THE team that will spearhead the official drive for a “Yes” vote in the independence referendum was yesterday unveiled by campaign chiefs.
Included are a former diplomat, once dubbed Scotland’s US ambassador, and an ex-Nationalist MSP who lost her seat in last year’s SNP Holyrood landslide.
The announcement comes as the Scottish Government prepares to outline its legislative programme for the year ahead and a referendum bill will be at the heart of its plans.
The “Yes Scotland” campaign is headed by former BBC news chief Blair Jenkins and it was announced yesterday that former Royal Bank of Scotland business manager Jacqueline Caldwell is to join as operations director.
Susan Stewart, who became the first diplomat in charge of Scottish affairs at the British Embassy in Washington DC, joins as director of communications from Glasgow University.
She described her role yesterday as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. “I am thrilled to play a part in running a positive campaign to secure a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014,” she said.
Former Nationalist MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville has been appointed as director of communities, with Stan Blackley, former chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, as her deputy.
The campaign has pledged to unleash an unprecedented grassroots drive to secure a Yes vote which will be grounded in communities and local campaigning groups around the country.
Ian Dommett, who spearheaded the SNP’s successful marketing drive in last year’s Holyrood election victory, is director of marketing.
Mr Jenkins said: “I said when I took on this role that I wanted a team of the highest calibre to match such an important and historic event in Scotland’s future direction. I can say with certainty that with these appointments this goal has been achieved.
“Each one of them has a proven track record in his or her field of expertise and I am confident that with their input and commitment we can deliver a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014.”
Yes Scotland was launched in May as a campaign group for a Yes vote at the independence referendum. The group has already announced the members of its advisory board, which includes ex-MP Dennis Canavan as chairman and Sir George Mathewson, former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, as honorary vice-president.
Parliament returns from its summer break tomorrow, the same day that the First Minister Alex Salmond will announce the Scottish Government’s legislative programme.
Plans for a vote on Scottish independence will be at the heart of the programme, with a Referendum Bill to be introduced in this parliamentary session.
It is expected the legislative programme will also include a bill on gay marriage. In addition, there will be a Children’s Bill which will increase free childcare for youngsters.
The move comes after Mr Salmond pledged to the SNP conference this year that Scotland would have the best package of free nursery education in the UK, with a legal guarantee of more than 600 hours of free nursery education for every three and four-year-old.
WHO’S WHO IN ‘YES SCOTLAND’
• Jacqueline Caldwell, director of operations:
A former Royal Bank of Scotland manager who left the financial giant earlier this year after 12 years. She hails from Cupar, in Fife.
• Shirley-Anne Somerville, director of communities: The former Nationalist MSP was one of the party’s few casualties in its election victory last year. She has been working in a behind-the-scenes role as a strategist with the SNP since leaving Holyrood.
• Blair Jenkins, chief executive: A former head of news at BBC Scotland is heading up the campaign.
• Susan Stewart, director of communications: Former senior diplomat who was once dubbed Scotland’s ambassador in US after a stint working as the UK embassy in Washington DC as first secretary, Scottish Affairs. She courted controversy a couple of years ago when she called for a diplomatic charm offensive from the Scottish Government to patch up relations with the US after the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
She joins from Glasgow University.
• Ian Dommett, director of marketing: An instrumental figure in the SNP’s landslide election victory last year. He has also created strategies for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, T&R Theakston, Edinburgh Community Food and many other companies, social enterprises and charities.
• Stan Blackley, deputy director of communities: One of Scotland’s most high-profile environmental campaigners from his time as chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Green Party. He has held a number of posts with environmental campaign organisations such as Greenpeace UK, Advocates for Animals and the Environment Investigation Agency.
• Stewart Kirkpatrick, digital head: The appointment of the former editor of the Scottish online news and features website the Caledonian Mercury was announced a few weeks ago. He is also a former editor of scotsman.com.
• Stephen Noon, chief strategist: The former SNP special adviser was one of the first staff appointments, but has taken more of a backseat role after the official launch came under fire for its reliance on celebrity supporters and criticism of the website.