Choosing to stay in the UK doesn’t mean we’re voting for the status quo, says Alistair Darling
ON THURSDAY we will take the biggest decision in the history of our country. Do we stay part of the family of nations which make up the United Kingdom, or do we take a leap into the unknown with separation?
If the last week has shown us anything, it has been made clear that we cannot risk a protest vote on Thursday. We cannot change our minds in four years. If we leave the UK, it will be forever. There would be no going back. The decision we take is not just for ourselves, but for our children, and for generations to come.
I believe that Scotland’s future is brighter and better as part of the UK, a position that is backed up overwhelmingly by experts and evidence.
We can have what most Scots want. More powers for Scotland without taking on all of the risks of independence.
When we have faster, safer, and better change coming without having to leave the UK, why take on the substantial risks that come with independence?
We only have to look at the events of the last week to see what the cost of separation would be.
We saw the pound fall to its lowest value in ten months. We saw billions wiped off of the value of Scottish companies.
We saw major employers in Scotland, like Lloyds, RBS, Clydesdale Bank and Tesco Bank, make plans to relocate their headquarters in the event of Scotland leaving the UK, putting thousands of jobs at risk
We saw retailers like Asda and John Lewis say shopping bills would rise. Times are hard enough for household budgets. Separation would make them even more difficult.
We saw the Governor of the Bank of England, the IMF and expert after expert lay out in the starkest terms possible that the nationalists’ plans on currency would mean huge austerity for our public services, our schools and our hospitals.
This all ties back to the nationalists’ failure to develop a Plan B on currency. As I said during the first television debate, any eight- year-old can name the flag, capital and currency of a country. And yet, Alex Salmond expects us to take this huge decision without knowing what currency we would use.
His assertion that a separate Scotland would create a Eurozone-style currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom would not happen. It has been ruled out by everyone who would be involved in the decision on sound economic grounds. It would not work for Scotland, and it would not work for the rest of the United Kingdom.
He expects us to take a huge risk based on blind faith, guesswork, and crossed fingers.
It is a risk we simply do not have to take.
As part of the UK, we can be proudly Scottish and can also take advantage of being part of something bigger.
As part of the UK, Scottish employers can sell to a domestic customer base 12 times our size. That is good for Scottish jobs. It is why our financial services sector supports 200,000 jobs. It is why nearly one million jobs in Scotland are linked to the UK – we take advantage of the opportunity that comes with being part of UK.
Being part of something bigger offers protection as well as opportunity.
By pooling and sharing risk and reward across 63 million people instead of five million people, we can protect the funding for our public services, like our NHS.
The NHS has become politicised in recent weeks. An increasingly desperate nationalist campaign has turned to scaremongering, claiming only leaving the UK would save our NHS from privatisation.
It is beneath contempt. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead our most vulnerable, to prey on their fears. But it summed up their entire campaign – no facts, just assertion.
The NHS is entirely devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but the funding for it is protected by the whole UK.
This week the impartial experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, having observed the prominent role the NHS had played in the debate, concluded that the nationalists were simply not telling the truth.
They concluded that the best way to protect our NHS was a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK.
They had previously calculated that a separate Scotland would face an extra £6 billion of public spending cuts. That is more than our entire schools budget. That is three-quarters of what we spend on pensions. That is half of our NHS budget. That is austerity plus. Incredibly, this figure seems a conservative estimate given what we have seen this week, but we know that those with the least would lose the most.
Saying No Thanks does not mean no change. It means faster, better and safer change.
This week we saw a clear delivery plan laid out for what the majority of Scots want. On Thursday we can vote to see more decisions taken not just in our Scottish Parliament but in our own communities, whilst retaining the strength, security and stability that comes with being part of something bigger. It’s the best of both worlds.
I want to see a better Scotland. A fairer, more inclusive, and more prosperous Scotland.
We do not have to become a separate nation to become a better nation.
We can have the best of both worlds by saying No Thanks on Thursday.