimney and, below, Sophie MacLeod and Sally Gourlay try out indyref sundaes. Picture: Alex Hewitt
Fergus Henderson and daughter Iona with the giant Yes sign on their chimney and, below, Sophie MacLeod and Sally Gourlay try out indyref sundaes. Picture: Alex Hewitt
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YES and No campaigns are reaching fever pitch across the city as the referendum battle enters its final few days.

Pro- and anti-independence posters and banners have been appearing everywhere as the frenzy mounts.

Some schools have banned campaign stickers because pupils were putting them on everything in sight.

One campaigner has put a giant Yes on to his chimney.

Software engineer Fergus Henderson, 45, from Blackhall, who has taken a sabbatical from his job to help with the campaign, said: “I saw people putting up posters so I thought ‘I have got a big chimney breast which is quite visible with a good view from the road so why not use it’?”

Mr Henderson hoisted the letters up with string and the help of a friend in a two-hour effort and hopes the display could still sway some voters.

In the space of just a few days, almost every piece of street furniture in Princes Street – including bus stops, lampposts and bins – have acquired some form of slogan. Yes stickers outnumber those for Better Together or No Thanks.

But No voters have also been putting their affiliations on show.

Ken Drew, 57, and his wife Fiona, 53, joined neighbours in a mass demonstration by hanging a banner reading: “Proud to be Scots, Delighted to be United”, from the top of their tenement on Oxford Terrace.

It was later joined by a giant Union flag which was donated to the cause by neighbour and retired marine Ian Gardiner and his wife Louise.

“There’s a lot of Yes voters and it’s a very visible and vocal campaign but I think, as the polls suggest, half the country think otherwise,” said Mr Drew, an architect.

“My neighbours asked if I would be OK to hang it out there because that’s the most visible corner so we put the banner up and that was fun and then my downstairs neighbour had a flag too so we went for the double whammy.”

Meanwhile, a piper is set to lead voters to a polling station in the Capital.

The Yes Craigmillar/Niddrie group announced plans to stage a Short Walk to Freedom march from Peffermill Court to the nearest polling station at 11am, 3pm and 7pm on the day of the referendum vote.

A poster on social media inviting people to join the march said: “Let’s all be Bravehearts!”

The proposed event was criticised by Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale. She said: “A march that compares Scotland’s debate with Mandela’s march for freedom to me is grossly distasteful and offensive. To others, it might feel intimidating.”

But organiser Lloyd Quinan said the march stemmed from some elderly ladies who said they wanted to do something special for referendum day. He said: “We have about 200 people planning to take part in the three marches.”

Meanwhile, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has attacked “scaremongering” business leaders, warning they would face a “day of reckoning” in an independent Scotland.

Mr Sillars accused large companies and banks of “subverting Scotland’s democratic process” by making high-profile interventions in the independence referendum debate.

He suggested oil giant BP could be nationalised in an independent Scotland while bankers’ “casino days” would be over.

Mr Sillars was speaking on a visit to Wester Hailes with the Margomobile, named in memory of his wife, independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald, who died in April.

He said: “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.

“The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory prime minister, to keep Scotland’s poor poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a Yes.

“BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have been forced to be.

“As for the bankers: your casino days, rescued by socialisation of your liabilities while you waltz off with the profits, will be over.”

His comments were seized on as “threats” by campaigners for a No vote.

Tory finance spokesman and Lothian MSP Gavin Brown said: “It seems the Yes campaign are completely losing the plot. To even suggest BP would need to learn the ‘meaning of nationalisation’ and there will be a ‘day of reckoning’ for big businesses is not only threatening but also utterly unnecessary.

“Whether Scotland becomes independent or not, we would need big businesses to bring in investment and help create jobs.”

But actor Peter Mullan, who starred in Trainspotting and My Name Is Joe, also criticised “scaremongering” by anti-independence campaigners, branding it “deeply insulting and very patronising”.

Describing himself as a lifelong supporter of independence, he said: “It is getting wearisome, every day you wake up and it’s like ‘what will they come up with today, what will they dream up about this catastrophe that will befall us all?’. It makes me angry because it is bullying of the highest order and it is intolerable.”

Kirk Moderator the Rt Rev John Chalmers will tomorrow make an appeal for harmony whatever the outcome of the independence referendum.

He will deliver a sermon live on BBC Radio Four’s Sunday Worship from St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.

He will say that while it is time for the people of Scotland to make their choice, they must continue to live with each other once the result is known.

He will say: “I’m one of those people who has spent a lifetime trying to see both sides of every argument, trying to work out complicated ‘middle ways’ that keep as many people as possible content, but I’m not going to get away with that this week.

“The real success of next Thursday will be that, whatever the outcome, every voice will continue to play its part in shaping the Scotland that people in Scotland vote for.”

Brown and Darling hint at Holyrood bids

Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown – old friends who fell out in government – could find themselves reunited at Holyrood.

Mr Darling, pictured, leader of the Better Together campaign, hinted for the first time he could consider quitting Westminster for the Scottish Parliament once the referendum is over.

It came after Mr Brown also alluded to the possibility of standing for election as an MSP.

Mr Darling, MP for Edinburgh South West, said he had become re-energised about politics by the referendum campaign, but was planning to sit down with his family after Thursday’s vote and take stock before deciding what was next.

Asked if that could include taking a seat at Holyrood instead of Westminster, he said: “Of course it does.”

But he stressed he was not making any decision until after the referendum.

Earlier this week, Mr Brown hinted of his possible move during a speech attacking Alex Salmond for “deceiving” people over the funding of the NHS.

Friends from the south back Yes and end of nuclear weapons

Support for the Yes campaign has arrived from south of the Border.

British Friends of Scottish Freedom unravelled a 100ft banner in favour of independence.

The group, which travelled up to the Capital from Bristol, hope the move would be the first step towards demilitarisation.

Its members, who are anti-Trident, wanted to unfurl the flag at the Castle.

But they had to settle for Holyrood Park after they were told it could not be flown on the grounds of the historic attraction. Organiser Edward Clarke, 72, said he believed there were many supporters elsewhere in the UK.

He said: “If there’s a chance of getting some sanity with independence then it’s worth the journey. There are certain parties like the SNP and Green Party who came out strongly against Trident.”

The banner has moved to the William Wallace monument in Stirling where it will be today and will then go to George Square, Glasgow, to finish off its tour of Scotland tomorrow.