A new pro-independence “civic” campaign body has been launched in Edinburgh today aimed at winning over undecided Scots to vote Yes.
Voices for Scotland is to be headed up by long-term independence supporter Chris Hegarty who has previously worked in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector. Elaine C Smith will sit on its board, which will be chaired by former Nationalist MSP Dave Thompson.
The launch comes a day after Nicola Sturgeon set out her plans at Holyrood for a second independence referendum by 2021.
It has been set up by the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) after a fundraising drive last year. A small team will be hired to develop and run campaigns, carry out research and to support other grassroots independence organisations across Scotland.
It formally launches at the Scottish Storytelling centre on the capital’s Royal Mile this morning.
Ms Smith, who chairs the SIC said: “The UK is in the middle of a political crisis and we’re launching because, important as the views of politicians are, there are many more voices in Scotland which need to be heard as we debate our future.
“About a third of those voices are definite independence supporters and about a third are definitely not. We’re all about opening conversations with the third of people who are in the middle, who are undecided or are doubting their previous opinions.”
Although pro-independence, the body describes itself as non-political and will seek to generate “big, open conversations” with the aim of winning over wavering Scots.
The launch comes just two days ahead of the SNP conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, but both the SIC and Voices for Scotland are keen to distance themselves from the party machines.
Mr Hegarty said: “It’s a genuine privilege to be involved in a grassroots organisation that’s all about
listening to the aspirations and concerns of the people of Scotland, and especially one that’s committed to having these open conversations in such a respectful way.
“I look forward to hearing many of those conversations, and to working with such a talented and committed group of people as those involved in Voices for Scotland.”
Polls show that support for Scottish independence has not moved significantly since the 2104 referendum when 45% voted Yes.
The new body is largely funded by small donations from the public. Its board members include Greens co-leader Maggie Chapman and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.
The body has pledged to speak “without a party political accent” but instead listen to the concerns of voters and how they can be persuaded to vote Yes.
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This is yet another anti-UK campaign group that will only be talking to a minority of people in Scotland.
“Regardless of how many campaigns to leave the UK are established, they will be unable to produce a positive vision for breaking up the UK because there isn’t one.
“The majority of people in Scotland know we are stronger together and want the SNP and its allies to drop plans for a divisive and unwanted second independence referendum.”