Blair v Blair – a postmortem

I had the pleasure of attending the latest in Dundee University’s Five Million Questions debate series on the referendum on Thursday. This initiative has convened a range of panels over the last few months to chew over the meat and bones relating to the independence question before a very live audience. I was privileged to take part in one on the role of the media – I was the token female, natch – but it was nonetheless an enjoyable experience.  And I always like things that make me think hard.  So thanks are due to the university and 5 Million Questions organisers for inviting me to take part and also to come along and listen on Thursday.

And it’s not over yet – the two “In conversations with” Douglas Alexander MP and Nicola Sturgeon MSP in December look fascinating and the team involved is currently exploring what it can do next year with the programme.  Taking 5 Million Questions out into the community in Dundee might well feature and that too, would be a very good thing.  Reaching the parts the referendum is currently passing by is not just desirable, it’s necessary if we are to claim that this has been a national debate with everyone participating.

This was one of the flaws of Thursday night’s debate.  It was packed with largely made-minds-up, and there appeared to be more from the Yes side in the audience. That influenced the mood and the tone and content of the questioning – myself included. With each side cheering their protagonists on, it’s difficult to get a sense of who won, or at least whose points were hitting home.  Partisanship is great and helped create a dynamic atmosphere for the debate but if everyone involved in this thing spends all their time talking to each other then we are doing a dis-service to the undecideds of Scotland.

I’m much more interested in hearing what they are thinking and have to say than hearing the same old, same old. There was an element of that evident in how both the Blairs approached the debate.  If I had been inclined to play referendum buzzword bingo, I would have had a full house in the first quarter of an hour.

Yet, there were meaty issues batted back and forth  – Europe, currency, economic matters, higher education, prosperity, oil, fairness, solidarity, democracy, even fishing all featured. And if you were an undecided, then I’m pretty sure you could have left the lecture theatre agreeing with what both men had to say, such was the forcefulness and indeed, thoughtfulness with which they put forward their cases.

Maybe I’m too close to it but it seemed all a bit sterile. Talking of stuff, rather than people and what all this means for their lives. Or maybe that’s just how I like to hear arguments framed.  Certainly, a newbie journalist, for whom this was their first venture into referendum territory, thought it exciting and really enjoyed it.  And seeing things like this through other people’s eyes is instructive.

So what of the Blairs – Yes-Blair and No-Blair as Gail Lythgoe deftly tagged them on twitter.  (All we need is a Mebbe-Bear and a Goldilocks and National Collective would have a set of characters with which to have a lot of fun).

This is only the third time I’ve encountered No-Blair, better known as Blair McDougall, the heid honcho of Better Together. There is no doubt he is a confident operator, with some smooth soundbites (Rob Shorthouse doing his job admirably) who is relaxed both before live audiences and on TV.  He has a remarkable command of facts to drop into his arguments, based – as he never tires of telling us all – on his extensive experience of working in various roles in the EU, at Downing Street and in the Labour party.  Well-connected then, which suggests his assertion that the parties will all produce their more-devo proposals “well before the Referendum” is informed and well-founded.

But there’s also a touch of bombast and arrogance. He likes to boss these things.  Often, this is through physical tactics, such as when he walked on to the stage of an Edinburgh Book Festival panel event long after the other participants. Such behaviour is all very well, but I can’t help thinking someone somewhere is keeping score and waiting for the opportunity to bring him down a peg or two.  Or maybe I’m just hopeful that the Yes camp will be devoting a little time and energy to working out how to get under his skin.

Still, he knows a thing or two and peppers his arguments with a swirl of facts and figures. He says what he knows so commandingly that few appear willing to attempt to dismantle his arguments.  On Thursday night, he asserted that the UK got the EU rebate because of our highly productive agriculture sector which as anyone who knows anything about Europe knows, is tripe.

Not that Yes-Blair was prepared to part from his lines to challenge such assertions.  Looking tanned and relaxed, the Chief Executive of Yes Scotland is confident before audiences like this, indeed most audiences these days.  But I go back to what I said before – this is not natural operating territory for Blair Jenkins and I can’t help thinking this is as good as it gets. Which is a worry.

Also worrisome is how tired those lines sound. They’ve been repeated ad nauseam, the same arguments largely being said the same way and I’m not sure that was the right approach for this audience, which was after all mostly made up of partisans. Nothing either of the Blairs said was likely to change minds: what that audience was there to see was a knock-out blow, of the two leaders of their respective campaigns going toe to toe, with one emerging the winner. There were patches in the proceedings when that began to happen: if I’d been scoring, it would have been points equal.

But if Mr Jenkins wants to win these encounters with his counterpart, he needs to depart from the script and display his knowledge of the detail of some of these disputed areas.  Either play No-Blair at his own game to win or play the game differently.

Moreover, trying to frame the Yes arguments constantly within the realm of certainties is not entirely helpful. Taking ownership of some of the Better Together arguments dulls their impact and leaves them looking for new ground – uncertainty and risk would be key ones. And the answers on EU membership seemed way behind events – even the SNP has moved on from the position of our membership wouldn’t end line. In such gladitorial contests, more dismantling of the Better Together arguments is needed:  resorting to jibes about Project Fear just jars. There’s a way of undermining their argument without resorting to their low blows.

After the debate, I was reminded by No-Blair of a short discourse we’d had on the idea of city states and that I’d said I would write a complimentary blog on him when he was proved right. And yes, he is right – this would appear to be central to Labour’s more-powers plan and more on that in a separate blog later – and I am more than happy to acknowledge that I heard it from Mr McDougall first.

But if he expects me to gush and simper, dream on. You might think you’re all that, I couldn’t possibly agree. I can’t help thinking that if you come up against the right opponent, you’re ripe for the taking.

In fact, Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland’s political editor, who chaired the debate did an exemplary job, using his considerable knowledge of the political scene in Scotland to keep both Blairs in check and hold them to account. If anyone emerged a winner, it was him.


Yes Scotland: Too many Chiefs?

I heard from a friend this weekend, who was bursting with enthusiasm and excitement.  Said friend, like me, has been around the block with party politics and similarly, has spent the last few years sitting on the sidelines.  Interested but somewhat disengaged.

That was before a local Yes meeting.  Lots of people there.  Lots of new people there.  People from all parties and none.  Scots, Danes and other nationalities too.  Young and old, men and a pleasing number of women. Everyone keen as mustard.  It was a joy.

This is what Yes Scotland was set up to do.  To bring together disparate individuals and parties to coalesce around a common goal of campaigning for a yes vote in the independence referendum.  With so many egos and potential players – and that’s just at local level – it was never going to be an easy task.  But with the great staff and volunteer team in place at Yes Scotland HQ, such issues are clearly being anticipated, with thought going into how to design their input to build the capacity of nascent community campaigns and create harmony where there is huge potential for discord.  Well done them, and clearly testament too, to Blair Jenkins’ powers and talents as a chief executive.

Already, the organisation established to achieve a yes vote is starting to deliver on its aims and intentions.  There are campaign groups now in every local authority area in Scotland.  There are training dates being set up and national days of action planned, with a real purpose.  The messaging is simple and clear and easy to understand and put across.  The materials are great.

Moreover, the movement’s approach is to engage people in a dialogue, to discuss with them their issues and concerns, to persuade them to think differently.  It will be interesting to see if the Better Together campaign can match this grassroots activism:  the SNP has, after all, proved itself masterful at such an approach in recent elections, and its activists are clearly being boosted by folk from the Greens, the left and even the Lib Dems (I kid you not).  Best of all, there are people of no party persuasion who believe in Scotland’s right to self-determination who already are stepping up to the plate.  I’m feeling guilty at my own lack of engagement and prompted to remedy it.

So again, plaudits where they are due.  The Board at Yes Scotland and its staff team – all of them in post only a few months – have hit the ground running.  And how.  Blair Jenkins is clearly a great manager and leader.  This kind of organisation and strategic approach, of finding the right people to deliver on that approach, of marshalling the resources, of allowing ideas to flourish but action to follow – these are exactly the things he was brought in to achieve, and achieving it he is.  But was he employed to become the figure head of the Yes campaign?  Does his remit extend to the politics of it all?  Is it his job to influence the process?  On this I am less certain.

It would be easier to say yes, if Jenkins was a natural showman with a deft touch for the politics.  But he hasn’t.  And every time he conducts an interview, there are gaffes.  That’s what happens when you put a novice under a sharp and unrelenting political light.  This is a bearpit and it requires politicians of the highest ability to spar and rebuff and get the message across.  And even if it is in the plan to develop Jenkins as the frontman, there simply is not time, with less than two years to go, to perfect him in this role.  Doing so is going to require all of Susan Stewart’s considerable and formidable powers as a doyenne of communications.  And is that how and where her energy and resources should be spent?

Because the media will always ask awkward questions – that’s their job.  We might not see it as their role to dig for dissent, but they clearly do.  And every time Blair Jenkins gives the not-quite-right answer, or his personal opinion, if it differs from what the SNP has previously said, the headline will scream of a split.

He also risks upsetting the other partners in this venture if he gives an opinion, putatively that of Yes Scotland, which differs from their own parties’ beliefs.  The Scottish Greens have already spat their dummy out of the pram:  Patrick Harvie will have no hesitation in doing so again, if he thinks the vehicle to drive for a yes vote is moving far from its objectives and espousing political values he and his party do not and cannot share.

Thus, today, he muses in the Sunday Herald that the SNP should abide by the Electoral Commission’s opinion on the wording of the question and on the issue of campaign expenditure.  The implication is that Yes Scotland will.  What, even if the Electoral Commission advises that donations from outwith Scotland should be allowed?  That would be directly opposite to what he and Yes Scotland has already said.  Another problem which might need swept up in the weeks to come.

And if the Commission recommends a form of wording clearly unfavourable to the yes campaign, that will be okay?  Trying to come across as warm, fuzzy and convivial is all very well but not if it leaves your own side at a disadvantage.  These are exactly the kind of consequences politicians think through – most of the time – before they conduct an interview or give a statement.

I’m sure that Blair Jenkins’ touring the studios and press is part of the grand plan.  I’m sure that it has all been agreed with the board and that the roles for each of the main front players – individuals and organisations – in the campaign have been discussed and delineated.

But I’m struggling at the moment to see what is being gained by having quite so many different voices to the fore.  Except to feed copy to a gluttonous media, desperate to portray the yes camp at odds with itself.  And the more voices we have, the greater the chance of that happening.  Having too many chiefs will confuse the public and even the injuns, particularly if the chiefs are all saying very different things all at the same time.

We already have plenty folk on the yes side who can put a message across;  there are far fewer who can deliver organisationally and logistically.  Far better then, for Blair Jenkins to leave the politicking and communicating to those who can and get on with the job he was brought in to do.  His talents, skills and experience are undoubted but the task is huge.  And if he wants to be afforded his place in Scottish political history, he needs to keep his focus and his eyes on the prize.

Exclusive: Yes Scotland Chief, Blair Jenkins’ Donaldson Lecture

Yes Scotland’s supremo, Blair Jenkins, delivered this year’s Donaldson lecture.  This fixture in the conference agenda is delivered by a significant figure and who is more significant and more topical than Mr Jenkins.  His lecture was warmly received by a packed hall, who gave him a spontaneous standing ovation at the end.  He speaks as he finds and it’s a language we can all understand.  Here is his lecture in full:

It’s a great pleasure to be here talking to you today and for me personally it’s a matter of some pride and a real privilege to be speaking to you as the chief executive of Yes Scotland, the campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum in 2014.

I realise that I am speaking in the slot immediately before lunchtime, and the obligation on any speaker at that time is to get on with it and not to outstay his welcome. I did ask for the 3pm slot today….. but I was told it was already taken.

Now there are three areas I mainly want to talk about today. First, I want to explain to you what I have been doing for the last 3 months to shape up the Yes campaign to be the winning campaign that we all want to see in 2014.  Then I want to share with you why I firmly believe Yes Scotland will be the winning campaign, and why the people of Scotland will vote for an independent Scotland in the referendum in two years’ time.  And then finally, I would like to talk to you about what you can do, collectively and individually, as members of the SNP to help us get the outcome we all desire.

But before I do any of that, the first thing I would like to do is to say something on behalf of all of us who believe in an independent Scotland, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to have the vote we will have in two years’ time. And what I want to say to the Scottish National Party is “thank you”. Thank you for delivering the referendum. It was of course the victory of the SNP in last year’s Scottish elections, which has paved the way for this referendum campaign. But I am also aware of the many people over many years, some of them no longer with us, who worked hard to get us to where we are today.

And so that large and growing number of people who believe in an independent Scotland but who are not members of this party have a debt of gratitude to the SNP……so, again, from all of us, thank you very much.

Let me now move on and talk to you about what we have been up to within the Yes Scotland campaign. The first thing I did upon beginning the job some three months ago was to try to put in place a really good team, a first class group of people who can run the kind of campaign of the scale and quality we are going to need to win in 2 years’ time.

Now some of those names will be familiar to you, some of them will be people you don’t know, but I can assure you we have got a first class team of people who will be absolutely committed to getting that result in 2014.

One of the interesting and exciting things about the whole process that we went through to recruit that top team, was the quality of the applications we had and the number of people who came through the door to say: “I felt I just had to be involved in this”, “I just couldn’t let this campaign happen without being personally involved”.

So I believe we have a team not only of talent and ability but also of passion and commitment – people who are absolutely dedicated to the cause of Scottish independence.

Now the other thing that we have put in place over the last three months is the Advisory Board, the people who are making sure that we are running the campaign in a way which squares with the objectives of Yes Scotland and that we are properly representing all the different elements of Scottish life who feel committed to this cause.  That Advisory Board is, I think, one of the real strengths of the campaign; it will be one of the things that gets us across the victory line in 2014.

And I am particularly pleased that as chair of the Advisory Board we have Dennis Canavan. Now Dennis, I am sure, is known to many people in this hall. He is a very highly regarded, experienced Scottish politician. He is a man who speaks his mind; he is a man of independence. He is a man who is in nobody’s pocket. I believe Dennis Canavan is not only a great asset to this campaign but a credit to his country. So I am very glad to have Dennis in the role as chair of the Advisory Board.

I am also delighted to have on our Board the Yes Minister herself, Nicola Sturgeon, fresh from her triumph in securing what I can only describe as a sensationally successful outcome in the referendum negotiations. I congratulate her and the First Minister on what they have achieved.

I think it was a very important principle that 16 & 17 year olds should get the vote in this referendum and I am personally delighted that in the very difficult negotiations which took place in the terms of the referendum deal, that it was not one of the things that was traded off, that this very important principle was preserved in the final agreement.

I think the No campaign are going to have real difficulties in approaching 16 and 17 year olds in the course of this campaign. Profound difficulties.  You can imagine how the conversation would go: “Hello, we’re the No campaign. Remember us, we are the people who tried to stop you having a say in the future of your country.” I’m sure that’s bound to go down really, really well. Good luck with that!

Now the other things that have been going on which I am sure you have picked up on and you’re aware of is that we have been attracting support from all corners of Scottish society. I think what is happening is that your party, the National Party of Scotland, is now part of an even bigger and broader groundswell of support – a national movement in favour of Scottish independence.

We recently had the Scottish Green Party deciding at their conference to be part of the Yes Scotland campaign. I think that was a very welcome development and I believe the Greens will have a substantial role to play in delivering the yes vote in 2014.

We’ve also seen the emergence within the Labour Party of Labour for Independence, a growing and significant group within that party. It is my personal view that Labour supporters of independence – either members or supporters – will be a significant part of the campaign that we build. In fact the next political conference I will be talking to is going to be the first conference of Labour for Independence to be held in Glasgow next month and I think they are to be encouraged and welcomed.

Within the Liberal Democrats in Scotland we have seen the emergence of strong individual voices supporting the independence cause. Notable figures like Dame Judy Steel and others have come on board and said they are committed to securing Scottish independence. Now whether or not that growing number of individuals in that party forms into a more formal campaign within the Liberal Democrats, I don’t know. They are clearly not receiving any encouragement from the leadership of the party. You may have read recently that Yes Scotland was banned from having a stall at the Liberal Democratic conference. A move which, as was pointed out by some party members, seems to be neither liberal nor democratic.

Apart from Yes Scotland, of course, there are other groups as part of the broad coalition working towards Scottish independence and I am talking about organisations you will have heard of. We recently have had the formation of Women for Independence and there are other bodies such as National Collective, the Scottish Independence Convention and others. So what we are seeing now is the emergence of a growing body of support for Scottish independence.  People from all walks of life and people who have never been involved in political campaigns before. And I think this is greatly to be encouraged.

Now for members of the Scottish National Party who have been involved in this campaign for a long time, what you’ll be discovering is that there are new faces around, you have new friends that you didn’t have before. I hope you will welcome them all and embrace them all, because the way we win this referendum campaign is by building the broadest possible groundswell in favour of independence.

You could say that I myself typify that movement of people towards the independence cause. I am someone who has never ever been involved in politics before. I am not a member of any party. I’ve never been involved in political campaigns before. I guess in my career the things I have been known for are campaigning for better journalism and better broadcasting. I’m still passionate about both of those things, but now I am delighted to be campaigning for a Better Scotland, an independent Scotland.

I realised at the beginning of this year that there was no way I was going to be able to sit on the fence or bite my tongue, or whatever metaphor you want to choose for the next two and a half years. I think this campaign is a time for everyone to stand up and be counted and I believe that is what more and more people are going to do over the next two years. I think more and more people are going to find themselves drawn to this cause and people will come out and declare their support for Scottish independence.

My own experience in the months since I have made my own position clear and since I became chief executive of Yes Scotland, is that all sorts of people have got in touch with me from all parts of Scotland and from different periods of my life.  People I haven’t seen since school days, people I worked with in newspapers, people I worked with in STV and the BBC, people I have known socially and professionally. Lots and lots of people have been in touch. Almost all of them have said they are so glad I have taken this position, so glad you have come out in favour of independence. They either say they are already there with me or they say I’m thinking of moving your way. And this kind of development, this kind of contact, the kind of responses I’ve had, encourages me that we will get the majority we want in 2014.

A very important point about Yes Scotland and it is one we have to keep restating, is that we are not a policy making organisation. We are not a campaign that is going to put forward a particular set of policies. That is the job of the political parties. It is the job of the SNP, it is the job of the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party, on the pro-independence side of the argument.

But my view is that it is the responsibility of ALL the political parties in Scotland to set our very clearly what their vision is, what their ambition is for the future of Scotland, whether or not they support independence.

Now I know the SNP is going to do that at the end of next year – set out its vision of what an independent Scotland will look like.

As far as Yes Scotland is concerned, all we ask of anyone is that you support the core principle, the core democratic principle, that the best people to make decisions about the future of Scotland and what is right for Scotland are the people of Scotland themselves, the people who live here, the people who work here.

That is the only price of admission if you like, there is no other admission ticket that you need. You simply need to buy into that core principle of independence for Scotland. This is a cause that transcends political parties and, indeed, is a new kind of politics.

Having said that, I do believe, that one can begin to see, to some extent, an outline of the kind of independent country that we could be, the kind of values that we have, the kind of things we could see in an independent Scotland that in my view are not currently there in the direction of travel that the UK is taking.  We know that under successive Labour and Conservative governments, the UK has become one of the most unfair and unequal societies in the western world. That didn’t happen as an act of God, it was an act of policy.

And this leads me onto the second area I want to talk about – the reasons why I believe we can win and will win in 2014.  I believe 2014 will be the Year of Yes and we will get the majority we are looking for. We are coming to a clear fork in the road, a choice of direction. Let’s not be part of an increasingly unequal society, let’s continue on the journey we have started.

The vision of an independent Scotland that many of us have is of a country where all of us look out for one another, and where our sense of duty and responsibility to other people doesn’t begin and end at our own front door. I think most of us value the notion of a society that is inclusive, a society where communities and individuals are not left behind and are not marginalized.  A country where your access to Higher education does not depend upon the wealth of your parents. A country where your health and your lifespan does not depend upon where you were born or where you live. A country where we value investment in people and investment in society. And where old age is not a time of loneliness and fear, where there is provision for the most vulnerable in society.

Now I believe in Scotland we do value enterprise, we do value business. We do value the people who can be entrepreneurial and create jobs. But those people also do buy into the notion of a strong collective ethos in Scotland a strong set of values that we do look out for one another and we do value one another.

One of the things that we did, very soon after I took over at Yes Scotland, was that we started to look around for a campaign headquarters. I was keen to find a base somewhere in the middle of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, that we should be highly visible, that we should be accessible. The door should be open to the Scottish people to come in and ask us questions, get information. To see that the campaign for independence was rooted in the community and open to all and welcoming to all. We had a look at lots of properties and as chance would have it, fortuitously, the best property we looked at, the one most suited to our purposes was based, on Hope Street in Glasgow.

This seemed entirely appropriate. If Yes is based on anything, it is based on hope. We are a positive and ambitious and aspirational campaign.  And we felt that it was an absolutely perfect fit, in terms of the symbolism and sentiment of that address fitting the Yes Scotland campaign so well.

By the same token I have to assume that the No campaign are even now searching the street maps of Scotland for a Pessimism Place, or maybe a Despair Drive……

It’s interesting to reflect for a moment on how the No campaign are actually operating. We knew it would be a campaign founded on a very negative view of Scotland’s prospects and of Scotland’s future. But things seem to have got worse. The underlying rationale – the No narrative if you like – seems to be that the rest of the world, other countries in the world, and international institutions would adopt immediately an irrational and hostile view to an independent Scotland.

It seems to me to be a profoundly pessimistic view of our future, of how an independent Scotland would be received and welcome. I do not believe such a view has any rational or substantial basis at all. Just look at the worldwide media interest in your conference here this weekend….. The No campaign has no shared vision or ambition for Scotland – the only thing holding them together is the desire to hold Scotland back.

I was talking to an audience of students in Edinburgh a couple of months ago and I presented them with an alternative way of looking at the independence debate.  I asked them to imagine a scenario in which the debate we were having now, the campaign we are having now, was not on whether or not Scotland should vote for independence, but to imagine that Scotland had actually remained independent and the vote we were having in two years’ time is on whether or not we should join the union. Now this is not to rewrite history, it is simply a different way of framing the debate.

I think if you stand back and look at it, a campaign being run now to persuade Scotland to join the union in my view would be an impossible campaign to run. Just imagine some of the leading propositions, the case that would be put to the Scottish people: your main parliament will move hundreds of miles away, and your MPs will be in a tiny minority; you will get a government you didn’t vote for; all of your oil and gas revenues will be handed over to the London treasury. The biggest nuclear weapons arsenal in Western Europe will be built on the River Clyde, 30 miles from your largest city. You will be joining a country where the health and education services are rapidly being privatized. Now and then you will get dragged into an illegal foreign war. An austerity budget will be imposed from London, cutting jobs and threatening the provision of vital public services. Weak regulation of the banking sector will bring your economy to the brink of disaster. And, on top of all that, the most vulnerable people in society, instead of getting protection and support, will be interrogated and humiliated in order to deprive them of the very meagre level of provision to which they are entitled.

I ask this conference – who in Scotland would vote for that package? Who in Scotland would vote for that union?

The Yes Scotland campaign will be a grassroots campaign. I believe you will see a groundswell of support for independence around Scotland as we build the case over the next two years. We are already in the process of setting up Yes groups in every local authority area in Scotland. Some are in place and all will be in place before the end of the year. And we will then be even more locally organised after that.

And I think already you can see that we are going to be a much more visible and more active and more locally based campaign than our opponents and I think this is going to be our key strength: the fact that Yes Scotland will be campaigning in every community, we will be in every street.

My personal aspiration is that, one way or another, every household, every person on the electoral register over the next two years will come into contact with Yes Scotland and have a conversation with us about the benefits of independence. We are determined to work flat out and to run that kind of campaign because we realize that by having that kind of conversation with people, by having the evidence and giving them confidence, we can build that winning majority.

I think the phrase I have used, and I really do mean this, is that Yes Scotland intends to help from the centre; it does not intend to control from the centre.

Finally, let me explain what I believe that this party, your party, the Scottish National Party, can do to help to create a winning campaign. On my first day in this job, I was asked by people, sometimes directly, sometimes by email, and by text and so on, what can we do right now to help. What can we do as of now to work towards delivering a Yes majority in 2014?

And the answer I gave then and the answer I give again today is that what each of us can do is to persuade one other person to vote yes. The rationale for saying that is quite simple. Whatever opinion poll you look at, and I personally don’t place much faith in any of the opinion polls at the moment – I think it is far too early in the campaign to be looking at opinion polls. But any and every poll you look at demonstrates the same point – and that is that if each of us who already intends to vote for independence can persuade just one other person to do the same in the next two years, then we will have a majority.

And when you think about it, we all have circles of influence, we have family, we have friends, we have people we go to the pub with, people we see at the hairdressers, at the football match, we all have those circles of people that we know. Within that circle, each of you is bound to know someone, at least one person, who is not yet convinced of the case for independence, not yet persuaded to vote yes. Your job over the next two years is to persuade that one person, get them to vote yes. If we all do that then we are guaranteed a winning majority in 2014.

I know some of you will convince a lot more than just one person, and we do want every single vote we can get, to secure a comfortable majority.

I think the other thing that you can do which will be very helpful, going back to my earlier point, is to welcome the new friends and new faces you will be encountering in this campaign. You will find yourself standing next to, standing alongside, canvassing with, campaigning alongside, people who may have been your opponents in other election campaigns. It is very important that people feel welcome and people feel a part of a Yes campaign which is broadly based. It is a big tent, a broad church, please make everybody welcome.

So please make 16 & 17 year olds welcome, make the Greens welcome, make Labour for Independence welcome, make Liberal Democrats, make Conservatives  – people from right across the political spectrum – feel welcome.  We are not asking anybody to change their party allegiance, we’re not asking Labour Party members to suddenly switch and start voting for this party. All we are asking them to do is agree to give us their vote on this historic occasion. We want to borrow their vote to secure an independent future for this country. We are not asking them to make any other change.

I’d like to thank you for giving me this time to speak to you today, to explain some of the things Yes Scotland is doing; some of the reasons why I believe we will secure the majority we want in 2014, and some of the ways in which you can help.

This is an incredibly exciting time, an inspiring time, for all of us who believe in an independent Scotland. We are the first and only generation of Scots to be given the opportunity to vote on this issue and to decide on the future of our country and to opt for self-determination.

Yes Scotland will give the people of Scotland the information they need, the debate they deserve, and the outcome they desire.

I believe we have the evidence. I believe we have the arguments. I believe we have the vision and the momentum.

And I believe 2014 WILL BE the Year of Yes.