Going door to door in Dundee lifts the lid on independence views in Salmond’s “Yes city”.
Sheltering under a tree from the torrential rain, 23-year-old Mhairi Rutherford confesses she is only here because of Alex Salmond.
As revelations by SNP supporters canvassing for a Yes vote go, it doesn’t sound particularly riveting until the Dundee University history student explains.
“I am here because of the TV debate. It was so frustrating, I just had to turn it off in the end, Salmond just didn’t do it any justice.
“I have been Yes for as long as I can vote and I’ve felt for a while now that I really need to do something, get involved.
Blistering sunshine abruptly ends both the rain and mini-confessional, and Mhairi is merrily heading towards the next front door in a working-class neighbourhood of Dundee.
As it is Mhairi’s first time canvassing, she is paired with Duncan McCabe, the seasoned Dundee branch organiser of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC).
RIC is a left-wing movement campaigning for a Yes vote but supports a much bolder (or alarming, depending on your political outlook) approach to how a separate Scotland should be run than the “independence-lite” vision put forward by the SNP.
“Another Scotland is possible” is splashed across Duncan’s t-shirt and it is this message he is taking to the doors in a city which, with good reason, the First Minister has dubbed Scotland’s Yes city.
Both campaigns, Yes publically and No privately, acknowledge Dundee has strong support for independence, while Duncan says RIC canvass returns in the city sit at around 52% for a Yes vote, 18% for No with the rest undecided.
The latest canvass, one of 44 organised by RIC across Scotland on Wednesday, attracts around 60 volunteers and one dog with the mood buoyant.
William Neilson, 66, answers his door with the words Duncan and Mhairi want to hear, “I’m a Yes man.”
But within seconds William’s wife Joan is shouting through from their living room, “Aye, but I’m definitely not.”
The canvassers’ work is done but mine is just beginning is the referendum causing arguments between the two pensioners?
William, smiling, says, “What doesn’t when you’re married, son?” No, we’re fine. We’ve been this way a long time when it comes to independence. I just think it is time.
“We’ve been told what to do by England, by Westminster, for too long. They don’t care about Scotland.”
Joan, 67, who discharges low-level huffs and puffs at nearly every one of William’s reasons for voting Yes, says she is just not convinced.
“It is the young generation I worry about. You couldn’t do this without any pain and they will be the ones who suffer. It just doesn’t add up for me.”
The previous night’s TV showdown between Alistair Darling and Salmond dominates conversations on the doorsteps. Pointedly making people aware he is not part of the SNP, Duncan comfortably weighs in with his own criticism.
“I thought the debate was a disaster, Salmond failed to properly get across why this is such a golden opportunity,” he tells former trade union official Paul Petrie.
Duncan, a gardener by trade, enjoys a relaxed confidence about his message, happier engaging than evangelising.
Mr Petrie accepts a RIC leaflet en route to his recycling bin, notably tucking it into the pile of old newspapers he’s carrying. The pensioner makes clear he’s voting No but Duncan keeps chipping away for 10 minutes.
“You’re a good talker, I’ll give you that,” is Mr Petrie’s final salvo but as we move on I note the leaflet is now in Mr Petrie’s trouser pocket when he reaches the recycling bin.
A few doors down, Stephen Knapp, 59, a painter and decorator, is staunch Yes.
“Scotland will suffer at the hands of Westminster if there is a No vote. From the oil in the 1970s to the poll tax, Scotland has always done badly out of being controlled by London. It is time for change,” he explains.
Duncan, 54, explains the most critical thing they are doing is getting people to register to vote, I watch as one guy who moved into his house last month says he assumed he’d be automatically registered.
Five minutes later his form is complete, in its envelope and handed back to Duncan to post. There’s even the gratefully received offer of an umbrella from the Yes voter thrown in for good measure.
Having started the evening downbeat about the debate, Duncan seems re-energised again, perhaps by the mainly positive response on the doorsteps but perhaps also Mhairi’s story.
“Us older ones have spent so long fighting against things, from Thatcher to the Coalition cuts, it is actually inspiring to see a movement packed full of young people who are all pushing in favour of something,” he says.
As the rain begins to pour again, Duncan is smiling,
“Natural resources you see, another selling point. We’ve got plenty of them.”
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