Support for second independence referendum growing at the roots in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth

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Saltires were unfurled as our area’s Yes Army made its way to the latest Yes March in Edinburgh.

Activists were very much in evidence, both that day and at the SNP’s national conference in Glasgow.

The word ‘independence’ was never far from people’s lips and supporters insisted the message would not just be confined to those two very special, heady occasions.

There are two distinct camps in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth – firmly planted on either side of the debate.

Ann Ballinger, the local SNP branch chairwoman, said: “As a group, we are ready and waiting for an independence referendum.

“The vast majority of us understand that nothing can be done until the whole Brexit mess is dealt with.

“Only then will we know the extent of the damage and what we will have to mitigate.

“Most Independence supporters voted to Remain in the EU and are committed Europeans. We understand, however, that an independent Scotland would be a democracy and a decision would be made based on the will of the people of Scotland.

“During the campaign for the 2014 Referendum, Cumbernauld was a town full of hope.

“People saw a Yes Badge and stopped to tell us about their hopes for Scotland and excitement for the future.

“Now the message is mixed, some hoping for a referendum soon and many of us watching the Brexit chaos with anxiety, worrying about the damage being done to Scots meantime.

“The most misunderstood aspect of our campaign is the campaign itself.

“We have never stopped working towards an independent and fair Scotland in which no-one is left behind.”

And Stuart McDonald, the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch MP, insisted the cry for independence is gathering momentum here.

He said: “Cumbernauld and Kilsyth voted yes for Scotland’s independence.

“And I’m confident that, if asked the question again, our local communities would once more vote to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.

“In fact, I’m pretty sure that support has grown locally since 2014 thanks to four more years of Tory austerity, low wages and brutal cuts.

“We still have to endure policies which Scottish people never voted for.

“That also explains why Cumbernauld and Kilsyth were so well represented at the recent independence rally in Edinburgh and why the response was so positive when we were out on the doorsteps for the recent SNP day of action.

“There is support across all age groups – but it is particularly noticeable among younger people. And that’s even before we consider Brexit!

“It has illustrated starkly what a raw deal Scotland gets as part of the UK. That’s why in 2016 – just before the Brexit referendum – Scotland voted for an insurance policy.

“It voted for an SNP government that said that if Scotland was to be forced out of the EU against its will, it would be right to revisit the question of independence.

“So it’s only right that we do what the voters asked us to do and once more look at independence.

“The timing of that must depend first on what happens with Brexit – people need to know exactly what they are voting for.

“Whatever the time frame, I’m confident support for Yes will continue to grow.”

But Labour councillor Heather McVey believes the debate is distracting from more pressing issues.

She said: “Constitutional issues are nothing new here with the previous independence referendum in 2014 still dominating political discourse.

“Brexit has ensured that another independence referendum is part of the Scottish political agenda.

“From 2007 to 2014 , the SNP focused on a campaign of independence at the cost of governance – and they still are. It’s not where I think the focus should be.

“A debate about independence will not fix our education system to give our children the best possible start in life, nor will it reduce waiting times in our NHS.

“It doesn’t stop the Scottish Government taking over £200 million from North Lanarkshire Council’s budget over the last ten years, which has had a devastating impact on essential services.

“I think our communities want us to focus on supporting them now, not later. That’s where my focus will be over the coming years.”