FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed the launch of a new pro-independence campaign organisation Voices for Scotland.

The campaigning wing of the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC), Voices for Scotland (VFS) was launched in Edinburgh yesterday by Convention chair Elaine C Smith with its newly-appointed coordinator, Chris Hegarty, introduced to the press and Convention members.

The new organisation will aim to engage voters on the issues of independence, mainly targeting people who voted No in 2014 but who may now be prepared to change their minds.

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Nicola Sturgeon tweeted the ‘brand’ film made by VFS and added: “Brilliant film from the new @VoicesForScot campaign launched today...reminding us of all there is to be confident about in Scotland, and that to win #IndyRef2 we have to listen to those who voted No in 2014 but are now open to persuasion.”

VFS says it will be a civic organisation whose aim is to facilitate conversations about Scotland’s future through discussion and engagement.

SIC has set itself the target of boosting support for independence to 60%, and has set up VFS as a non-party company with a board comprising former SNP MSP Dave Thompson as Chair, Elaine C Smith, Rosemary Hunter, Aamer Anwar, Maggie Chapman (pictured below), Audrey Birt, Tony McCandless, Adam Ramsay and Linda Somerville.

The new group stated: “Voices for Scotland will give people from all walks of life the opportunity to tell their stories and have their voices heard about the country they want to live in.

The National:

“There’s particular intent to listen to people who haven’t made up their minds about Scottish independence or who support the union but have had their faith undermined by recent events.

“We want to act as a catalyst for wider conversations about Scotland’s future, and how we can make our country a better, fairer, happier place to live.”

The grassroots organisation has been funded by many, mainly small, donations from members of the public and will be headed by Chris Hegarty, an independence campaigner with considerable experience in the NGO sector. A small team will be hired to develop and run campaigns, carry out research and to support and facilitate the many grassroots independence organisations across Scotland.

Elaine C Smith said: “The UK is in the middle of a political crisis and we’re launching because, important as the views of politicians are, there are many more voices in Scotland which need to be heard as we debate our future.

“About a third of those voices are definite independence supporters and about a third are definitely not. We’re all about opening conversations with the third of people who are in the middle, who are undecided or are doubting their previous opinions.

“Voices for Scotland is about listening to and engaging respectfully and constructively with them, finding out what they need to help them make their decision and hopefully giving them some things to think about which will help them feel more confident about Scotland’s future as an independent country.”

Chris Hegarty said: “It’s a genuine privilege to be involved in a grassroots organisation that’s all about listening to the aspirations and concerns of the people of Scotland, and especially one that’s committed to having these open conversations in such a respectful way. I look forward to hearing many of those conversations, and to working with such a talented and committed group of people as those involved in Voices for Scotland.”

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Linda Somerville, board member, said: “The Scottish Independence Convention, from which Voices for Scotland is being born, represents the amazing range and diversity of groups and individuals already committed to independence. There is evident appetite for change across Scotland and the ambition of Voices for Scotland will help to achieve this vision.

Speaking at the launch, Councillor Ashley Graczyk, a former No voter who left the Conservatives to sit as an independent on Edinburgh council and who is profoundly deaf, said: “Scotland is at the crossroads of history and it is clear that we face an urgent and immediate we want to live in a isolated society under a selfish government that looks for any excuse not to support the rights of disabled people or do we live in an inclusive and supportive society?”

Board member Tony McCandless said that businesses which had “the smallest amount of social responsibility” need not be afraid of independence.” He added: “We will be cross-party, we will listen, we will engage, we will offer solutions and we will work together to make this happen.”