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Celebrities lined up to lead fight against independence

Published on 6 January 2014

A NUMBER of high-profile English celebrities will "lovebomb" Scotland this year as part of a Canadian-style phase of the anti-independence campaign.

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A series of household names from south of the Border have offered their services to the pro-Union parties.

It is understood the personalities will speak out to emphasise how much they want Scotland to remain part of the UK.

Meanwhile, Better Together hailed polling evidence it commissioned that showed only 30% of Scots are backing independence.

However, the YouGov poll was ­criticised for achieving this result by giving three options - not the two that will be on offer in September.

The poll puts support for independence at 30%, a point ahead of the status quo on 29%, with the most popular option being "more powers for the Scottish Parliament" at 32%.

The participation in the campaign of the English celebrities, who have yet to be revealed, has been likened to the push from other parts of Canada to declare how much they wanted Quebec to remain part of the country ahead of the 1995 referendum.

Many believe the intervention was crucial in a vote that came within a whisker of making Quebec independent.

It is understood the household names who have offered to speak out include television and sports stars.

They are expected to make their interventions individually and throughout the course of the year until September's referendum.

A senior pro-Union source said: "People have come to us and told us that they would like to speak out. They want to get involved and show how much they want Scotland to remain part of the UK."

But the move was dismissed by the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign. A spokesman said: "We welcome all valid contributions, including those from celebrities", adding that "one of the great strengths of the Yes campaign is the support and contribution from figures in the arts, entertainment and cultural communities who see independence as a natural way to further enrich the lives of others in Scotland, the rest of the UK and indeed the world."

He added: "Independence is about having the full range of powers we need to run our own affairs in a way that matches our priorities and aspirations."

There are no plans as yet to hold a Canadian-style "Unity Rally", which was held three days before the Quebec referendum in downtown Montreal.

An estimated 100,000 Canadians took part in the event.

Although the event is often credited with playing a decisive role in the result, it was not without controversy, including long-running arguments about how many people had taken part.

The YouGov poll was commissioned by Better Together to mark 25 years since Labour leader John Smith spoke of devolution as the "settled will" of the Scottish people.

Blair McDougall of Better Together said the findings proved this remained the case, with even 35% of those who voted for the SNP in 2011 backing continued devolution over independence.

He said: "Our argument this year will be that devolution gives us the best of both worlds and this poll confirms most people in Scotland agree with us."

A Yes Scotland spokesman responded: "What this survey shows is that most people want decisions about Scotland to be made in Scotland, and the only way to guarantee that is with a Yes vote in September.

"There's no option for 'more powers' on the ballot paper because the No parties refused to have that included."

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