LABOUR front-bencher Jim Murphy has suspended his Scotland-wide referendum tour, claiming Yes Scotland was
orchestrating a campaign of intimidation by sending mobs of protesters to disrupt it.
The shadow foreign secretary is seeking police advice after a series of incidents, which culminated in him being pelted with eggs as he spoke in Kirkcaldy this week.
Better Together has written to Yes Scotland officials asking them to call off what Mr Murphy believes are co-ordinated attacks organised by local branches of the independence campaign on social media. Police Scotland are investigating the incident.
Reacting to Mr Murphy’s decision to suspend his 100 Towns in 100 Days tour, Alex Salmond said he did not
approve of egg-throwing, but defended the public’s right to peaceful protest.
Mr Salmond said: “My advice to people, and Jim Murphy too, is he should ignore it. If he wants to go and shout at people from a loudhailer in the streets, he should be allowed to do so. Myself and other people in the Yes campaign have had much more serious incidents than that one. Of course, they’re deplorable as well.”
The First Minister claimed it was only one or two individuals who were behaving badly in what was otherwise a “wonderful” and “energising” campaign.
Mr Murphy, however, thought differently, saying that he had been challenged to fights and labelled a “terrorist”, “quisling” and “defender of paedophiles”.
Footage of people wearing Yes insignia surrounding Mr Murphy and berating him in foul and aggressive language has been posted on YouTube.
Mr Murphy hosted a press conference in Glasgow on Friday to explain why he had decided to suspend his one-man campaign, which has involved him standing on two Irn-Bru crates in streets up and down the country.
Mr Murphy said: “This tour is intended as a way of getting out and about on Scotland’s high streets to debate the referendum with undecided voters, and the first 70 meetings were great – passionate people on both sides.
“In the past fortnight, things have taken a sinister turn and it has been orchestrated by Yes Scotland, who are organising for mobs to turn up at each meeting to try and intimidate me, which won’t work, and to silence undecided voters.”
Asked to clarify if he believed the protests were being organised by the official Yes Scotland organisation led by chief executive Blair Jenkins, he said: “This is being co-ordinated by Yes Scotland – how high up it is, I don’t know. But I now have a view of how broad it is, and it is very broad indeed.”
Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall is writing to Mr Jenkins demanding that the Yes campaign
“condemn it (intimidating and abusive behaviour) and call it off”, Mr Murphy said. Pressed on whether he accepted that abusive behaviour had already been condemned by Mr Jenkins and other figures in the Yes campaign such as Mr Salmond, Mr Murphy said: “I have no idea – I don’t know how high up this goes in the Yes campaign. Somewhere inside the Yes campaign, this is being co-ordinated.” He added: “They have turned this tap on, they can turn it off.”
Mr Salmond claimed that it was not just personalities on the No side who had been victims of intimidation.
Yesterday, it emerged that the First Minister had been chased in his official car by a motorist waving a homemade No sign.
The incident, which saw the motorist overtake Mr Salmond’s limousine on the A90 near Dundee, occurred earlier this month.
The First Minister blamed unacceptable conduct on “one or two individuals behaving badly and I certainly won’t be holding a press conference to denounce it”.
He added: “This is the most energising, wonderful, enabling campaign in Scottish political history and 99.9 per cent of people conducting it on both sides are behaving in impeccable fashion.”
Visiting Scotland yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “As a party leader, I have always thought that it isn’t right to throw eggs at people. I had one myself in Cornwall once. It is an interesting experience. Vigorous debate, lots of argument, nothing wrong with a bit of heckling, but throwing things isn’t necessarily part of the democratic process.”
There was more rowdiness on the referendum trail yesterday with reports that Better Together leader Alistair Darling was accused of having “blood on his hands” over Iraq during a visit to a mosque.
Glasgow Central Mosque visitors were split over Mr Darling’s attendance at Friday prayers, with some shaking hands and posing for “selfie” photographs while others looked on in disapproval.
Those shaking hands with Mr Darling are understood to have been rebuked by other mosque visitors, who shouted that he had “blood on his hands”.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “We condemn all forms of abusive, dangerous and offensive behaviour, whether it be Jim Murphy having eggs thrown at him, or Alex Salmond being harassed by a road rage motorist.
“The eyes of the world are on Scotland and it is vital that everybody – regardless of which side of the debate they are on – helps to show off Scotland at its best.”
• Video courtesy of Fife Free Press