Thousands join independence rally
Published 21/09/2013 | 13:56
Alex Salmond has told a crowd of thousands of pro-independence marchers that there is now a "natural majority for a Yes vote" in the Scottish referendum.
The First Minister was among speakers at a march and rally in Scotland's capital, which drew crowds from across the country.
Marchers filled the top half of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh before winding their way along a city centre route towards a stage on Calton Hill.
Organisers of the rally said around 20,000 people took part in the event but Police Scotland later said around 8,300 people had taken part in the pro-independence events. A range of groups took part, from political parties to organisations such as Farming for YES and Football Supporters for Independence.
Some people wore kilts and had Saltires painted on their faces, while many more waved flags or held banners in support of their cause, turning the streets into a sea of colour. At Calton Hill the crowd was entertained by singers, comedians and poets between speeches from politicians and activists.
Mr Salmond was given a warm welcome as he took to the stage and addressed the large crowd.
He said: "There is now a natural majority for a Yes vote. By a factor of nearly four to one, people agree with us that decisions about Scotland are best made in Scotland, not by Westminster. Since its restoration 14 years ago, our national parliament has proved time and again that when decisions are taken here in Scotland we get the right outcomes for the people. The Scottish Parliament has ensured that we have university education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. It has enabled us to maintain the integrity of our NHS, with care free at the point of need, as well as delivering free personal care for elderly people."
Mr Salmond said he would keep Royal Mail in public hands and ban the "bedroom tax" in an independent Scotland that he led. We will put "bairns before bombs", he added as he talked about nuclear disarmament. "We're a lucky generation, to change our communities for the better we only need to say the word, to say 'Yes'."
The event follows last year's independence rally which brought around 10,000 people on to the streets of Edinburgh, marching from the Meadows in the city's old town to Princes Street Gardens for speeches and live music. It comes just days after campaign groups and politicians marked one year to go until the referendum on September 18 2014.
The march got under way at midday with cheers, applause and whistling from the crowds.