This Is Local LondonBragg welcomes Bowie intervention (From This Is Local London)

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Bragg welcomes Bowie intervention

This Is Local London: Billy Bragg said he hopes David Bowie's intervention in the independence debate will encourage more English people to engage with the issues Billy Bragg said he hopes David Bowie's intervention in the independence debate will encourage more English people to engage with the issues

English singer Billy Bragg has welcomed David Bowie's intervention on Scottish independence, urging more people south of the border to enter the debate.

The musician and activist said he hoped Bowie's plea for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom would encourage English people to engage with the issues.

Bragg is among several high-profile musicians - including The Proclaimers and Annie Lennox - who have voiced their support for a Yes vote in September's referendum.

He said: "Bowie's intervention yesterday encourages people in England to discuss the issues of the independence referendum, and I think English people should be discussing it, so I welcome his intervention.

"Obviously we don't have a vote but we can have an opinion.

"There hasn't been much debate in England, to be honest. (Chancellor) George Osborne's intervention last week was a beginning but the debate has still been among the political classes. We should have a better debate about what independence means and its pros and cons."

The singer reiterated his belief that Scottish independence could revitalise democracy south of the border.

He said: "Personally I think Scottish independence could be a catalyst for more devolution for England, which I think it really needs to begin to curb the power of the city of London.

"I live in the South of England and if we could have a regional assembly with the same powers as Holyrood I think that would really help our region and other regions to rebalance the country with London, which seems to be sucking all the power."

Politicians, campaigners and celebrities on both sides of the referendum debate have been responding to Bowie's surprising intervention at last night's Brit Awards, in which he sent a message pleading: "Scotland, stay with us.''

The topic reared its head during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood this morning, with politicians slipping Bowie lyrics into the debate.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont began her questioning by asking First Minister Alex Salmond to "turn and face the strain", a lyric from Changes.

Later, responding to Team GB's Scottish women curlers' bronze medal success in the Winter Olympics today, Mr Salmond said it was a "demonstration we all can be heroes just for one day".

Meanwhile, speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in this morning, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "We certainly are in the United Kingdom together and I hope we remain together - as does David Bowie, one of my great childhood heroes."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander tweeted: "Great to hear @davidbowiereal speak up for Scotland in the UK - if you agree sign up with @UK_Together."

A spokesman for the pro-union campaign Better Together said: "David Bowie has spoken for the millions of people across Britain who don't want Scotland to leave.

"This week has been more about the pound than pop, but it's great to have the support of this British legend."

On the other side of the debate, Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop cited the date of the independence referendum as she tweeted: "Congratulations to David Bowie for #BRITs2014 award 'We can be heroes, just for one day' #sept18th2014."

Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist with Scottish band Mogwai, used the hashtag #indyref to tweet: "I somehow forgave Bowie for the Placebo collaboration. I'm sure I can forgive him for this folly too.

"Ironically, cringefests like the Brits are one of the biggest adverts for cultural independence you could muster."

And comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted: "I completely respect Bowie's right to express views on independence, just as I'd respect Iggy Pop's opinions on the Cern particle accelerator."

A spokesman for the pro-independence campaign Yes Scotland said: "We congratulate David Bowie on his award at the Brits. Huge numbers of people in Scotland love his music regardless of their views on the referendum.

"On September 18th 'we can be heroes, just for one day' - by voting Yes to independence."

Speaking from Singapore, where Mogwai are currently on tour, guitarist Braithwaite added: "I welcome all contributions to the independence debate and, although I disagree with David Bowie's view on the referendum, I believe that the more people engage with the debate, the better it is for those of us arguing for a Yes vote.

"The more people take part in the discussion, the more evident it becomes that a Yes vote is essential for Scotland to complete the journey to full democracy.

"I still love Bowie though, nothing will change that!"

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