An introduction to the campaign leaders, political figures and famous faces urging Scots to vote Yes or No in the independence referendum on September 18:
Yes Scotland (the Yes campaign)
Alex Salmond, the fourth-serving First Minister of Scotland, is leading the Yes Scotland campaign to end his country’s 307-year-old commitment to the United Kingdom and remove the “shackles” of a Westminster-based parliament. The economics and history graduate is the leader of the Scottish National Party, a role he first held from 1990 until 2000 before being re-elected in 2004. Outlining his bid for independence, Salmond said: “We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth. The people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland.”
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was put in charge of the SNP’s referendum campaign in 2012 and has been tirelessly drumming up support for independence ever since. Sturgeon was vying for her party’s leadership in 2004 but withdrew to become Salmond’s deputy when he joined the race at the last minute. She has confirmed she wants to be Scotland’s first female first minister when he eventually steps down.
Yes Scotland’s chief executive is Blair Jenkins, the former head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland and Scottish Television (STV) who has landed an OBE for his services to broadcasting. He previously chaired the Scottish Broadcasting Commission established by Alex Salmond in 2007 before being appointed to the campaign in 2012, whereupon he adopted the Twitter handle @BlairJenkinsYes and declared: “For more than 30 years, my professional life has been about impartial journalism … But this is just too important.”
Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, is Yes Scotland’s campaign director. Robertson represents Moray Constituency in Parliament and, according to his personal website, was statistically rated Scotland’s hardest working MP after being elected in 2001. He lists Scottish independence among his main political interests – a list that also includes “whisky, oil, fishing and youth issues”.
The Yes Campaign has been endorsed by the Scottish Green Party, despite early friction. Co-convenor and MSP, Patrick Harvie, initially withdrew his party’s support in the early weeks of the campaign – declaring it an “entirely SNP vehicle” – before coming back on board saying it was “increasingly hard to imagine” how Scotland’s interests can be served and protected from rulers in a London base. He insists “Greens are not nationalists” but said continuing the current range of powers in Westminster makes “no sense from a Green perspective”.
The political Yes alliance has been endorsed by several famous faces, led by former James Bond star Sir Sean Connery. A firm supporter of the Scottish National Party who has called for independence for years, Sir Sean jetted in to join the campaign leaders at the Yes Scotland launch – a day he described as “historic”. He has urged his fellow citizens to back the “positive vision” for the country, saying the “people of Scotland are the best guardians of their own future”.
Fellow actor Alan Cumming was also present at the campaign launch in February 2012. The Hollywood star said the “world is waiting for us and I know Scotland is ready” at the time and has since blogged on his continued support for Yes Scotland in a post that begins: “Above all I am an optimist and I believe in the power of positivity.”
Former Mock The Week panellist Frankie Boyle has also backed the push for independence, while distancing himself from any endorsement of First Minister Alex Salmond. The often-controversial comic has aimed some milder jibes at those supporting the No campaign, saying: “I completely respect (David) Bowie’s right to express views on independence, just as I’d respect Iggy Pop’s opinions on the Cern particle accelerator.”
Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochead is another who has joined the drive for an independent Scotland. She said her role as the Makar sees her “fly the flag” for finding truth in language within Scottish life and has declared: “I am very, very happy and proud to be wearing this badge and to say yes.”
Better Together (the No campaign)
Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling is the leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, which launched in June 2012. A member of parliament since 1987, Darling is also serving as the director and chairman of the campaign to protect the union and his message to Scots heading to the polls is: “We don’t need to choose between our unique Scottish identity and the security that comes from being part of something bigger. We can have both.” Darling has added more pressure on his team by insisting they had to “win well” in the public vote to prevent repeat calls for a poll – described as a “neverendum”.
Yohann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are urging Scots to vote No.PA Wire
Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are urging Scots to vote No.
While Darling is the most prominent Labour figure attached to the campaign – with Gordon Brown occupying a smaller supportive role – Johann Lamont represents the party’s second highest profile personality after being appointed the first Scottish Labour leader, though she arrived as an unknown to many Scots according to opinion polls. Born in Glasgow, she has been the MSP for Glasgow Pollok since 1999 and is a fierce critic of First Minister Alex Salmond in the Scottish parliament, accusing him of resorting to “rotten politics” during the independence campaign.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has pushed for the Better Together campaign to adopt a “sunshine strategy”, emphasising the benefits of staying in the union rather than the apparent threat of a split. Rennie served as MP for Dunfermline and West Fife from 2006 to 2010 and now represents Mid Scotland and Fife in the Scottish parliament. He should prove very capable handling any industry matters that crop up on the campaign – he was once runner-up in the Scottish coal-carrying championships.
Rennie’s party deputy, Alistair Carmichael, arrived as a prominent part of the Better Together campaign after replacing Michael Moore as Scotland Secretary in October 2013 in a move to apparently beef up Westminster’s bid to keep the kingdom united. Carmichael has been the MP for Orkney and Shetland since 2001 and was appointed the Lib Dem’s Scotland Spokesman in 2007. A former hotel manager-turned-solicitor, he was chosen as the man to represent the No vote against the Yes campaign’s Nicola Sturgeon in recent independence debates.
Completing the trio of pro-union party leaders in Scotland is Ruth Davidson, who heads the Scottish Conservatives in Holyrood. The openly gay former BBC journalist toppled the former deputy leader, Murdo Fraser, in the contest to be appointed leader in 2011, at the age of 32. As part of the Better Together campaign, she said: “The future of the UK is about the future aspirations of ordinary Scots, who want to remain part of one of the most successful economic and political unions in the world.”
The campaign director for the Better Together campaign is Blair McDougall, who was a special adviser to former Cabinet ministers Ian McCartney and James Purnell during Labour’s time in office. Perhaps ominously, he later ran David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour Party leadership – an expected non-contest which was enlivened by a challenge from his younger brother Ed, who of course pipped the firm favourite to the post.
David Bowie became the highest profile celebrity weighing into the independence debate when he ended a victory speech at this year’s Brit Awards with the words: “Scotland stay with us.” The chameleon of pop’s message enjoyed even more column inches after he chose Kate Moss to read it out (while he stayed in New York). The stunt sparked praise from the pro-union brigade and a brief wave of angry online retorts from those pushing for separation. Typically, after making a big noise with just four words, the veteran singer and cultural shape-shifter responded with silence.
Comedian Eddie Izzard re-routed his one-man tour to Edinburgh in order to play a fundraiser for Better Together behind the slogan “Scotland please don’t go” and even joined the campaign’s phone bank to try to persuade undecided voters to vote No on September 18. The committed Labour supporter became a poster boy for the No campaign, appearing suited and booted in a campaign image, which declared: “Britain would be diminished geographically without Scotland, but as a nation we would be so much smaller.”
The bid for Scotland to stay with the UK is not being fought solely by famous English figures. Govan-born Sir Alex Ferguson has publically endorsed the Better Together campaign and made a symbolic donation to the cause of £501 – a pound higher than the proposed limit Alex Salmond sought for donors outside of Scotland. A hero in Scotland, despite spending more than a quarter of a century as the leading boss in English football, the former Manchester United manager represents a weighty public figure on the side of the pro-unionists.
“SuBo says No” is yet to be promoted as a campaign slogan by the Better Together advertising team, but the Scottish singer who made her name on Britain’s Got Talent is determined to see the United Kingdom preserved. “I am a proud, patriotic Scot, passionate about my heritage and my country,” Susan Boyle has told The Scottish Sun. “But I am not a nationalist.”