Campaign for independence of Scotland enters final phase

Published September 14, 2014
MEMBERS of the Orange order march through Edinburgh on Saturday in a show of support for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.— Photo by Reuters
MEMBERS of the Orange order march through Edinburgh on Saturday in a show of support for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.— Photo by Reuters

EDINBURGH: Thousands of members of the Protestant Orange order mar­ched through Edinburgh on Saturday in a show of strength against Scottish independence, as campaigning ahead of the referendum entered its final weekend.

Organisers claimed up to 15,000 people attended the march to show support for the United Kingdom, among them members from Northern Irish and English branches of the ultra-conservative, anti-Catholic organisation.

Know more: There is life after independence

The official campaign against independence had distanced itself from the protest amid fears it would fuel sectarian tensions just a few days before Thurs­day’s vote, but it passed off peacefully.

Survey shows unionists are gaining ground

“We are proud to be part of Great Britain. We are passionate about the union. We are here to galvanise the ‘No’ vote,” Henry Dunbar, Grand Master of the order’s Grand Lodge of Scotland, told a rally in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

Across Scotland, campaigners from both sides were pounding the streets at the end of a week that saw pro-unionists forced to raise their game following an opinion poll that put the pro-independence camp ahead for the first time.

However, a new Survation poll on Saturday suggests the “No” campaign has regained its lead, recording 47 per cent support to the “Yes” camp’s 40.8 per cent, with nine per cent remaining undecided and 3.2 per cent unwilling to say.

But both sides are taking nothing for granted, with the “Yes” campaign led by Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond planning to send out 35,000 volunteers to deliver 2.6 million leaflets over two days.

Members of the official “Better Together” campaign had rejected the Orange order’s involvement in what they said should be a non-sectarian push to keep the union together.

Orange marches in Northern Ireland often descend into violence, and a 12-year-old spectator was hit in the face with a bottle at an event in Glasgow in July.

After that incident, opposition Labour lawmaker Jim Murphy said: “I want nothing to do with them.”

Many in the unionist “No” campaign are also wary that interventions by outsiders may be counter-productive, including last week’s visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Watching the streams of Orange order pipe bands and marchers singing “God Save The Queen” through the streets of Edinburgh, “No” voter Ginger Fraser said he did not think Scots would be swayed by the event.

“I don’t think it will affect the vote. People make up their own mind,” he said.

Campaigning in Glasgow, Deputy First Minister and SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon had a similar message, albeit drawing a different conclusion.

“The ‘Yes’ campaign has been carried along by a flourishing of self-confidence among people in Scotland,” she said.

“That momentum is still growing and will soon become unstoppable, as people reject the Downing Street-orchestrated campaign to talk Scotland down.

Business leaders and economists is­­su­­ed a string of warnings this week ab­­o­ut the risks of breaking from the 300-year-old union, and Saturday’s poll indicated their message was hitting home.

Some 40 per cent of voters said they believed they and their families would be financially worse off in an independent Scotland, against 27 per cent who believed the contrary.

Global investment giant Deutsche Bank said independence “would go down in history as a political and economic mistake” as large as those that caused the Great Depression.

And British finance minister George Osborne and Bank of England chief Mark Carney have cancelled plans to attend a G20 meeting in Australia, to ensure they are in place to deal with the economic fallout of a “Yes” vote.

The nationalists have reacted with anger at the dire economic predictions, which they dismiss as speculative and say are being orchestrated by the London government.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2014



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