Scottish independence: ‘Something has to change. The whole world is watching’

 

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The Independent Online

Leif Findlay had intended to play the bagpipes on his way to the polling station. But in the end, out of respect for his two rescue Staffordshire bull terriers who object to the skirl of the pipes, he chose to mark the occasion dressed in the ancient Farquharson tartan of his ancestors.

“I’m optimistic. We’re striking a blow for a free society,” said Mr Findlay, 43, who has been wearing his kilt all week on his postal round in the Highland city of Inverness.

“There has been a great atmosphere. When you hear about divided opinion and people being angry I’ve just not seen it.”

By teatime last night voting in Inverness was brisk. Queues had formed from first light at polling stations after months of intense campaigning while a second rush began as people returned home from work.

Campaigners were stunned by the turnout and the High Street was a blizzard of posters and energy as the day of reckoning finally dawned.

 

Across the other side of the Ness River at Merkinch by the constituency office of Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander, all four members of the Weldon family had turned up together including Rhona, 17, and her disabled brother Lewis, 18, who were casting votes for the first time.

Despite being ardent No supporters they acknowledged there were many more Yes posters in windows than those in favour of the Union.

“You do see more Yes stickers and placards but the sad thing is people are too scared to come out for No,” said Alison Weldon, 46, a full-time carer.

She said she had enjoyed the debate but had now reached saturation point. “After Friday, if I hear any more about the election I’m going to put my foot through the television,” she said.

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First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond chats to school children at Strichen Primary School in Strichen (PA)

Farmhand Matthew Andrews, 25, originally from Oxford was also taking part in his first Scottish election.

“I wasn’t sure when I first moved up here. There were a few questions such as keeping the pound but that was settled in the debate for me.

“Now I’m voting Yes because something has to change. The whole world is watching. I believe other countries could be handled on a smaller scale too,” he said.

Cameron Young, 20, was equally convinced and was sporting a Yes sticker on his wheelchair. “I don’t normally pay any attention to politics but this is for Scotland. We will be able to take charge of our own country and make it a better place to live,” he said.

Young voters were turning out in force with the Yes campaign confident that they were backing independence.

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A No campaign supporter and Yes campaign supporter debate with each outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh, Scotland (AP)

In the Highlands an extra 10,000 people had joined the register since the last election, most of them 16- and 17-year-olds, many of whom were turning up in their school uniforms to exercise their new-found democratic rights.

Earlier Mr Alexander had rallied support for the Better Together campaign on Twitter, urging a last-minute push to save the Union.

But many younger voters appeared unimpressed by calls for the status quo to remain unchallenged.

Illustrator Claire Maclean, 22, said she was voting Yes but would probably support the Greens at the next election.

“Economically and socially independence makes complete sense to me so you can govern yourself and so when a government is corrupt you can get rid of them,” she said.

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