Canvass blitz through Dundee, ‘Yes capital’ of Scotland
Yes campaign claims 80 per cent support in parts of city
Scottish first minister Alex Salmond campaigning in Dundee for a Yes vote in the independence referendum. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Housing schemes in Dundee canvassed by Yes activists are indicating levels of support of up to 80 per cent in favour of independence, according to the man heading the campaign in Scotland’s fourth largest city.
The numbers registered to vote in Dundee has risen by 7.7 per cent since the campaigners began encouraging people to take part in the poll; that’s almost twice the average for Scotland generally.
Mark Strachan, who gave up his job to work full-time on the campaign, says it is “extremely apt” that Dundee has been described as the Yes capital of Scotland. “The whole city is alive with Yes.”
In the city centre yesterday campaigners for a No vote were a rarity while Yes stalls were busy, colourful and loud. A sizeable minority of passersby were wearing Yes badges, hats or T-shirts, or carrying Scottish flags, and the Yes posters and flags on buildings and in shop and office windows far outnumbered those advocating staying with the Union.
The atmosphere was something akin to the afternoon build-up to a very important important fixture for a home football team. At 5pm a large, good-humoured, flag-waving Yes parade walked through the city centre.
Fay Hartgroves was up from the West Midlands to campaign for No. “I don’t have a vote myself but I feel passionately that we should stay together,” she said. “It is a massive, historical union and there is so much uncertainty with the Yes vote.”
She said her impression from canvassing was that those who were against independence felt intimidated about declaring their stance by the wearing of T-shirts and badges.
‘Dead end’Dundee Labour councillor Richard McCready was out urging people to stay with the UK. “In the 21 century I’m not convinced that you can be independent. I think it’s a bit of a dead end,” he said.
Scotland should stay in the UK “out of a sense of solidarity”, he said. “I think it’s for the people of Dundee to decide if it’s the Yes capital or not. My experience on the doorsteps and on the street today is that that isn’t necessarily the case.”
Random approaches by this reporter to passersby found that a good many said they were going to vote No, an experience that an English reporter doing the same thing also noted.
Trevor Gordon said he would be voting No. “Nationalism can be a quite corrosive thing and I’ve seen quite a lot of animosity and fracture in society that wasn’t there before” the referendum.
Michelle Montague said she was going to vote No because she thought Scotland would get better housing, pensions and a better health service within the union. However, she thought that most people in Dundee would vote Yes. “People in Dundee are really very passionate about Scotland.”
Lorna King said she will be voting Yes because it would be better for Scotland to be independent. “It doesn’t mean we don’t like English people. It just means that we want to be separate.”
Glen Miller, wearing a Yes T-shirt, Yes badges and carrying a Scottish flag, said he would be voting for independence. “Ever since I was able to think, I thought Scotland should be an independent country.”
Also, he said, the UK “has been messed up for decades” and there would be a greater opportunity for social justice in a Scotland that was in charge of its own affairs.
John Morrison, also said he was voting Yes for reasons of “social justice”. Tory governments in London had imposed socially unjust policies on Scotland over the years, such as the poll tax and the bedroom tax.
He said he personally had managed to convince half a dozen people to change to a Yes vote by arguing that there would be greater social justice in an independent Scotland.
Mr Strachan said it is the politics of the London government that has caused the push for Scottish independence. London doesn’t look after the people of northern England or Scotland, he said.
“It is the London government that is causing this . . . If there was a centre-left government in London, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Yesterday the Yes campaign was targeting newly registered voters, going to their homes and delivering personalised literature urging them to vote for independence.
Mr Strachan said he has tried to impress on young people the importance of what is about to happen. “I tell them they are voting to change the geography of the world.”