Alex Salmond has compared the queue of people registering to vote for next week’s Scottish referendum, with the queue of people waiting to vote in South Africa on 27th April 1994. This is just crass. No-one in Scotland today has been denied the right to vote by government legislation. No-one has had their right to vote removed by the government. No-one in the campaign to secure this referendum has been subject to house arrest, imprisonment, torture, death in detention, exile or has been murdered. There have been no massacres such as Sharpeville in 1960 or Soweto in 1976, or the many others during the 1980s and early 1990s.
When the people of South Africa queued to vote in 1994, they had endured years of suffering and deprivation of their rights. They were discriminated against in law because of the colour of their skin, in a way that affected every aspect of their lives.
I was in South Africa in 1994, working at the ANC Office in Johannesburg, helping to turn out that vote, helping to ensure that the people in those queues voted for the first time in their lives, giving them their dignity. A few days before the election, there was a car-bomb outside the ANC Office, and nine people were killed.
There is no comparison between South Africa in 1994 and Scotland this year. None at all.