Michael Russell, the Secretary for Education in the Scottish
Government, is ''very optimistic'' of achieving a ''yes''
vote for Scottish independence in the upcoming referendum,
despite earlier adverse polls.
Mr Russell (60) visited Dunedin yesterday with several
leading Scottish educational figures and British High
Commissioner Vicki Treadell.
The delegation visited the recently-redeveloped Toitu Otago
Settlers Museum and its ''DUNedinburgh'' exhibition.
Mr Russell also attended a mayoral reception at the Dunedin
Public Art Gallery to celebrate Dunedin's Scottish links, and
to mark the launch of Dunedin's bid to gain Unesco City of
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull highlighted the importance of
Dunedin's links with Edinburgh, and reflected on Edinburgh of
the South's 40-year sister city links with the Scottish
He also emphasised Dunedin's standing as a literary city,
noting that its many writers had included Thomas Bracken,
author of the national anthem, God Defend New Zealand.
Mr Russell acknowledged Dunedin's literary heritage, and its
many links with Scotland, and noted that Edinburgh - the
world's first Unesco City of Literature - was also supporting
Dunedin's Unesco bid.
Dunedin writer and former Robert Burns Fellow Sue Wooton read
a poem, Martin Phillipps, of The Chills, performed Pink
Frost, and Kings High School pupil Jake Cropley performed his
competition-winning anthem On Forever Ye Go.
Mr Russell, who is a senior Scottish National Party (SNP)
politician and author, said in an interview supporters of
Scottish independence were running a positive campaign
involving a historic referendum which was being held in
''I'm very optimistic,'' he said.
There were ''very strong, positive reasons'' for
independence, and the referendum offered a ''great
opportunity'' for Scotland to ''consider its own future''.
Campaigning for independence did not involve ''rejecting''
anything-he had himself been born in England and had an
About 125 countries had become independent since World War 2.
This was a normal process and Scotland would benefit from
controlling some key matters, such as taxation and welfare
Asked about earlier polls showing a 20% polling lead for the
''no'' vote, he said the polls had since narrowed
considerably, to about 10%, and the momentum was with
He also gave a public talk at the University of Otago campus
last night on the Scottish referendum, in association with
the university's Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies.