SUPPORT for an independent Scotland is gaining ground, according to the leader of the Yes Scotland campaign who addressed a packed meeting at Lerwick’s Islesburgh community centre on Thursday evening.
Around 50 people turned out to hear Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins, Scottish education secretary Mike Russell and Labour for Independence member Celia Fitzgerald speak up for an independent Scotland.
Anne Bain also read out a statement from her fiddler brother Aly whose support for independence has pricked up ears throughout the isles and beyond.
Jenkins told the meeting that increasing numbers of people were coming round to support Yes Scotland.
He predicted that the pro-union Better Together’s “fear campaign” would backfire on them.
He said that the campaign was building up a momentum by operating at a very local level, with the Shetland group being one of 270 across Scotland and new ones being formed all the time.
“I am convinced that we will win the referendum in 2014,” he told the meeting.
Fitzgerald said how she had lost “the last hope of an ethical foreign policy” in the wake of the untimely death of Robin Cook in 2005.
After leaving the Labour party to join the SNP, she was now back with Labour supporting the small group within the party that was campaigning for an independent Scotland.
She spoke of her anger living in a country where “one in five children go to bed hungry” and her ambition to create a “socially just and independent Scotland”.
She pointed out: “The SNP cannot win the referendum on its own. If we win Labour over, we will win the referendum; we can’t lose it.”
Russell called next year’s referendum “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to change the direction of the nation.
He castigated the “lack of democracy” in the UK, saying for two thirds of his lifetime Scotland had to endure a government Scottish people had not voted for, a point first minister Alex Salmond had made during his speech at Mareel earlier in the day.
Russell described how welfare cuts were bearing down on his constituency in Argyll, and added that “no one in Scotland would have ever voted for the bedroom tax”.
After Anne Bain read out her brother’s statement supporting independence and a question and answer session, Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson handed over the Our Islands – Our Future demand for greater island autonomy.
He had handed the same document to Better Together leader Alistair Darling at Lerwick Town Hall last month.
Speaking to Shetland News Blair Jenkins said he was right behind the council campaign and explained why he thought the Yes campaign would ultimately win.
“All we are asking people to do this year – because no one is voting until September of next year – is to think about the kind of society and country they want and honestly to think what outcome next year is most likely to produce that kind of society,” he said.
“I think the three island authorities have done exactly the right thing. I am very supportive of the idea of decisions being taken by local people in their area, about the things that matter most in their lives.
“I think the principle of local autonomy and accountability, community engagement and civic engagement is a very important part of the new Scotland.
“The principle of social justice has been eroded in the UK over the last 30 to 40 years, but I think it is still a strong part of the moral framework within which most of the people in Scotland operate.
“And as people imagine the kind of society they want for themselves, their children and their grand children, increasingly they will realise that this will not happen within the UK, and it will only happen if we make our own decisions and live by our own values.
“The UK is now the fourth most unequal society in the developed world and according to the experts we are on course to become the most unequal society – I believe that we will have an enterprising economy in Scotland, but we also subscribe to the notion that our responsibility to other people doesn’t end on our own front door.
“This is community based campaign. My ideal is that by September of next year not just every community but every street and every household in Scotland should have had a conversation with someone from the YES Scotland campaign.
“We never ever hear from people who a year or six months ago were intending to vote Yes and now have decided to vote No.
“The direction of travel is towards Yes, and I believe the way we have built up our support is by being very local, by having conversations and by meeting people and being open to them.”