Pro-union campaigners in the Scottish referendum are being subjected to a torrent of abuse by angry nationalists, with posters vandalised and torn down, angry threats made and people fearing what will happen in the aftermath of Thursday’s vote.
The Daily Mail reports that some of the most sinister incidents include ‘No’ campaign canvassers being called “loyalist scum” and ordered to give out details of supporters so “their houses can be burned down”.
Houses displaying ‘No’ campaign posters have been pelted with eggs, or had their posters torn down by nationalists. Some nationalists have even bragged on social media about destroying posters, posting videos of themselves stamping on them.
Labour’s local chairman in Edinburgh South told the Mail that canvassers were now being given safety briefings and having to go out in pairs.
“Every time you hold a street stall you expect problems and people shouting abuse because you are exposed. It is happening all over I am afraid,” he said.
“At the weekend a man came up to our street stall and pushed off all the leaflets, while another just stood by us screaming ‘murderers’ for several minutes.
“People are put off putting posters in their windows because eggs have been thrown at those with No signs. They worry if they put a car sticker up that their windows will be smashed. Half of the time when you offer a poster, they say they are too scared to take one.”
Management consultant Richard Hickson said that he had the word “coward” carved into his front door when he put up a “No Thanks” poster and, when he refused to take it down, a glass of urine was left outside his door.
He said: “Politics in Britain is not supposed to be like this. I feel angry because in this country we have fought for people to say what they think.” Although he has reported the incidents to the police, the culprit is unlikely to be found.
A ‘No’ campaign organiser in rural Stirlingshire and West Dunbartonshire also said that posters were being vandalised as soon as they were put up. “Nearly every poster has been daubed with paint or had the ‘No’ cut out using a knife, this is organised. There is a really nasty and vicious undercurrent.
“Everyone is nervous about the aftermath of the vote, but many are hugely determined not to be cowed. I had a 96-year-old say she would put up a poster whatever the consequences and another couple said they would rather die than be silent.”
Liz Smith, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, has now written to police to complain about the level of intimidation, saying that farmers displaying ‘No’ posters in their fields are having their livestock threatened.
“For weeks now, No signs across Tayside have either been vandalised or destroyed, but the intimidation of farmers which is now taking place is a new low,” she said.
“These farmers have received anonymous messages and calls ordering them to take down signs and making it very clear that if they do not do so their farm gates will be broken so their livestock can wander freely across roads and local villages. This is wilful, organised intimidation.”
Last night, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond played down fears of mass intimidation by sections of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Speaking to Sky News, he said: “99.9 per cent of people participating in this campaign are behaving impeccably, and this country is enjoying one of the most extraordinary example of democratic participation.”
However, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has urged Alex Salmond to publicly call for calm ahead of tomorrow’s vote: “Alex Salmond has fuelled such vitriol and hatred amongst Yes campaigners that we are now seeing intimidation, a growing anti-English sentiment and the sort of abhorrent behaviour that could lead to rioting.
”It is a sorry situation when politics plunges to these depths.
“As Scotland’s First Minister who wants to become the first leader of an independent Scotland it is surely Alex Salmond’s job to publicly demand calm and law abiding behaviour to ensure a free and fair referendum tomorrow”