Scottish regions bursting with 'Yes' enthusiasm

‘Staying with the Union will mean more unemployment and more people on benefits’

September 18, 2014 11:36 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST - EDINBURGH:

A woman wears stickers on her face on a ‘short walk to freedom’ march inEdinburgh on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

A woman wears stickers on her face on a ‘short walk to freedom’ march inEdinburgh on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

The thick and unseasonal mist, called the Haar, that descended on Edinburgh on referendum day did not dampen voter enthusiasm, nor did it impact what seemed to be an overwhelming Yes presence and enthusiasm in a great many parts of the city.

In Craigmillar, a locality five km from Edinburgh’s city centre, a steady stream of assorted residents from less privileged economic backgrounds, entered the polling station in the East Neighbourhood Centre.

‘Against Westminster’

There were mothers pushing prams with toddlers, disabled persons navigating their way in mobility scooters, students, the unemployed on benefits, frail pensioners, and younger professionals.

“I am campaigning and voting Yes to get rid of Westminster rule,” said volunteer Lynn Marshall, cheerily greeting voters and distributing stickers.

“They first tried the poll tax on us. And did you know that I had to pay £40 a week as bedroom-tax before the SNP got rid of it?” the part-time security guard asks.

“This place will vote 80 per cent Yes,” said Sean Saez, a young volunteer with her.

Craigmillar is a working class area, which fell upon hard times when its mines and breweries closed in the 1970s. The unemployment that followed led to problems of drugs, rising crime rates and falling education levels.

“It is an area of where people have felt disenfranchised and alienated,” said Chris Ferguson, a Yes voter.

Part of the Edinburgh East parliamentary constituency, 74 per cent of Craigmillar’s population is income deprived, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, making it the second most income deprived area in Scotland after Drumchapel in Glasgow City.

Craigmillar would substantiate the view that the poor are more likely to vote Yes. The area is bursting with Yes enthusiasm.

Michael Keenan, a somewhat forlorn No volunteer bearing up in that enthusiastically Yes ambience, acknowledged that Yes was ahead in the area.

“The engagement has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “People who have not voted for 20 years are voting today.”

“We are voting Yes because we don’t want to be second class citizens and want a better life for our children and grandchildren,” said an elderly pensioner, retired from the Royal Marines, as he helped his frail wife to the centre.

“All that Westminster is saying about pensions is rubbish — we still have plenty of oil left.”

“It was the possible privatisation of the NHS that pushed me to Yes,” said Momina Akbar, a young student of microbiology. “My whole family is voting Yes, after a lot of discussion in the house.”

She criticised the last minute “scaremongering” by the No campaign. “Staying with the Union will mean more unemployment and more people on benefits.”

‘Not on party lines’

Shiela Gilmore, the Member of Parliament for East Edinburgh from the Labour Party did not think that there has been an erosion in Labour support in the area. “Voting in the referendum is not strictly on party lines,” she said.

Excitement and anticipation was rife, and was to continue into the wee hours, as the Scots say.

Many residents were to watch the results at home, but crowds were expected to congregate in Yes and No centres, and in pubs — ten of which have got licences to stay open late.

And it is to these watering holes that the nearly 1000 journalists who had descended on the city were to head to watch the developments unfold.

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