Scottish independence: Luvvies play starring role in Yes, First Minister
Salmond relies a little heavily on his celebrity friends to sell independence, writes Scott Macnab
The Hollywood image of Scotland’s battle for nationhood has been characterised by saltire-smeared faces and kilted warriors in recent decades.
But yesterday, a new generation of luvvies for independence took centre stage and there wasn’t a claymore in sight.
The countdown to Scotland’s biggest decision in 300 years got under way in a sea of celebrity glitz and glamour. Dundonian actor Brian Cox roused supporters with an impassioned speech about his own personal journey to independence, while Alan Cumming insisted independence would add to the “blossoming” cultural renaissance Scotland had undergone since devolution more than a decade ago.
That neither can currently vote in the referendum, as non-residents, was glossed over.
The emphasis was not on the politics. Actors, singers, comedians and poets led the call for nationhood, along with trade unionists and industry leaders.
The aim was to portray the campaign as one which reaches out to all walks of life. Politicians like First Minister Alex Salmond and Green co-leader Patrick Harvie were relegated to supporting roles. Issues such as membership of Nato and the future of the monarchy in an independent Scotland were firmly off the agenda.
Actor Martin Compston, most famous for his role in Sweet Sixteen, a gritty portrayal of life in Inverclyde, told how he became a nationalist at the age of eight after the 1992 election of John Major’s Tory government, leaving the country with “a Conservative government the people of Scotland had not voted for”.
“Now I’m a grown-up and we’re in the same situation all over again,” he said to raucous applause.
“I don’t believe we’re better than any other country in the UK or the world, but I do believe we’re equal. And I believe we have the right to determine our own destiny.”
In many ways, the whole event had the hallmarks of a confessional, as the country’s leading lights unburdened their own journey of revelation which led them to campaign for Scotland’s independence.
Cumming, the X-Men star who campaigned for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in the 1997 devolution referendum, said that since then Scotland “blossomed” as a cultural force.
“I believe independence can only add to our potential and realise a whole new wave of creativity, ambition, confidence and pride,” he said.
EuroLottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who have donated £1 million to the SNP’s campaign for independence, helped pay for the launch, with some of the £918,000 bequest to the SNP from the late Makar Edwin Morgan also used to bankroll the event at Edinburgh’s Cineworld cinema complex.
The multi-millionaire lottery winners from Ayrshire were joined by the likes of Scotland’s serving Makar Liz Lochead and former Scottish Broadcasting Commission chairman Blair Jenkins. Comic actress Elaine C Smith, best known for her role as Rab C Nesbitt’s wife, Mary, lent a message of support.
Dougie Maclean, who penned the iconic anthem of the nationalist movement Caledonia, gave an obligatory rendition of the song along with Lou Hickey. She had earlier performed with her group Codeine Velvet Club.
It was left to Cox, a former backer of the Labour Party, to round things off with a rousing speech. He revealed how he had been “proud” to be selected as the “voice of New Labour” in 1997, but became disillusioned after the Iraq war.
He said: “I love England, it has afforded me some golden opportunities. But more and more as time goes on that parliament in Westminster cannot see further than the end of its own bridge.
“I think Scotland has earned the right to its own nation status. We’ve arrived at the moment to realise that potential – please let’s not waste time, please let’s say yes.”
The only surprise was the absence of that big beast of Nationalist celebrity endorsements, Sir Sean Connery.
The launch was held in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge – the area of the capital where he was raised. Supporters received only a message of support read out by Compston.
As Scots were bombarded with images of Mr Salmond and his Holywood friends, the Yes campaign will have attracted publicity.
But as Neil Kinnock found to his cost at an infamous rally in Sheffield in 1992, such triumphalism can lead to a backlash. Mr Salmond must know it takes more than phalanx of celebrities to persuade Scots to vote Yes.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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