DCSIMG

'Victory man' takes reins of campaign for independence SNP fires the starting gun for vote on independence

The man who masterminded the SNP's landslide election victory has been installed as chief of their independence referendum campaign.

And MP Angus Robertson insisted yesterday there was now "clear support" for constitutional change in Scotland.

But the campaign's starting gun was sounded to an emerging turf war over which camp will take ownership of the campaign for a "yes" vote.

Unionist parties are determined to label their campaign a "yes" for staying within the UK, while Nationalists will urge Scots to say "yes" to independence.

The pro-Union lobby, which will include Labour, the Tories and Liberal Democrats, are keen not to be labelled the "anti" faction and say they cannot afford to waste any time in getting their campaign under way.

No date has been set for the historic vote, although First Minister Alex Salmond has made it clear it will happen during the second half of this parliament, meaning it will be between 2014 and 2016.

The pro-independence campaign strategy remains unclear, but Mr Robertson, who was also in charge of the SNP's Holyrood election campaign when it first won power in 2007, has pledged to set out the case in more detail in the "days, weeks and months" ahead.

"The historic election of a majority of SNP MSPs last month shows clear support across Scotland to move the country's constitution forward," he said.

"The debate is no longer between change or no change, it's about the kind of change Scotland wants and, above all, the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum."

• Profile: Angus Robertson

• Scotland heading for 'elected dictatorship'

The Nationalists' landslide victory last month gave them a surprise majority at Holyrood meaning they can push through a referendum bill. The opposition parties stopped them from doing so in the last parliament.

The SNP's 68 MSPs - an overall majority of three - are also likely to be supported at Holyrood by the two Green MSPs, as well as Independent and former Nationalist MSP Margo MacDonald.

The Nationalists used modern campaigning tools with IT and new media to win the 2007 and 2011 elections, and Mr Robertson says these would be put into action for the referendum, too.

The Moray MP said the vote would be a "great historic opportunity" for Scots.

"If I wasn't playing a role in it, I'm the sort of person who would be throwing my shoes at the telly in frustration," he said.

"There is no reason we cannot win this referendum. In the days, weeks and months ahead, we will set out the case for independence in more depth and detail than ever before."We will campaign positively and take our case to the people."

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie is known to be sympathetic towards a question that could simply see Scots tick a box for "yes to remain in the union" or "yes to split from the UK".

A Conservative Party spokesman said yesterday: "We're floating the idea why can't you just put your cross against the box of the statement you support: Yes, I wish to remain part of Britain, or Yes, I wish to become independent of Britain."

Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser said: "Now that he has been installed as the man in charge of the 'No to Scotland in Britain' campaign, perhaps Angus Robertson would like to come clean on when the referendum will be and what the question will be.

"Is he scared to say or doesn't he know?"

Mr Robertson's appointment was confirmed yesterday after an SNP national executive committee meeting on Thursday night in Edinburgh.

It prompted the Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray to warn that pro-Union supporters must not waste time in getting their own campaign under way.

"The positive case for Scotland remaining in the Union needs to start being made and needs to begin now," Mr Murray said.

"The SNP have been able to get away with this suggestion that anybody who wants Scotland to remain in the UK is somehow anti-Scottish, when actually staying in the Union is very pro-Scottish."

Glasgow South West Labour MP Ian Davidson, the Commons Scottish affairs select committee chairman, has warned that separation from the UK would mean an end to shipbuilding on the Clyde, as orders from the Royal Navy dried up.

"It's slightly ironic that the SNP's independence campaign will be run by an MP in Westminster," he said.

"I guess this means we are going to have four years of gripe and grievance from the Nationalists, who will just be obsessing about the constitution while the rest of us worry about jobs and services."

Mr Davidson came out in support of a referendum last week but said Westminster would have a role to play in pushing through legislation on the issue.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to set out the cost of the election.

"The people of Scotland deserve this clarity so they can be fully aware of the full cost of independence, so they can make a mature decision," he said.

"By the cost of independence, I mean the cost of a separate welfare system, the cost of a separate foreign policy and diplomatic service, and insurance against any future banking crisis in Scotland.

"Angus Robertson is renowned for his clarity, which will be helpful in his new role, and I congratulate him on his appointment."

The SNP want to hold only one referendum on the principle of opening talks with the UK government for Scotland's departure from the UK.But opposition parties say a second referendum would be needed after this on the final detail of the separation deal from the UK, including things such as Scotland's share of the national debt and North Sea oil and gas revenues.

The Westminster government confirmed last month it would not stand in the way of a referendum on independence or bring one forward itself. UK ministers agreed on the stance after the SNP's seismic Holyrood victory led former Tory Scottish secretary Lord Forsyth to call for a vote to be held as soon as possible, and Scotland Office minister David Mundell to suggest Westminster could lead legislation for an early poll.

 
 
 

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