HUNDREDS of local people have signed a petition calling on one of Scotland’s wealthiest landowners, who made a six-figure donation to the ‘Better Together’, to debate the Scottish independence referendum question in public.
The petition has been raised by Macduff-based ‘Yes’ campaign organiser, Ross Cassie, after he challenged the Earl of Seafield, who owns vast swathes of land in Banffshire and Moray, to meet him in a public debate.
But his efforts to draw one of Scotland’s richest men into the political arena have drawn a blank. Attempts by the ‘Banffshire Journal’ to contact the Earl of Seafield elicited a polite, but terse, "No comment" from his Edinburgh-based media representatives.
Since Mr Cassie challenged the Earl to "put his mouth where his money is" in a ‘Banffshire Journal’ front-page exclusive last month, more than 250 local people have backed the Macduff independence activist’s call for the debate to take place.
Mr Cassie said: "The Earl should be prepared to debate his reasons for making the campaign donation in public.
"I’m a democrat and I believe that if somebody tries to influence people to vote a certain way, they should be prepared to be held to account, expect to debate the issue and justify their view."
"I have now written to the Earl of Seafield at his estate and sent him a copy of the petition which shows an overwhelming demand for this debate to take place.
"People want to know why he is prepared to spend £100,000 to encourage people to vote ‘No’."
Last month, Mr Cassie challenged the Earl of Seafield to meet him in a public debate after it was revealed that the Earl, who has yet to respond to the debate invitation, had donated £100,000 to the ‘Better Together’ camp.
The six-figure donation from the Earl of Seafield, reputedly the UK’s seventh largest land-owner, to the ‘Better Together’ campaign was officially confirmed in figures released last month by the Electoral Commission.
The commission figures, the first of four campaign round-ups to be released in the build-up to the Scottish independence referendum ballot on Thursday, September 18, revealed that the ‘Better Together’ campaign had raised more than £2.4 million.
The figures showed that the ‘Yes’ campaign had, up to that point, raised £1.2 million.
"While the ‘Yes’ campaign is awash with local folk pounding the streets to spread a positive message, the ‘No’ camp is clearly relying on wealthy backers to fund their campaign," said Mr Cassie.
"Money alone won’t win this campaign but strength of argument will.
"If the Earl of Seafield wants to keep Scotland locked into the UK, he should come and make that argument to the people of the North-east.
"The challenge is there and I’ll even pay for the venue."