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Back on tour: Jim Murphy resumes controversial street campaign

You could tell the referendum campaign had kicked off in earnest today at Edinburgh's traditional speakers' corner at the Mound off Princes Street.

Pictures: Gordon Terris
Pictures: Gordon Terris

The satellite trucks and television crews, the piper in the campaign teeshirt and over-long kilt, the man from the tabloid newspaper wearing the chicken suit...

Yes, Jim Murphy's 100 towns Irn Bru crate roadshow had reached leg 87 after being suspended over the weekend as he recovered from the trauma of being heckled and hit by an egg last week - hence the man in the chicken suit clutching egg boxes (Geddit? Typically subtle stuff.)

But Mr Murphy was unfazed as he climbed on his crates, microphone in hand, to address one of the more unusual adoring audiences he will have encountered: around 200-strong and comprising overwhelmingly Conservatives of a certain vintage, a few of his Labour followers,  and a scattering of baffled tourists.

His schtick is a hymn of praise to Scotland, its scenery and inventiveness - more a tea towel than a speech. We are, it seems, a remarkable country with brilliant people who pick themselves up after hard times thanks to the bounties of Joel Barnett and cross-border subsidies for university research and renewables.

Some bits were cheered loudly by the Tories, some cheered up the People's Party representatives in the audience, and the bits attacking Alex Salmond would have seen the rafters ring had we not been outside.

A solitary heckler shouted something about us all being deceived, but that was about it. Afterwards Mr Murphy actually used this to support his theory about organised cadres of Yes hardliners under the direct control of Blair Jenkins and the First Minister. Whoever had "turned on the tap" of counter-demonstrators had turned it off, he suggested.

Since he was clearly speaking only to existing No voters, a more plausible explanation might be that his opponents had better ways of spending the last day for people to register to vote.

There was a noticeable police presence at the event, with two police cars and four officers visible.

Speaking after addressing the crowd, Mr Murphy said: "I really enjoyed it, it's the warmest welcome a Glaswegian has ever had in Edinburgh.

"Whoever turned on the noisy tap of that kind of mob mentality over the past fortnight has quietly turned it off over the weekend and I think that's good for the referendum, and it's great for the campaign because we can now have a really passionate debate about the future of our country.

"We can get back to talking about the pound, pensions, who's going to pay for our public services with independence."

Mr Murphy denied he had overreacted by cancelling his tour and insisted that he had been the subject of co-ordinated attacks.

He said: "It's clear in the past fortnight - you can see on all the social media sites - that that was co-ordinated by the Yes Scotland offices at a local level."

He said he was looking forward to the remaining stops on his journey but refused to comment on whether the police presence would continue.

Mr Murphy said: "I can't go further into any of the security details of it apart from to say that everyone on both sides of this argument should be able to passionately argue their case because this is the biggest decision we're going to take as a country.

"This is the most important decision we're ever going to take. It's irreversible. Once it's done, it's done, there's no going back and if it doesn't work out the way that nice man Mr Salmond tells us, we can't take it back to the shops.

"There's absolutely no guarantees with independence, which is why it's important to have this style of politics and make sure all our questions are answered."

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, both sides were hoping to brew up support as the debate focuses on job creation.

First Minister Alex Salmond was setting out his vision of the gains of independence for the food and drink industry on a visit to Eden Mill distillery and brewery in Guardbridge, Fife.

Meanwhile, shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran and Labour MSP Iain Gray will be at Glasgow's Tennent Caledonian Breweries to highlight jobs and opportunities they say will be available as part of the UK.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Salmond said: "Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and our booming food and drink industry is just one of our remarkable success stories in recent years.

"More and more people are waking up to the fact that Scotland has a strong and diverse economy on which we can build a more prosperous future with control of key economic levers.

"Scotland is currently in the international spotlight like never before, but the huge publicity generated by a Yes vote - and the transition to independence - will be the opportunity of a lifetime for our food and drink sector to extend its global reach even further."

Mr Salmond said the Scottish Government had been working with the industry on a £4.5 million food and drink export plan.

He added: "Following a Yes vote, we will sit down with industry and Food and Drink Scotland to discuss how we can supplement that plan to take full advantage of the unprecedented global publicity, creating thousands of jobs in Scotland and boosting our exports."

Ms Curran argued that young people in Scotland would benefit from more job opportunities within the UK.

She said: "Around one million jobs in Scotland rely on companies based elsewhere in the UK and many more are with companies that rely on trade with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Young people across Scotland can't afford to have opportunities cut off.

''We want a strong Scotland backed up by a strong United Kingdom. Being part of the UK means that we can share our resources across the country.

''Scots are squeezed between two governments with the wrong priorities. Neither the Tories nor the SNP are giving our young people the chances they need to succeed."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was also in the capital, visiting a nursery to argue that people in Scotland "have the best of both worlds" as part of the UK.

In Glasgow, Green MSP Patrick Harvie will put forward the case for Yes and Labour MSP Jackie Baillie the arguments for No before an audience of hundreds of disabled people at a referendum event organised by the Glasgow Disability Alliance.

Mr Harvie will later be joined by Natalie Bennett, leader of the Greens in England and Wales, to campaign at Edinburgh's Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Dalmeny Street.

The capital will also play host to STV's latest live debate on the referendum at The Assembly Rooms in George Street.

The evening broadcast will feature Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Harvie and actress Elaine C Smith for Yes and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson and Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale for No.

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