Most of the money, £918,000, is from a bequest from the late Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s former Makar, with party members also being urged to boost the war chest with regular contributions.
Campaign director Angus Robertson announced the plans for the Roadmap to Independence at the SNP’s conference in Inverness yesterday, telling delegates: “Our independence campaign starts now.” Mr Robertson promised “an unprecedented national campaign to secure the majority ‘yes’ vote for a sovereign independent Scotland”.
He said: “We will galvanise and motivate our members and supporters; work with the many supporters of independence with no party affiliation and in other parties; engage with different sectors of society to build confidence and optimism in the independence case; and reach out within our communities, door by door, street by street in the most unprecedented campaign of mobilisation and communication by the SNP and in the history of Scottish politics.”
The announcement followed Alex Salmond’s speech in which he said: “The days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do or what to think are over. The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future.”
Mr Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, pledged the campaign would be positive and would stress the importance of Scotland’s “links with our neighbours and friends”.
He said he believed many Scots were in “listening mode”. He told the conference that volunteers armed with leaflets declaring “Scotland, it’s starting” would reach every household.
“We will speak with as many voters as possible -- supporters, waverers and people who have yet to be convinced,” he said.
He added: “I firmly believe the majority of people in Scotland want to be persuaded to vote for independence.”
A party spokesman said voting in the referendum, which would be held in the second half of this parliament, could also be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds.
Although it was known that Mr Morgan had left the bequest to the SNP, how the party planned to use it was only revealed in Mr Robertson’s speech when he said the money would be “ring-fenced” for the campaign. He said: “Edwin Morgan has left this party a legacy which is transformational in its scope and which we will put to use campaigning to build a better nation.”
Mr Robertson quoted Mr Morgan’s formal poem for the opening of the new Scottish Parliament building in which he wrote: “When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a good sense of what was once in the honour of your grasp ...
“Trumpets and robes are fine but in the present and the future you will need something more.”
Mr Robertson said: “Edwin Morgan was absolutely right. We need something more, which is independence.”
Labour leader Iain Gray said if Mr Salmond thought Scotland wanted to separate from the rest of the UK “he would hold a referendum tomorrow”.
LibDem spokesman George Lyon claimed it was ridiculous that, after four days and 10 platform speeches, the SNP was still keeping the date of the referendum secret.