Scottish independence: The new pro-union campaign stepped up a gear today when one of the country’s best-known authors and a much-loved transvestite comedian appeared at its launch.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling and flamboyant English comic Eddie Izzard attended the launch of a new campaign encouraging people living elsewhere in the UK to have their say on Scotland’s future.
The “Scotland, Please Don’t Go” drive was unveiled by the pro-Union Better Together campaign, headed by former chancellor Alistair Darling.
Their appearance comes just days after the campaign was said to have been in crisis – and remarks from senior Lib Dem politicians that a Yes vote was a possibility.
Izzard issued a “heartfelt” plea for Scots to stick with the UK, telling how he had volunteered to speak out to the keep the “United Kingdom family” together after the “beautiful time” of the Olympics two years ago when Team GB emerged triumphant.
The comedian revealed he was reduced to tears by Braveheart – and even offered a taste of the Scottish accent he will be using in his latest role in Castles in the Sky, where he plays the Brechin-born inventor of radar Sir Robert Watson-Watt – as he fielded questions at Edinburgh University.
The comedian, 52, said he had been inspired to speak out in favour of the Union after David Bowie issued an appeal for Scots to reject a split earlier this year when the star won a Brit award.
“He just said it, and I thought, ‘Wow that’s really positive’,”
Izzard said of Bowie’s intervention: “It’s also heartfelt. David didn’t do it just to get a press line – he did it because he would like Scotland to stick with us.”
The comic played a show at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre earlier tonight and joined Mr Darling, head of the official Better
Together campaign, to launch the Scotland Don’t Go campaign – which will see non-Scots living elsewhere in the UK campaigning for a No vote.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling was a surprise guest of Mr Darling at the event, sitting alongside him just a few rows from the front of the stage.
The writer, who had earlier attended a private Better Together reception at the theatre, refused to speak to media at the event.
Rowling, who wrote her wizard-centred novels in Edinburgh and continues to live in the city, has previously said she opposed independence and would vote against it in a referendum. “I’m pro Union,” she told a London-based newspaper last year.
Comic Izzard said: “As a member of the UK family, I felt I should say a simple message. Scotland, please don’t go’,”.
“There are millions of people in the United Kingdom who feel this, who are probably not being heard – I know that the polls show this. I’d already volunteered to do this. It wasn’t something I was asked to do.
“It is Scotland’s question and I am an Englishman, but I am a British person, so I thought I would come up and say, ‘Please don’t go’.”
Izzard is a well-known Labour supporter and plans to stand for elected office in 2020, either as London mayor or as an MP.
He added: “We do amazing things when we’re together. The Olympic Games – what we had in the Olympic Games will never happen again if Scotland does separate off. It was a beautiful time.”
Holyrood could get more powers after a No vote, but Izzard was not clear about what these might be, although defence was likely to be “more collective” with the rest of the UK, he said.
Meanwhile, speaking for the Yes Scotland campaign, actress Elaine C Smith said: “I love Eddie Izzard – I think he’s a real genius as a stand-up and I have seen him several times.
“If Eddie was living here, I’m sure he’d be voting ‘Yes’ because the independence movement encompasses all of his progressive ideals and his desire for a better and different society.”
Mr Darling said: “Eddie is the first of a number of people who will be taking part in this campaign.”