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Scottish independence referendum: Thousands join 'Yes' vote march


Thousands of people have joined a march and rally in Scotland's capital, calling for a Yes vote in next year's independence referendum.

The event in Edinburgh appeared to draw crowds from across the country, with marchers filling the top half of the Royal Mile before wending their way along a city centre route.

During the day, the gathered crowds were expected to hear speeches from key figures in the pro-independence movement such as First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon.

The campaigners gathered in the city's High Street before heading slowly along North Bridge, Waterloo Place and Regent Road towards the final destination of Calton Hill.

A range of groups took part in the protest, from political parties to organisations such as Farming for YES and Football Supporters for Independence.

Many of those assembled waved flags or held banners in support of their cause, turning the streets into a sea of colour.

The event follows last year's independence rally which brought around 10,000 people onto the streets of Edinburgh, marching from the Meadows in the city's old town to Princes Street Gardens for speeches and live music.

It comes just days after campaign groups and politicians marked one year to go until the referendum on September 18 2014.

The march got under way at midday with cheers, applause and whistling from the crowds.

Police have not yet given an estimate of the number of people involved today, although a clearer picture may emerge as the day progresses.

Speaking ahead of the rally, 20-year-old student Calum Martin, from near Glasgow, said: "It's a fantastic event, it brings a lot of people together and just injects energy and colour into a debate which otherwise can run the risk of becoming full of statistics and number crunching.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for people to get to know each other and to show their support. It's a great turnout."

Giving his own reasons for wanting independence, he said: "Fundamentally it's about what's in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

"Scotland is an incredibly wealthy country. This is a chance to put that wealth to much better use, rather than having it frittered away by Westminster spending it on Trident nuclear weapons, endless international wars.

"It's a chance to protect the NHS, to protect social spending, to invest in the future of the Scottish people."

Retired architect Iain Graham, of Stirling, said: "If somebody would give me a thousand votes I would use every single one of them as a 'Yes'.

"Scotland should have the opportunity to make it's own decisions for itself and so should future generations."

Janette McGowan, 58, from Tullibody in Clackmannanshire, hoped the event would raise awareness among people who are currently undecided or even against independence.

"It's really quite something to see," she said of the rally.

"We've got good weather, a fantastic turnout, lots of people dressed up with all sorts of exciting outfits.

"I just don't think Westminster knows what's right for Scotland. I think we could do a better job locally for the people of Scotland."

Edinburgh's Philip Bartholomew, 55, who attended the march with fellow members of the Scottish Democratic Alliance, said of the referendum: "It's such an important thing next year and we have to get the message across.

"Scotland's its own country, it always has been and it shouldn't be governed by another country."

Addressing the rally on Calton Hill, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: "I am asked a lot of questions as I take our message around the country.

"One question I am often asked is: What will we lose?

"Well, we would lose nuclear weapons, the bedroom tax, Tory governments we have never voted for, and what's not to love about that?

"We are the lucky generation that gets to vote for independence, and vote for self-determination for our country."

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald urged the crowds to "imagine what would happen if Scotland votes No".

She said: "What would people think about the Scots? That we're all mouth and no kilts.

"We would not carry respect, we would not respect ourselves and that will be reflected in the activity of the country.

"Just imagine the No campaign trying to have a party. A No party. Who would go?"

Ms MacDonald also spoke of "the sort of vision we should be holding out in front of the Scots".

"If it's right to keep water, postal services and the railway in public ownership then we say it," she said.

"We don't do it in a week or a year, but that is what we are aiming for, which is a bit better than what we have just now."