Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: SNP confident in Aberdeenshire

By Catriona Webster

Counting is well under way in First Minister Alex Salmond's constituency of Aberdeenshire, with SNP politicians optimistic about the outcome.

Postal ballots are being tallied up at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre in Aberdeen, with the main ballot boxes expected to arrive soon.

Earlier, counting officer Colin Mackenzie told staff at the centre that there may be some delays in the process given the foggy weather.

Local SNP politicians have been gathering at the count to await the result.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan, declined to make a prediction on the outcome but said: "The answer is out there in the boxes, and we'll know in a few hours.

"I'm confident we're going to do very well, but you know we have to look at the polls which have us sitting within the margin of error. It can be either way."

Reflecting on the campaign, he said: "It's been a very exciting day, just as it's been a very exciting campaign.

"We've seen a mammoth re-engagement with voting, with the democratic process. So whatever the outcome, it's very important that these people are encouraged to remain engaged.

"I think as politicians we've got to be much more prepared to go out and listen to people. It's the politicians more than anyone else. I don't think we should lay this at the door of joe public at all, far from it. Politicians have to learn new ways of engaging with folk.

"The key thing is that it seems that people have decided this is different because they can change the system, not just the faces. I think that's why people have got re-engaged. Given that that's why they're getting re-engaged, I think most of the people who are coming out to vote who don't normally vote are likely to be Yes voters."

Dr Eilidh Whiteford, SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, said: "I'm reasonably confident over Scotland. But I just don't know."

She added: "The atmosphere today was really quite electric. The great thing about today has been just the turnout is phenomenal. It shows that people on both sides really care about Scotland and want a better future for Scotland.

"The fact that so many people have turned out has set Scottish politics alight and raises the bar for all politicians to deliver on the expectations of people.

"I think whatever the result it's been a tremendously positive thing for Scotland, to have this debate and I think from tomorrow we all work together to make Scotland a better place to live and work.

Christian Allard, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, said: "You are always confident but it's impossible to know. There are so many people who are voting for the first time, so many people that the polls don't usually take account of. Anything can happen, and will.

"The job is done, the people have voted, the campaigns have been run. The democratic process has been fantastic.

"You can't expect more when people tell you they are more than 60-years-old and they voted for the first time and they are delighted to have voted.

"I've been meeting so many people, so many people who have voted for the first time. People queuing, people happy, families, young people of 16 and 17 who have been able to vote for the first time. It was close to a party atmosphere. It was a good family event and so it should be, it's about democracy."

Earlier, Mr Salmond cast his referendum ballot alongside first-time voters 18-year-old Natasha McDonald and Lea Pirie, 28, at Ritchie Hall, Strichen.

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