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Thousands join 'yes' vote rally
Thousands of people have joined a march and rally in Scotland's capital, calling for a Yes vote in next year's independence referendum.
The event in Edinburgh appeared to draw crowds from across the country, with marchers filling the top half of the Royal Mile before wending their way along a city centre route.
During the day, the gathered crowds were expected to hear speeches from key figures in the pro-independence movement such as First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon.
The campaigners gathered in the city's High Street before heading slowly along North Bridge, Waterloo Place and Regent Road towards the final destination of Calton Hill. A range of groups took part in the protest, from political parties to organisations such as Farming for YES and Football Supporters for Independence. Many of those assembled waved flags or held banners in support of their cause, turning the streets into a sea of colour.
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. Yes Scotland estimated that around 20,000 people attended the rally.
Addressing the rally on Calton Hill, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: "I am asked a lot of questions as I take our message around the country. One question I am often asked is: What will we lose? Well, we would lose nuclear weapons, the bedroom tax, Tory governments we have never voted for, and what's not to love about that? We are the lucky generation that gets to vote for independence, and vote for self-determination for our country."
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald urged the crowds to "imagine what would happen if Scotland votes No". She said: "What would people think about the Scots? That we're all mouth and no kilts. We would not carry respect, we would not respect ourselves and that will be reflected in the activity of the country. Just imagine the No campaign trying to have a party. A No party. Who would go?" Ms MacDonald also spoke of "the sort of vision we should be holding out in front of the Scots". "If it's right to keep water, postal services and the railway in public ownership then we say it," she said. "We don't do it in a week or a year, but that is what we are aiming for, which is a bit better than what we have just now."
The First Minister was given a warm reception when he took to the stage. Alex Salmond said: "We have now in 362 days' time the opportunity of a lifetime. The forces against us thrive on doubt but they can be dispelled. Look around, feel your strength, we're gathered here for change we want to see. There is now in this country a natural majority for a Yes vote, the people want a parliament that makes decisions for the people of Scotland." He 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'."
Dennis Canavan, chair of the Yes Scotland Advisory Board, told the Calton Hill crowd: "This campaign is more like a marathon rather than a short sprint. And having run a few marathons in my time, I know that the runner who is ahead at the halfway stage is not necessarily the winner of the race. We have the people with the stamina, guts and determination to win this campaign - and win it we shall."