Scent of victory energises Scottish independence campaign

10th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Pounding the streets of Edinburgh, campaigners for Scottish independence are more hopeful than ever that they can win next week's referendum -- and a last-minute visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron cannot dampen their enthusiasm.

The atmosphere in the Scottish capital is electric as a sharp narrowing of opinion polls has made the prospect of the break-up of the United Kingdom a distinct possibility in the September 18 vote.

After years of elections that left many voters questioning why they should bother casting their ballot, the question of whether Scotland should go it alone is on everybody's lips, discussed in bars, offices and on the street.

Everywhere you turn are posters, on windscreens, windows and lampposts, much of it a sea of blue and white as the "Yes Scotland" logo in the colours of the saltire flag dominates the red and yellow slogans of the "Better Together" campaign.

"The city is buzzing. It's fascinating to see all the people talk about politics, young people too," said Margaret David, a 62-year-old activist for the pro-independence "Yes" campaign.

"This is a time of change. Before nobody listened to the people -- now they feel they can make a difference and be listened for once."

Garey Cooker, a 25-year-old member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), recounts listening to a group of teenagers on the bus discussing the question of European Union funding.

And while his parents and older brother are opposed to independence -- just one of many families divided on the issue -- he believes the independence camp might just win.

Until last month, it looked to be heading for certain defeat, but two opinion polls in recent days put the two sides neck and neck.

"We were always behind. I always thought we could do it, but now it's like: oh my god we are going to do it!" Cooker said, pushing an umpteenth leaflet through a letter box.

"At some point it just clicks in and snowballs. It takes time to adjust to the idea of change."

While the "No" camp has been appealing to the "silent majority" they say want Scotland to stay in the UK, activists for independence are a vocal bunch.

"We fight for something. They fight against something. Makes it easier for us," Cooker said.

Like many in the SNP, he is driven by the success of the 2011 Scottish election campaign which saw a final push propel First Minister Alex Salmond into power.

Hoping to repeat that operation, hundreds of activists are out campaigning in Edinburgh, armed with SNP publications and a precious list of undecided voters.

- 'Only lies' from London -

"I feel that more and more people are leaning to the 'Yes' side," observed Terence Chang, a 50-year-old photographer.

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Australia and a "proud" resident of Scotland for the past 24 years, he has a shop selling knick-knacks celebrating the independence campaign.

Two fluffy toy pandas sit in the window, a reminder, Chang says, that Edinburgh has more of the rare animals in its zoo (two) than Cameron has members of parliament in Scotland.

Out of 59 representatives of Scotland in the House of Commons in London, just one is a Conservative.

Cameron headed to Edinburgh on Wednesday in a united push for the UK with his deputy in the government coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and British opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.

But the "Yes" campaigners in Edinburgh are not worried.

"It's so typical Westminster. They think if they show up it will be alright," said Cooker.

"None of them is really liked here," adds David.

"They have never done nothing for us apart from stealing our resources, taking away everything and leaving only crumbs on the table.

"Now they try to scare us but I'm not afraid at all. I don't believe they will give us more powers. Only promises, lies. They are going to punish us for pushing our heads up."


© 2014 AFP

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