THE organiser of a key independence event who has been diagnosed with MND has vowed he will be there even if it means being stretchered in from hospital.

Mike Blackshaw has continued to organise the Big Indy Debate, this Tuesday, from his hospital bed, helped by National columnist Lesley Riddoch who has called on people to make it a sell-out to reward his commitment.

He was diagnosed with MND a few weeks ago and is suffering from other health problems but still used a recent hospital stay to sign up five people to CND. He is also offering free tickets for the debate to staff at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary who are off duty on Tuesday.

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Riddoch said he had been calling her from hospital “with his old laptop sitting on his stomach as staff buzzed around him”. She said it was typical of Blackshaw, Edinburgh’s Yes Hub organiser.

“Tenacious is just too small a word for him,” said Riddoch. “We’ve been texting, calling and emailing throughout his hospital stay to cope with changing panellists and the changing feeling about Covid precautions.

“It’ll be a great Yes night – and an extra special one for Mike. And I hope folk will come.”

Now back at home, Blackshaw told the Sunday National: “After the amount of work volunteers at the Yes Hub have put into this debate, I’m not going to let three or four hours of discomfort put me off going. I have pain whether I am at the Queen’s Hall or not.”

He said he would like to see the venue full on Tuesday night – not to bring some much-needed revenue into the Edinburgh Yes Hub but to show that the independence movement is “not dead and there is more to come”.

The National: Saor Alba Pipes and Drums. Photograph: Colin Mearns

“We have got to keep campaigning,” said Blackshaw who has organised two previous well-attended indy nights at the Queen’s Hall and was co-organiser of the rally outside Holyrood on “Brexit Day” January 31, 2020, when 3000 protesters gathered along with the Saor Alba pipe band, the Indy Choir and a succession of pro-independence, anti-Brexit speakers.

“That fabulous event apart, we couldn’t campaign properly during Brexit negotiations because people didn’t know exactly what was going to happen or when and once Brexit was a done deal, the pandemic came upon us.

“Now we can come together but some people are angry because we don’t have a referendum date and others think no-one is talking about independence.

“This debate is a way for Yessers to ask questions of people from various organisations with very different views. Michelle Thompson and Robin McAlpine are not going to agree, for example, but it is important that people come out, ask their questions and get rid of their frustrations.”

He stressed the event would be Covid-safe as Queen’s Hall staff had worked hard all summer with festival performances and were now skilled at organising Covid-compliant events that are still lively and spontaneous.

“I hope Edinburgh folk will take this chance to reconnect and boost their indy energy levels before the next indyref campaign begins and while the more relaxed summer Covid rules means a good night out is still possible,” said Blackshaw.

Riddoch said there would be a seat between “bubbles” and masks would be worn throughout except by those who are exempt.

“This makes it as safe a big indoor Yes gathering as we can put together – and given the imminent arrival of vaccine passports, perhaps the last big one of the summer,” she said.

“The panel are great – and ready for all the questions politicians usually duck. Andy Paterson’s new satire spot will be a surprise and we have some stalwart Yes-supporting singers too.”

Doors open at 6.30pm and the event starts at 7.30pm