Cabbies are not renowned for keeping their opinions to themselves to inject some life into a ten-minute trip across town with passengers.
But as Scotland’s historic referendum approaches later this year, a new group of taxi drivers has emerged bent on persuading their fares to vote Yes.
Cabbies for Yes insist they will only engage with punters who “are up for it” – but No campaigners say it could be enough to put people off waving one down in the first place.
And a taxi chief in Edinburgh said the referendum has so far proved a damp squib among passengers.
The first Yes Scotland taxi has emerged in Aberdeen, where driver Gordon Anderson has his cab bedecked with campaign logos and a message on his wheels. He said many of his colleagues are taking an interest in the referendum.
“There’s a strong number of Yes voters and a high number of undecided,” he said. “We see it as our job to chat to as many people as possible with the positive case for Yes. Everyone knows that taxi drivers like to talk and if the passengers are up for it, I’ll do all that I can to explain why a Yes vote is best for Scotland.”
The former lecturer and Labour party member said the “positive impact” of the Scottish Parliament in areas like education and the NHS persuaded him to join the independence camp.
Edinburgh cabbie Dougie Brown has also signed up and insists there has been widespread interest in the referendum, especially among tourists.
“The Yes campaign have been saying that the more people learn about independence, the more likely they are to vote Yes, so who better to take forward the positive independence message than taxi drivers?” he said.
But Raymond Davidson, the secretary of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, said the vote has yet to seize the imagination of passengers.
“At the moment, I’ve not really had anyone talking about it,” he said. “I daresay it might change when it gets a bit closer and once the European elections and the Commonwealth Games have passed, but not at the moment.”
Pro-independence campaigners have pledged to run a mass grassroots campaign to secure a Yes vote on 18 September.
Toni Giugliano, of Yes Scotland, said: “More and more taxi drivers believe Scotland should be in the driving seat of its own future.
“Like many in the service industry, taxi drivers speak to many people each day and the more conversations about independence, the more people shift to Yes.”
But Scottish Labour’s constitutional spokesman Drew Smith played down the announcement.
“The cabbies I talk to have a wide range of views on the referendum and no doubt there are many conversations taking place in taxis around Scotland,” he said.
“Mr Salmond himself may be more fond of chauffeured limousines but perhaps the most pressing question should he find himself in the back of a cab in an independent Scotland is ‘what currency do you want your change in?’”.
Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said: “This is one way to drive people out of taxis and back on to public transport.
“Most passengers enjoy a bit of badinage with their taxi driver. But many will object to the conversation switching from ‘busy tonight, mate’ to ‘do you believe Scotland should be an independent country?’”.
A spokesman for the pro-union Better Together campaign insisted the cabbies are heading the wrong way.
He said: “Alex Salmond wants to take us on a one-way trip to a deeply uncertain destination.”