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If Jim Murphy was worried about the “no” campaign’s shrinking lead in Scotland’s referendum debate, the Labour MP did not show it on Tuesday as he climbed on to some Irn-Bru crates in the centre of Edinburgh, surrounded by a crowd of hundreds and accompanied by a young man in kilt and T-shirt playing the bagpipes.
“This isn’t a contest about patriotism. It isn’t a contest about who loves our country most,” Mr Murphy proclaimed in a hoarse voice over loud cheers from his placard-waving supporters.
“The flag of St Andrews is our banner. It shouldn’t be our blindfold – it shouldn’t blindfold us to the risks of independence.”
Mr Murphy, who suspended his pro-union campaign tour briefly last week after he was heckled and pelted with eggs, told journalists after his speech that he was unfazed by the shift in the polls.
“The ‘no’ campaign is in the lead and if you ask me which campaign I’d rather be with – the ‘no’ or the ‘yes’ campaign – then I’d rather be with the leading campaign, the patriotic ‘no’ campaign,” he said.
Other members of the “no” campaign in the crowd also shrugged off the poll data. “I’m not worried at all,” said Archie McIntyre, one of the minibus drivers on Mr Murphy’s tour, as he handed out badges and key rings printed with the words “No Thanks”.
“The only uncertainty is: will we win big enough to shut them up for 20 years? Or will the next generation have to fight them again?”
Robert Forman, a solicitor with his pinstripe suit jacket slung over one shoulder, said he was feeling “very confident”. Mr Forman, who is also the honorary secretary of the Scottish Conservative party, said what he was hearing on the ground did not tally with the idea of a surge of support for independence.
But ordinary Scots in the crowd were more circumspect.
Joan Livingstone, who had wandered over to listen to Mr Murphy’s speech, said she was about 90 per cent in favour of “no” but thought the campaign could have done a better job of making the case for change while staying in the UK. “I think Alistair Darling has been very disappointing,” she said.
And Lyn Redmayne, who has been handing out pro-union “leaflets and bits and pieces” but does not see herself as a campaigner, said the polls were “obviously quite worrying” and she was “keeping her fingers crossed”.
She would not have had to walk far to meet exactly the sort of voter that should worry the pro-unionists.
Tom Gilzean, a 94 year-old war veteran in tartan trousers collecting for charity a few hundred yards away, was not a particular supporter of Scottish independence until a few weeks ago. But seeing Mr Darling “shouting and bawling” in last week’s television debate “put me right off,” he said.
“I was happy where we were, but things are all up in the air now.”