Islanders get the message: Scotland has to vote Yes in polls

A pro-independence roadshow reaches out over very inch of available ground

Scotland’s deputy first minister  Nicola Sturgeon addressing an independence meeting  on the Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. Photograph: Mark Hennessy

Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon addressing an independence meeting on the Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. Photograph: Mark Hennessy


Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, stood on the stage in Millport’s Town Hall on the Isle of Cumbrae wanting to talk about independence.

The local shopkeeper at the back of the hall, however, wanted to talk about the threat posed by the Co-Operative’s plans to open a supermarket at the ferry pier in Larg, across on the mainland.

“This will devastate local communities,” said the shopkeeper, one of a number of businesses on Glasgow Street on Millport’s waterfront that feel threatened.

Sturgeon dealt with the question smoothly, saying she could not comment on a planning application that might later come before ministers, “but you have made a powerful case”.

The Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde forms the backdrop for the summer memories of tens of thousands of Glaswegians, the older ones remembering sun-filled days away from the grime of the tenements.

Earlier, the Scottish National Party politician, who is doing “six to eight of these meetings a week, if not more”, had arrived over on the ferry, driven by a supporter in his Opel Kadett.

The island, just a 10-minute journey from North Ayrshire, still remains a popular tourist spot, with the 1,400-strong population doubling or trebling at weekends. The Yes Scotland meeting had not been widely advertised: just one window poster, as far as could be seen – but nearly 200 crowded into the Clifton Street hall by 2.15pm.

The majority were already Yes voters, or leaning heavily that way, it appeared: a middle-aged lady approached a trestle table holding pamphlets and badges. “May one take one?” she asked politely.

Local matters intruded before the meeting began, with an announcement about another meeting later that evening to discuss GP service problems.

Sturgeon is an old hand at such gatherings, endearing herself with some of the audience in the front when she took out her iPhone to take a photograph of them. “This must be the first time I have ever been here without going around the island on a bike. It’s nice to be back, the island is looking absolutely fantastic,” she went on.

One of the women in front was a declared No voter. “I’ll make it my mission to convert you,” Sturgeon said, smiling during the two kept going for the rest of the meeting.

Political practice

Most importantly, she stressed, independence is “normal”: 50 independent countries existed after the second World War. Today, there are nearly 200. None of them have ever wanted to go back.

“People ask, ‘Are we ready for this?’ It is quite an odd question for a country like Scotland to be asking itself, given the contribution that we have made to the world.”

Everything about the SNP’s pitch is about confidence: “I read a book some time ago called How Scots Invented the Modern World, written by a Canadian. If one of us wrote it, we would probably get a clip around the ear, but it wasn’t, it was written by a Canadian,” she declared, listing some of Scotland’s contributions.

However, the list is not just historical: telephones, television or the bank overdraft “though we might not want to mention that one”. It includes Dolly, the cloned sheep, and the video game, Grand Theft Auto.

An independent Scotland “would be the 14th-richest country in the world, richer than France, richer than Japan or the United Kingdom as a whole,” she continued.

Role of oil

The audience laughed, light applause interrupting her contributions; before she went on to warn that deep austerity cuts are coming from London if Scots vote No.

So far, the Yes campaign has largely emphasised the positive: the possible challenges facing an independent Scotland are mentioned, but usually only in the small print.

Realistic expectations

Alex Salmond

“The people on the No side are making it about Alex, it isn’t about whether you trust him. It is about whether you trust yourselves.” Dozens stood to applaud.

On the way back to Larg, Sturgeon left the Opel Kadett to chat to people queueing for the half-hourly Caledonian McBrayne ferry. With three weeks to go, no opportunity is wasted.