Campaigners hit streets in Scotland

2014-09-09 14:38
Supporters of the pro-union 'Better Together' campaign hold 'No' signs as they listen to Scottish MP Jim Murphy address crowds in Edinburgh. (Andy Buchanan, AFP)

Supporters of the pro-union 'Better Together' campaign hold 'No' signs as they listen to Scottish MP Jim Murphy address crowds in Edinburgh. (Andy Buchanan, AFP)

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Aberdeen - Campaigners against independence took to the streets of Scotland's oil capital Aberdeen with just days to go to a momentous referendum, with polls showing support for the "Yes" growing and voters now almost evenly split for and against.

Oil is at the heart of the debate over whether Scotland can afford to go it alone or would be better off remaining part of Britain on 18 September and booming Aberdeen demonstrates how wealthy it has made some.

A small group of pro-union supporters met up on a street corner to argue for keeping that wealth within Britain, armed with rucksacks and badges reading "No Thanks", the main slogan against independence.

Team leader Rob Walker handed out leaflets and the group shared out streets to cover in their walkabout.

"I think 'No' will win but I'm still concerned", said one of the campaigners, Willy Primrose, aged 62.

"I feel very Scottish but I want to be Scottish in the context of a federal UK, not a small nation", he said.

After knocking at the door of one large home, Primrose got a warm welcome from Peter Lewis, an operations manager for an oil services company.

"It's an easy sell, I'm a definitive 'No'", Lewis said.

"I think it's been a little late in the day to be looking at these sorts of things. We should have done that years ago and at the moment it's one of the best nations in the world so why would we break it up?" he said.

Yes, No

Around 42 billion barrels of oil and gas have been extracted from the North Sea since the early 1970s and First Minister Alex Salmond hopes the windfall would boost the finances of an independent Scotland.

The team continued house to house, slipping leaflets under doors without knocking on the doors where large Scottish flags with the pro-independence "Yes" slogans could be seen.

Hunting the undecided’s

Their main target is undecided voters, who could swing the 18 September vote either way.

"Have you decided whether you're to vote 'Yes' or 'No'?" Connie Hadden asked Michael Lattin, aged 64, a resident in a large block of flats.

"No, I'm still undecided", he answered.

Hadden smiled and said: "Independence seems a nice idea but we do have the welfare and the defence.

"They are the ones that cost lots and lots of money so we are better sharing it", she said.

The team came across the occasional "Yes" voter or reactions which left little room for doubt, like leaflets slipped through letterboxes being forcefully ejected from behind a closed door.

"I'm voting 'Yes' because I think Scotland deserves more powers", said 17-year-old Nathan Inkster, who is allowed to vote under referendum rules that have set the minimum voting age at 16.

"A lot of the government we don't vote for, they do not support Scotland. I'm voting 'Yes' so we could get more power. We could have more control", he said.

Inkster dismissed the prospect of any economic difficulties in future.

"I don't think it could be more difficult. I think as an independent country we've obviously got the oil, we've got the people but [we] never had the chance", he said.

Although most analysts agree that Scottish oil production is likely to fall in the coming years, the most optimistic predictions still see an income of 38.7bn over the next five fiscal years.

The British government forecasts revenues will be 17.6 billion.

But Ian Wark, aged 65, another independence supporter in Aberdeen, added that it was "not just oil".

"We have other things that we can use. We have beef, whisky. We are a rich country with a relatively small population and if we pull up our sleeves, we will do okay", he said.

Read more on:    scotland

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