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Scottish independence: ‘About people, not Salmond’

Elaine C Smith at the Festival debate about the impact of the independence debate on the arts and culture. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Elaine C Smith at the Festival debate about the impact of the independence debate on the arts and culture. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

ACTRESS Elaine C Smith moved to distance the campaign for Scottish independence from Alex Salmond yesterday, because voters “cannot do” with the First Minister.

• First major Scottish independence debate at Edinburgh Festivals takes place at city’s Assembly Rooms venue

• “Tsunami of negativity” surrounding independence referendum debate criticised

• Artists including playwrights David Greig, Peter Arnorr, musician Dave Hook, and actress Elaine C Smith took part

At an event organised by supporters of independence the Rab C Nesbitt star, a leading figure in the Yes Scotland campaign, complained of a “tsunami of negativity” in media coverage of the debate.

Supporters of a Yes vote also insisted at the event that it was possible to feel British and vote in favour of independence.

Smith said: “There is a lot of upset, disagreement and discourse going on at the moment.

“We are not actually having the debate about our future that we would like to have. Invariably, it is left to the men in suits sitting on a late-night TV show to argue about. The people themselves are not being engaged by that debate.

“One of the problems I’ve encountered over the last while is when people say they want to vote No and you ask them why, they say they cannot do with Alex Salmond. We have to reclaim that.

“This is not about Alex Salmond, although he and the SNP have to be applauded because they have brought us to this place and we have the chance to make history.”

Playwrights David Greig and Peter Arnott, musician Dave Hook, composer Jim Sutherland and poet Jenny Lindsay were also among those taking part in the event.

Mr Greig said he had a “profound distrust” of nationalism, but believed that independence offered a way for the country to shake it off.

He added that the decision over the future of Scotland should not be guided by “ethnic identity”.

He said: “It’s about where do you live and do you have a stake in society.

“It makes it possible for you to be English, live in Scotland and vote for independence and remain English. It makes it possible for you to feel British, live in Scotland, vote for independence and retain that feeling of Britishness.”

Mr Arnott said: “We should stop looking at these ideas as political soundbites and start looking at what they actually mean.

“It seems to me we are independent already. Everything else is a negotiation. No matter the result of the referendum it is still a negotiation, it’s not going to go away.

“This conversation – in the broadest possible meaning – has been going on for 1,000 years. Anyway, we’ve always been renegotiating our relationship with our neighbours, sometimes with sticks, and sometimes not. I’d rather not do it with sticks is time around.

“We have to make it clear to people this is actually a very small question about the government of Scotland and Westminster. It’s not about separating Scotland and England, we’ve never been separate from England. This is about negotiating how we live together.”

Mr Hook, from the band Stanley Odd, said: “I’m currently leaning very much towards a Yes vote but am still considering where I stand on it. I have over a year to make that decision.

“There are loads of people who worry about being pushed and if they are they will back off rather than engage with it.

“It is how we talk to people about it in a way that they don’t feel they are being pressured or being called daft or wrong, which just makes people go in the opposite direction.”

Ms Lindsay added: “A lot of people do shy away from the argument if they are told they are stupid or haven’t thought about it. I really dislike that style of debate.”

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