ALEX Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon took to the skies yesterday for a campaign trip that stopped off in all of Scotland’s seven cities.
Travelling by helicopter, the First Minister visited supporters in Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee, while Ms Sturgeon made stops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. The pair met later in Perth for a joint appearance.
Mr Salmond said the cross-country tour was designed to highlight “seven key gains of a Yes vote”, including the protection of the NHS from the threat of privatisation, the transformation of childcare and a rise in the minimum wage. The politicans confirmed Yes campaign pledges to scrap Trident missiles, shake up social security, tackle child poverty and create jobs.
The First Minister used his leg of the tour to claim that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest nations as he suggested a Yes vote would lead to improved living standards.
Mr Salmond also repeated a key claim from the Yes campaign that a No would place Scotland’s NHS at risk of privatisation due to Westminster cuts, despite health being fully devolved to Holyrood.
He said: “Scotland’s one of the 20 wealthiest countries in the world per head – but for too many people it doesn’t seem that way. A Yes vote is a golden opportunity for people to use that wealth and control policy so many more people benefit.
“With Yes, we’ll always get governments we vote for, we can protect our NHS from Tory cuts and privatisation, and we can tailor economic and jobs policy to our needs.”
Mr Salmond said the seven key gains of a Yes vote would now be a key plank of the closing stages of the campaign.
He said: “As the opportunities of independence have become clearer, we have seen more and more people switch from No to Yes, and with this tour I’ll be taking the positive case of seven key gains of independence directly to ordinary people in cities across the country.”
The Deputy First Minister warned that a No vote would lead to a surge in child poverty in a Tory-dominated UK and the continued existence of Trident at Faslane on the Clyde.
Ms Sturgeon said: “All across Scotland, more and more people are waking up to the opportunities of independence and this tour of our seven cities will be a fantastic way for us to take the positive message directly to the people of Scotland.
“A Yes vote is our opportunity to transform childcare, get rid of the obscenity of Trident nuclear weapons from the River Clyde and stop the Tories from putting up to 100,000 more children into poverty.”
However, Labour MSP Richard Baker, a director of Better Together, claimed Mr Salmond’s plans would lead to more cuts to public services.
Mr Baker said: “While Alex Salmond is in the air, we are on the streets fighting for a No vote to protect the NHS and public services. There is extra public spending that Scotland gets as part of the UK and public services would be even better protected under a Labour government, whereas Alex Salmond’s plans for independence would mean more austerity.”
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone accused Mr Salmond of behaving like the Yes side had already won the referendum as he compared the First Minister’s tour of Scotland to a US presidential-style campaign.
He said: “Perhaps he should be using a hot air balloon as there is plenty of hot air coming from the Yes campaign.”