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With year to go, Scotland divided over independence

Last Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 09:29

Edinburgh: Voting for Scottish independence is "common sense", the leader of the movement to break away from the United Kingdom said Thursday, a year to the day when Scotland will vote in a referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond told the Scottish parliament that independence offered the best route to a more prosperous country -- but a new opinion poll showed he is currently losing the argument, with the "No" camp holding a commanding 52 percent to 32 percent lead.

As Salmond spoke on a crisp autumn day in Edinburgh, the "No" camp unveiled two electronic billboards mounted on vans, one reading "the strength of being part of a United Kingdom" and the other on the city`s Calton Hill vowing "a successful parliament delivering for Scotland".

In parliament, Salmond said his Scottish National Party (SNP) government offered a clear choice.

"This government`s argument -- our most important contention -- is that the people who live and work in Scotland are the people who are most likely to make the right choices for Scotland," he said.

"It is not an argument that is subject to statistical manipulation, it is not an argument for a day`s headlines, it is not an argument born of fear. It is a common sense position based on experience."

The mainstream parties, who are campaigning hard for Scotland`s 5.3 million people to remain within the United Kingdom, warned Salmond he faced a battle over the next 12 months.

The leader of the opposition Labour party in Scotland, Johann Lamont, complained that the "Yes" campaign was obsessing Salmond`s government to the detriment of developing policies to address issues such as an ageing population.

It was "not a government, but a campaign", she said to heckles from SNP lawmakers, claiming the independence campaign had put the country "on pause".

Back on Calton Hill, surveying the electronic slogans and the spectacular views of Edinburgh and the coast, Alistair Darling, Britain`s former finance minister who is spearheading the "No" campaign, said he rejected Salmond`s arguments.

"If you look at people in Scotland and people in England, I don`t believe they`re that different. I don`t believe that somehow you cross the border into England and suddenly people believe in unfairness and inequality," the Labour politician said.

First Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 09:29

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