Counting down days to independence vote

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches the date of the referendum
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches the date of the referendum

THERE may still be 538 days to go and most people will have a Christmas and two sets of summer holidays to think about before then.

But local politicians and activists have been energised by the revelation of the date when Scottish voters - including for the first time 16 and 17 year-olds - will go to the polls to decide whether they want their country to become an independent state - or stay part of the United Kingdom.

Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance said he had not known that September 18, 2014 would be the big day in advance of the announcement by his boss - First Minister Alex Salmond - but he was “pleased and excited” that it had now been confirmed.

“It will give the people of Scotland a historic choice to vote on their own destiny,” said Mr Torrance.

He declined to make predictions on what voters would do with their ballots, but added: “The latest opinion polls, which show around a five per cent swing between the ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ campaigns, are very encouraging.

“But we have a lot of work to do to convince people who are unconvinced.”

He also believes a wind from Westmintster may yet fill the sails of the ‘Yes’ camp.

“The welfare changes being introduced by the United Kingdom government will, I think, begin to have an effect on people’s views,” he said

Mr Torrance will be in the chair when Yes Kirkcaldy holds its launch meeting at the Philp Hall in Links Street on Friday.

The event will l feature guests speakers reflecting the all and no party nature of the campaign, including Dennis Canavan, chairman of the national Yes Scotland advisory board and a former Labour MP and Independent MSP, Allan Grogan of Labour for Independence and Shirley-Anne Somerville, a former Scottish National Party MSP who is also the campaign’s director of communities and who was born, brought up and educated in Kirkcaldy.

On the other side of the divide in the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future, Dunfermline MP Tommy Docherty,a spokesman for the Better Together campaign in Fife, said: “We now have the date, but we still don’t have the detail on Independence. “The Better Together campaign will be out talking to people across Fife over the next 18 months, giving people the facts about what separation would meant to them and their families.”

Better Together, like its opponents, includes people of more than one party and those of no party.

The campaign includes the Scottish Conservatives, led by Fifer Ruth Davidson, who last week backed more financial powers for the Scottish Parliament - a move away from the traditional Tory position.

She said her party had been “listening to the people of Scotland”, adding: “We have heard their ambition for a devolved parliament - within the United Kingdom - with greater powers than it currently holds.”