UK & World News
Yes Scotland! Battle For Independence Begins
Politicians and celebrities have joined forces to launch the "Yes" campaign to persuade Scots to vote for independence - despite suffering a blow in a new poll.
Organisers have vowed to stage the "biggest community-based campaign in Scotland's history" in the run-up to the independence referendum, which could take place in October 2014.
They aim to convince voters that "the people who care most about Scotland are the people that should be running Scotland".
Alex Salmond, the First Minister and Scottish National Party leader, was one of the key speakers at the launch in Edinburgh's Cineworld Cinema.
"We unite behind a declaration of self-evident truth. The people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland," he told the 500-plus crowd.
"We want a Scotland that's greener, that's fairer and more prosperous. We realise that the power of an independent Scotland is necessary to achieve these great ends.
Mr Salmond was joined by politicians from other parties, including the Greens, who want Scotland to leave the UK, and a host of celebrities.
A message of support from Sir Sean Connery, a long-standing supporter of independence, was read out to the crowd.
It said: "This is a historic day for Scotland. The Yes campaign has centred on a positive vision for Scotland. It is rooted in inclusiveness, equality and that core democratic value that the people of Scotland are the best guardians of their own future."
Hollywood star Brian Cox, whose films include X-Men 2, The Bourne Identity and Braveheart, also threw his support behind the campaign.
The Dundee-born actor told the audience that he had been a Labour supporter, but Tony Blair's administration had failed to deliver "as much as I had hoped".
"I think Scotland has earned the right to its own-nation status. It has earned the right to control its own destiny. And it will certainly make a better job of it than that Parliament which has not the foggiest clue about Scotland's cultural, economic and social needs."
Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling to coincide with the Yes Scotland launch reveals only one in three want to leave the UK and over half those polled say they would vote against the proposals.
Yes Scotland has also faced accusations that it is an SNP sideshow, with two former SNP special advisers, a party lawyer and several prominent SNP supporters taking key roles.
Former SNP adviser Stephen Noon, a life-long independence activist, is now handling publicity for the campaign. Jennifer Dempsie, another former SNP adviser, is helping to co-ordinate events.
A company called Yes Scotland Limited has been established with SNP legal adviser Scott Martin as its sole director. Its registered office is in Saint Colme Street, just yards from the First Minister's official residence in Bute House on Charlotte Square, although Mr Noon insists this was unintentional.
The spokesman said critics would be left in no doubt that the campaign is about more than just the SNP.
But Scottish Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie said the campaign must be a genuine cross-party bid for independence rather than the SNP's "bland vision of politics-as-usual".
He said: "Most Greens support independence but there are many others who have concerns about the SNP's middle-of-the-road strategy."
Mr Darling, who is co-ordinating the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, said the findings of his poll showed that on the issue of independence Mr Salmond "doesn't speak for Scotland".
"The Nationalists are entitled to their view but the majority of us simply aren't buying the independence policy they're selling," he said.