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'Independence is a class issue ... the rich are voting no'

THE independence referendum is "a class conflict" in which the rich are promoting a No vote to maintain their privileges, more than 1000 delegates to the left-wing Radical Independence Conference heard yesterday.

Closing the event at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow, Robin McAlpine, the director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, said the key to securing independence was to convince the less well-off that a Yes vote would change their lives.

He said: "We do not win this unless we work, unless we knock the doors, unless we articulate. This is a class conflict, this election. Rich people are voting No. So we've got to get everybody that's not rich out, and that takes work. It's going to happen through knuckles rapping on doors and saying, 'Do you know what this means to you, and are you coming out?'"

Activist Cat Boyd also told delegates: "Independence is a class issue. Independence is not just about currencies or constitutional questions. It's about people."

Under the banner "Another Scotland is Possible", the conference called for independence to lead to greater public ownership of key utilities and the banking system, so that the needs of the people were put before "the interests of the super-rich".

In one of the highlights of the day, actor David Hayman received a standing ovation after reading a "Radical Independence Declaration" about vested interests talking down Scotland's prospects because they feared independence.

He said: "This despair has a name. Its name is No. It is a despair that believes poverty inevitable and the decline and destruction of public service necessary. It is a cry of people who believe that wealth should belong to whomever has the sharpest elbows and the meanest hearts. Our poverty, our decline. Their wealth, their No."

There was also cheering for an emotional speech by 16-year-old Saffron Dickson about a Britain that failed to inspire people and kept them in their place instead. "If Britain was doing its job, we wouldn't be having this conference," she said.

Edinburgh Green councillor Maggie Chapman said the British state's failings included "a crippling devotion to corporate power; an unbending commitment to an economic model that collapsed, not for the first time, in 2008; and a ceaseless drive to blame foreigners, the poor and the vulnerable for problems created by the rich."

Former Socialist MSP Colin Fox, a member of the Yes Scotland board, said independence offered people "a route around British rule".

He said: "It's the key that allows us to break free of the handcuffs of the British ruling class and their political prison. They're steadfastly opposed to independence because it shakes the very foundations of their power structure, influence and control."

The chair of the Yes Scotland campaign urged independence supporters to put reservations to one side and rally behind the Scottish Government's White Paper when it is published on Tuesday.

Dennis Canavan warned delegates not to dwell on their own disagreements with the SNP over currency, defence and the monarchy.

He said: "I'm not a spokesman for the Scottish Government. I'm not a member of the SNP.

"But I believe that all supporters of independence should give a very warm welcome to the publications of the White Paper.

"It's the only realistic road map on the table that we have towards independence.

"Now, we may not agree with every single detail in that plan. We may disagree with the Scottish Government on the head of state, whether we should have sterling as our currency, or whether we should be members of Nato, but do not be sidetracked. Keep your eye on the ball. Concentrate on winning the prize."

The discipline message was in sharp contrast to last year's conference, when Canavan and others flagged up policy differences with the SNP.

The comments were well received, although the conference later applauded lawyer Aamer Anwar when he attacked the wealth of the royal family and called for the abolition of the monarchy.

Irish republican Bernadette McAliskey also appeared at the conference. A former leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, McAliskey went on to become the youngest MP to take a seat in the House of Commons.

A witness to Bloody Sunday, she was later the victim of an assassination attempt by the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

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