Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Campaign groups push for votes

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Media captionFor the first time a mainstream poll has suggested that the Better Together has fallen behind the Yes campaign, as James Cook reports

The push for votes is stepping up with less than two weeks to go until Scotland's independence referendum.

Pro-Union group Better Together said what most Scots wanted was a stronger Scottish Parliament.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took the Yes campaign to younger voters, claiming they would have more opportunities under independence.

Meanwhile, a poll for the Sunday Times suggests the Yes campaign has taken the lead for the first time.

The YouGov poll suggests 51% of Scottish voters plan to back independence, while 49% will vote no.

The figures exclude those who are still undecided or do not plan to vote.

'Magic wand'

Ms Sturgeon said the "breakthrough poll" showed the Yes campaign "has the big momentum".

"More and more people are beginning to realise that a Yes vote is Scotland's one opportunity to make [its] enormous wealth work better for everybody who lives here," the deputy first minister added.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling said: "These polls can and must now serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thought the referendum result was a foregone conclusion - it never was.

"It will go down to the wire. Now is the time to speak up and speak out."

A Downing Street source said Prime Minister David Cameron believes there is "only one poll that matters".

On 18 September voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Mr Cameron will "strain every sinew" between now and then to make his case for the union, the source added.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon was at an event targeting younger voters in the referendum

Ms Sturgeon, who met a group of younger Yes supporters, said independence was not a "magic wand", but would empower people to build a more prosperous and fairer country.

She said: "Today we are detailing the opportunities to create more and better local jobs, to ensure 16 and 17 year olds always have a direct say in future elections, and to protect free higher education."

Ms Sturgeon added: "A 'Yes' vote is the opportunity of a lifetime for young people. We're better off with Scotland's future in Scotland's hands."

The deputy first minister also outlined a Youth Guarantee - to establish the opportunity of education, training or employment as constitutional rights, along with a guarantee of free higher education.

Image caption Footballers backing No have assembled a squad of former players

Elsewhere, a group of Scottish football legends joined veteran commentator Archie McPherson to back a "No" vote.

The "Footballers for No" group involves 16 players from all eras of the game, who have signed up to a joint statement calling on "every patriotic Scot to help maintain Scotland's place in the United Kingdom which has served Scotland so well".

The squad, which includes Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld and former Rangers players Barry Ferguson and Ally McCoist, is "managed" by former Old Firm managers Walter Smith (Rangers) and Billy McNeill (Celtic).

The full line-up includes Alex McLeish, Jim Leighton, David Moyes, Alan Hansen, Willie Miller, Paddy Crerand, Davie Provan, Barry Ferguson, Bertie Auld, Denis Law, Ally McCoist, Derek Johnstone, Murdo MacLeod, Ian Durrant, John Brown and Frank McAvennie.

A joint statement from the players said: "We are proud Scots who have been proud to represent our country around the world. When Scotland calls, we answer.

"We are proud that Scotland has always stood on its own two feet, but we also believe that Scotland stands taller because we are part of the United Kingdom."

Meanwhile, in a speech at Glasgow University, Labour MP Douglas Alexander said the referendum was not a choice between "change with a Yes and no change with a No".

He said the setting up of a modern parliament for Scotland was only the first stage of a much longer journey.

Mr Alexander added: "One of our challenges in the dozen days ahead is to find new ways of setting out clearly to people just how the process for further devolution following a 'No vote' would work, how civic society will be engaged, and on what sort of a timetable the new powers will be delivered, whichever of the main parties wins the general election."

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