THE official Yes campaign for Scottish independence aims to have one million people signed up to a declaration of support in time for the 2014 referendum.
The target was revealed yesterday by First Minister Alex Salmond as he launched what campaigners have dubbed "the biggest community-based campaign in Scotland's history".
The launch was held at a cinema in Edinburgh with an audience of about 500, and included actors Brian Cox and Alan Cumming, business leaders, and EuroMillions lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir, who have donated £1 million to the campaign. Sir Sean Connery, a long-standing supporter of independence, sent a message backing the move.
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Mr Salmond said: "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.
"We don't start from scratch. We have a parliament which has earned its spurs for more than a decade. If the parliament can run education, then why can't it run the economy?
"If it can be trusted to run the health service, then why can't it represent Scotland internationally? If it can be trusted to protect our old people, then why can't we protect the country, and do so without the obscenity of nuclear weapons?"
Mr Salmond said the campaign would be built "brick by brick" in communities.
And he added: "By the time we enter the referendum campaign in autumn 2014, our intention is to have one million Scots who have signed the independence for Scotland declaration. Friends, if we achieve that, then we shall win an independent Scotland."
However, those signing the declaration will not know the detail of what the SNP Government finally proposes for an independent Scotland – that will not be known until it publishes a White Paper in November next year. There is also disagreement over some of what the Nationalists are known to favour even among those who signed the declaration yesterday.
Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie, who shared the stage with the First Minister at yesterday's event, but who has previously criticised the SNP's independence strategy, said: "Greens are not nationalists. Our politics don't begin or end with the constitution but with the need for a transformation in our society, our economy and in our politics.
"If we are going to convince the unconvinced, we must build a clear and compelling vision of what will be different, what independence is for and how society can change for the better."
Veteran actor Cox said: "I think Scotland has earned the right to its own nation status. It has earned the right to control its own destiny."
Film and theatre star Cumming said: "I believe independence can only add to our potential and realise a whole new wave of creativity, ambition, confidence and pride."
The launch was also welcomed by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, who said it would clear the way for debate "to move on to the real issues".
The Liberal Democrat MP's comments followed a YouGov poll, reported yesterday in The Herald, which showed that 57% of voters in Scotland were against independence.
Mr Moore said he looked forward to making a strong case for Scotland remaining in the UK and discussing the "far-reaching consequences" of separation in detail.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "There was no argument in their launch, no detail about the practicalities of people's lives. What will it mean in terms of jobs, taxes, public services, opportunities?
"Alex Salmond won't answer the questions but seems to think it will be enough to try to create the sense of pride we feel when the national team runs out at Hampden and then ask us to fill out a ballot paper."
Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor who is becoming the de facto leader of the pro-UK campaign, said: "Most Scots support our country staying within the UK because Scotland is better and stronger as part of it. The Nationalists' momentum has stalled, with only one in three Scots backing independence."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "As we look at what is happening in Europe and elsewhere, we see in stark colours the benefits of all the nations of the United Kingdom standing together."
Last night, Mr Salmond acknowledged the pro-independence campaign was lagging behind its opponents, but said he preferred to be "the underdog".
The First Minister also accused the pro-UK campaign of being "incredibly complacent", and denounced the likes of Alistair Darling as "a bunch of talking heads, failed Westminster politicians, smugly arguing that Scotland will never vote for independence".