ALEX Salmond yesterday launched a bid to get a million Scots to sign a declaration of support for independence from the UK. He told the start of the “Yes Scotland” referendum campaign that if the aim of getting the public to sign up was achieved, they would “win an independent Scotland”.
• Actors Martin Compston, Alan Cumming and Brian Cox back ‘Yes’ campaign
• Alex Salmond joined by Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens
• Launch also hears from writer Liz Lochhead and trade unionist Tommy Brennan
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The First Minister unveiled the “declaration of independence” at a celebrity-studded event in Edinburgh, where he was joined by Hollywood stars Brian Cox and Alan Cumming.
The SNP leader said the campaign would be built “brick by brick” in the run-up to the referendum in autumn 2014, while organisers insisted the movement would be the “biggest community-based campaign in Scotland’s history”.
Mr Salmond appeared to invoke the American Declaration of Independence as he told the rally the campaign would “unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth” and that Scots were “best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland”.
The “Yes Declaration”, which supporters can sign online, states: “I believe that it is fundamentally better for us all if decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by the people who care about Scotland, that is, by the people of Scotland.”
A campaign spokesman insisted only those eligible to vote in the referendum – those resident in Scotland and of voting age – would be counted among the one million and that sophisticated web technology would check this. However, Cox and Cumming publicly signed the declaration yesterday, despite being US residents.
The First Minister, who walked on to the campaign stage at the Cineworld complex in Fountainbridge alongside Patrick Harvie, leader of the pro-independence Scottish Greens, told the rally the pledge to secure the support of a million Scots would be at the heart of the campaign.
He said: “The campaign will be built brick by brick across communities. We intend to take our case to the people by community activism and online wizardry.
“By the time we enter the referendum campaign in autumn 2014, our intention is to have one million Scots who have signed the independence for Scotland declaration.
“Friends, if we achieve that, then we shall win an independent Scotland. We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth. The people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland.”
Such a level of support would be greater than the SNP achieved in its landslide election victory last year, when the party polled 902,915 first-past-the-post votes.
Mr Salmond said the “power of an independent Scotland is necessary” to deliver a “fairer and more prosperous” society.
He went on: “We don’t start from scratch. We have a parliament which has earned its spurs for more than a decade. If the parliament can run education, then why can’t it run the economy? If it can be trusted to run the health service, then why can’t it represent Scotland internationally? If it can be trusted to protect our old people, then why can’t we protect the country, and do so without the obscenity of nuclear weapons?”
The First Minister added: “I want Scotland to be independent not because I think we are better than any other country, but because I know we’re as good as any other country. Like these other nations, our future, our resources, our success should be in our own hands.”
Mr Harvie, who spoke after Mr Salmond, said he would help “develop a clear and compelling case for Scotland to take a bold and radical step and vote Yes to independence”.
He said: “Greens are not nationalists. In fact, we are probably more comfortable than most parties in acknowledging the range of views that exist in our membership and our voters about the question of independence. But I believe, as most of us do, that the range of powers currently still held at Westminster simply make no sense from a Green perspective.
“Our politics don’t begin or end with the constitution but with the need for a transformation in our society, our economy and in our politics.
“If we are going to convince the unconvinced, we must build a clear and compelling vision of what will be different, what independence is for and how society can change for the better.”
However, former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling said the campaign had “stalled”, after an opinion poll he commissioned showed just 33 per cent backed independence, with 57 per cent opposed and 10 per cent undecided.
He said: “Most Scots support our country staying within the UK, because Scotland is better and stronger as part of it. The Nationalists’ momentum has stalled, with only one in three Scots backing independence.
“This is about what is best for Scotland, and on all the big questions, the Nationalists are unable to provide credible answers.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the launch had failed to set out the detail on the impact of independence on people. “The SNP’s case seems to be less just cause and more just ’cos,” she said.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said she hoped “once all the razzmatazz has died down we can get on to the real substance of the debate”. She added: “I believe that Scotland walks taller, shouts louder and stands stronger on the world stage as part of the United Kingdom.”