Biggest funders of Scottish independence call for end to abuse

Thu May 8, 2014 10:17am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - The two biggest backers of Scottish independence, lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, appealed on Thursday to both sides in an increasingly bitter debate to stop smears and personal attacks, reversing a decision not to go public with their views.

The Weirs, who have donated 3 million pounds ($5 million)from a 2011 Euromillions lottery prize of 161 million pounds to the independence campaign, said they had decided to speak out as they feared the referendum could leave Scotland "fragmented".

With opinion polls narrowing ahead of the Sept. 18 vote, although the nationalists remain several points behind, the debate has become more heated and both sides of the political divide have voiced concern about online abuse and threats.

Some attacks have been so vitriolic that the Church of Scotland has said a healing process needs to start now to stop the divisions damaging Scottish society after the referendum.

In a letter to the Scotsman newspaper, the Weirs said they decided to make their public appeal for restraint because the abuse they have received had become so bad.

"On Sept. 19, irrespective of the outcome, we all have to live together. That will only be possible if both sides of the campaign, the politicians and the media, take responsibility for their behavior and language," wrote the couple, an ex-nurse and cameraman, who became the UK's biggest lottery winners in 2011.

"It is time for all sides to stop the smears and personal attacks before a line is crossed and attitudes adopted that cannot easily be healed," they added.

A spokeswoman for the Weirs said the couple would not comment further after breaking the silence they adopted in 2011 in a bid to try to live out of the public eye.   Continued...

Colin Weir (L) and his wife Chris spray a bottle of champagne after a news conference at a hotel near Falkirk, Scotland July 15, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir