Scottish independence: Mass rallies mark referendum climax

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 Both sides in the Scottish referendum campaign have held rallies as they make their final efforts to win over undecided voters.

Independence supporters attended a mass event in the centre of Glasgow, where they were urged to “vote ‘Yes’ for a prosperous Scotland”.

At the same time, pro-UK campaigners gathered nearby to insist the case for independence had not been made.

The latest polls have suggested the result is too close to call.A Panelbase poll released on Wednesday afternoon, which was not carried out for any media outlet, suggested support for independence was on 48%, with 52% support for Scotland staying in the UK, once undecided voters were excluded.

This was the same figure as polls released on Tuesday evening by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail.

In other developments:

  • Unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 15,000 between May and July, and now stands at 6% – lower than the UK rate of 6.2%.
  • The Scottish Police Federation has dismissed any suggestions that the referendum could be hit by serious public disorder as “preposterous”.
  • The Spanish prime minister has warned that an independent Scotland would have to reapply to become a new member state of the European Union.
  • Scotland’s 32 local authorities are in the final stages of a huge logistical exercise to ensure the smooth running of the referendum.
  • Alex Salmond will deliver his final message ahead of the referendum at a rally in Perth on Wednesday evening, where he will say an independent Scotland would be the “closest friend, most honest counsel and most committed ally” to the rest of the UK.
  • Police Scotland is investigating a complaint that an electoral counting officer in Edinburgh has made public details of the postal ballots cast in the council area.
  • Deputy PM Nick Clegg has said changes to the rules on Scottish MPs voting on England-only measures should be brought in at the same time as Scotland gets more control over tax and spending.
  • Businessman Sir Tom Hunter has told the BBC he is not convinced an independent Scotland would be able to agree a currency-sharing deal with the rest of the UK.

Speaking at the pro-independence rally, Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan attacked the “back of a fag packet” pledge of further devolution made by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties.

He told supporters: “A vow – it looks like something written on the back of a fag packet at the fag end of a long campaign. But the people of Scotland will not be fooled.

“There is only one guarantee of getting more powers for the Scottish Parliament and that is by voting Yes, so let’s take that message out, let’s take our message out to every street, every city, every town, every village, every community, every workplace, every home in Scotland.”

Hundreds of “Yes” supporters later congregated in the city’s George Square.

Meanwhile, Better Together head Alistair Darling urged anyone who had doubts about independence to vote “No”.

Addressing supporters alongside former Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a Love Scotland, Vote No rally, he said: “If you have such a momentous decision to take, you need to have certainty.

“What is very clear at the end of this long campaign, from the nationalist side there is no certainty at all. For anyone in Scotland who has any doubt, be in no doubt – you have to say ‘No’.”

On the final day of campaigning, First Minister Alex Salmond published a letter to the people of Scotland in which he told them they will hold power in their hands as they vote to determine their country’s future.

Mr Salmond asked voters to step back from the political arguments and statistics that have defined the two-year campaign and trust in themselves as they go into the polling booth.

He said: “The talking is nearly done. The campaigns will have had their say. What’s left is just us – the people who live and work here. The only people with a vote. The people who matter.

“The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands. It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.

“What to do? Only each of us knows that. For my part, I ask only this. Make this decision with a clear head and a clear conscience.”

On the campaign trail Nick Eardley, BBC News

Both campaigns have been out in force in Glasgow this morning as they do what they can to rally support for their respective sides in the final hours before the vote.

First up, it was Yes Scotland who gathered on the steps of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, beside the statue for Donald Dewar, the architect of devolution (sporting a “Yes” sticker it is unlikely he would have approved of).

Chairman Dennis Canavan described the independence movement as the biggest grassroots campaign Scotland has ever seen, and they wanted that to show: the former Labour MP joined by SNP members, Greens, SSP activists, Women for Independence campaigners and members of Deacon Blue, among others.

Immediately after, a few miles away in Maryhill, it was Better Together’s turn. All the big guns of the campaign were gathered at the community hall – Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, the leaders of the three main opposition parties at Holyrood.

Any weariness as the campaign reaches it crescendo was well hidden. Brown worked the crowd into a frenzy talking about his vision for social justice in Scotland and the questions he says have been left “unaddressed by the SNP”. Speaker after speaker received standing ovations as they outlined why they were voting “No”.

Both campaigns have fought long and hard. It is nearly decision time.

The first minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the referendum campaign had been one of the most exhilarating in Western Europe, and said he was “assuming absolutely nothing” about the result.

Watching people queuing to register to vote had been a “humbling” sight, he added, and pledged to honour Clause 30 of the Edinburgh agreement by which both sides agreed to honour the result and work in the best interests of Scotland and the UK regardless of the outcome.

Referring to Spain’s apparent opposition to automatic Scottish entry to the EU, Mr Salmond said Scotland had 1% of the EU’s population, but 20% of its fish stocks, 25% of its renewable energy and 60% of its oil resources.

He argued that anybody who believed the country would not be welcome in the EU did not understand that Europe “accepts democratic results” and that Scotland “has a huge amount to contribute”.

Mr Darling told the Today programme that he thought there would be a “No” vote but even if there were not he would play his part in doing “the best I possibly can” for Scotland.

“I’m not going. This is my country. I’m staying,” said Mr Darling. But he said that did not mean he would sign up to the “nonsense” in the Scottish government’s White Paper and insisted that “Alex Salmond is not Team Scotland”.

Mr Darling also warned that, whichever way the vote went, there would be hard work healing divisions in Scottish society which had emerged during the campaign.

 

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