Canavan and Jenkins to lead Yes Scotland campaign

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By a Newsnet reporter

Yes Scotland, which will lead the campaign for a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum, has announced the appointments of ex TV Chief Blair Jenkins as its new Chief Executive Officer and Dennis Canavan, the highly respected former Labour MP and MSP, as Chair of the campaign’s advisory board.

Mr Jenkins was formerly Head of News and Current Affairs at both BBC Scotland and Scottish Television and latterly Director of Broadcasting at STV.  Mr Canavan is a highly respected former Labour politician who has served at both Westminster and Holyrood.

Speaking about his appointment, Mr Jenkins said:  “For more than 30 years my professional life has been about impartial journalism.  I’m not a member of any party and I’ve never engaged in any form of political activity.  But this is just too important.”

He added that the Yes campaign “will be represented and supported by people from across the political spectrum and none”, and promised, “It will not be dominated by party politics.”  

Last month, speaking to STV after the launch of the Yes campaign, Mr Jenkins stated his belief that social media and online organisations would play a key role in the campaign, but stressed the importance of face to face communication in getting the Yes message across to Scots, saying:  “[Social media is] a big part of it.  I’ve got 100 ideas about how to use social media in this campaign.  But an important point to make the most important thing will be people on the ground.  It will be face to face communication.”

Dennis Canavan has a long and distinguished career in politics, becoming one of the few Labour MPs who was widely respected across the political spectrum and widely regarded for his commitment to his principles, even at the expense of party loyalty. 

A long standing member of both CND and Amnesty International, he was also known for his lifelong commitment to a Scottish Parliament, and played a leading part in the campaign to re-establish a Scottish Parliament while Labour was in opposition during the 1980s and 90s.

In 1999, when the first elections to the Scottish Parliament were held, the New Labour leadership of the party rejected him as an official candidate, despite the fact that he had the support of 97% of local party members.  Mr Canavan stood as an independent and won, obtaining the biggest majority of any MSP in the first elections to the new Scottish Parliament.  As a result he was expelled from the Labour party. 

He was re-elected in the subsequent election in 2003, but announced his retirement shortly before the 2007 campaign.

Mr Canavan announced his support for Scottish independence in April this year, saying:  

“I’ll be voting ‘yes’ to independence.  That’s based on my experience at Westminster and as an MSP that most politicians at Westminster ignore the people of Scotland.  During my time in the Scottish Parliament I felt that it was much more democratic and responsive to the needs of the aspirations of the people of Scotland.”

Commenting on news of the appointment of Blair Jenkins as CEO of Yes Scotland, and Dennis Canavan as Chairman of the Yes Scotland Advisory Board, SNP Campaigns Director Angus Robertson said:

“I congratulate both Dennis and Blair on their appointments to key positions in the Yes Scotland campaign.

“Dennis is one of Scotland’s most distinguished and respected political figures, and I can think of no one better to bring together the broad civic movement across Scotland which will campaign for the Yes vote to deliver an independent Scotland.

“Blair has made a significant contribution to Scottish journalism, and he is determined that over the next two and a half years Scotland can have an open and informed debate about our constitutional future.

“This referendum is the biggest opportunity for Scotland in three hundred years, and I am delighted that the Yes Campaign is putting such a strong team in place to deliver a Yes vote, securing a better future for the people of Scotland.”