THE Scottish National Party has kickstarted the biggest political campaign in Scottish history, launching its “roadmap to independence” and setting up a fund-raising effort that will add hundreds of thousands of pounds to a £1 million referendum war-chest.
An enormous effort to persuade the Scottish public to vote “Yes” in the referendum began yesterday with a campaign launch that saw the SNP promise to contact every voter in Scotland in its effort to achieve independence.
With a new slogan, “Scotland – It’s Starting”, ringing out across the SNP conference at Inverness, the party leadership unveiled a roadmap that identified four key steps that will be taken by the party over the coming months.
In addition, all SNP members were asked to contribute towards a fighting fund, as it was announced that all of the £918,000 bequeathed to the party by the poet Edwin Morgan would be devoted to the referendum campaign.
On the final day of an upbeat conference, the SNP leadership countered their opponents who claim independence is unaffordable by claiming that Scotland would be the sixth-wealthiest country in the world if it stopped subsidising the rest of the UK. The claim was made by the finance secretary, John Swinney, who said that if Scotland had its share of oil and gas revenue it would be ten places above the UK, which is currently lying 16th in the wealth league table.
Earlier, the referendum campaign manager, Angus Robertson, MP, declared that the bid for independence would be the “most unprecedented campaign of mobilisation and communication by the SNP… in the history of Scottish politics”.
The slick launch contrasted with the disarray of the pro-Union parties, who have yet to put together a convincing strategy on how to deal with the threat from Alex Salmond’s party.
Despite the polish, there were still unanswered questions about the SNP’s approach. Most notably, the SNP still declined to name a date for the referendum.
Mr Salmond’s opponents are also demanding that he provides more detail on what independence would actually mean and cost. Although he has indicated that he is prepared to have a “Devo Max” option on the referendum ballot paper, there were no further details on how that particular constitutional settlement would work.
But the campaign has been given an enormous boost with the Morgan legacy. Activists in the auditorium of the Eden Court Theatre gasped when Mr Robertson told them the size of the bequest and how it would be spent.
“The independence campaign has been generously supported by the late, great Scots poet and Makar, Edwin Morgan, with a substantial contribution of £918,000, which is ring-fenced for the referendum campaign,” Mr Robertson said.
Hundreds of delegates were then all given forms asking for bank details that promised that their contributions would be “ring-fenced” for the referendum campaign. The form suggested members could give “as little as £1 a month”, which if repeated across the 18,965 membership, would realise £227,580 per year.
But members were encouraged to donate £42 a month, on the basis that would lead to an annual donation per member of £500. If repeated across the membership, it would realise a huge sum.
Delegates were also given campaign literature bearing the “Scotland – It’s Starting” slogan, as well as a booklet titled Your Scotland Your Future outlining the SNP’s vision, before they left to take their message all across Scotland.
The SNP’s highly sophisticated computer database, Activate, which proved so successful in the May election, will be deployed to target voters.
A new website, www.scotlandforward.net, and twitter feed @scotlandforward went live yesterday as the party attempts to repeat the social media campaign that proved so successful at the Scottish election.
The first of four steps in the campaign will be an effort to “galvanise and motivate” members by holding key meetings in constituencies, which will see activists identify known supporters and recruit more members.
The second step will see efforts to build bridges with supporters of independence, who have no party affiliation or who are in other parties.
This will be done in order to “maximise co-operation on the ground and at a national level”. The party has already been in discussions with the Independence Convention, which provides a forum for independence supporters regardless of party loyalties.
The third step will see the SNP engage with sectors of Scottish society to “raise confidence, optimism and understanding of the independence case”.
Members from parliamentarians to activists will work as “ambassadors for independence” to take the case to the people.
The final and fourth step sees the campaign take to the streets to knock on doors in an effort to persuade the public of the benefits of independence.
“Our independence campaign starts now,” Mr Robertson said. “It’s starting. The starting gun is being fired now. We will leave nothing to chance.
“This is the roadmap to independence. The biggest-ever campaign in our history, reaching every household, every voter in Scotland. We will speak with as many voters as possible – supporters, waverers and people who have yet to be convinced. This campaign is not for the SNP. It is a campaign for Scotland.
“This is a campaign for everyone who lives in this country, regardless of where you come from. This is a campaign to secure the best for our communities.”
He added: “This is a campaign to secure the best for our families and society. This campaign is for everyone, regardless of which party you have voted for. It’s starting… so join us and help us win Scotland’s future.”
The SNP’s political opponents criticised Mr Salmond for concentrating on the constitution at a time of economic crisis.
The Labour MP for Glasgow North East, Willie Bain, said: “In the week that Scotland teeters on the brink of recession, the SNP should have published a document showing their plan for getting Scots back to work, stopping the lost generation where one in four young Scottish men can’t find jobs and getting the economy growing again.
“This threadbare document raises more questions than it answers. The gaping omission is that the SNP have failed to articulate the question to which they believe separating Scotland from the rest of the UK is the answer.
“I want a better Scotland, not a separate Scotland – and so do the vast majority of our country.”
George Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP, said: “It is ridiculous that, after four days and ten platform speeches, the SNP are still keeping the date of the referendum secret.
“There is no point them talking about a roadmap when the referendum is still locked in the garage and Alex Salmond won’t tell anyone where he has hidden the keys. They have to stop ducking the question.”