SCOTS tempted to vote for independence on the grounds that “things can’t get any worse” have been warned that “things can indeed get worse” by senior Labour MP Jim Murphy.
Murphy, former Labour Scottish Secretary and Europe Minister, contrasted Tony Blair’s winning “things can only get better” election slogan with the higher mortgage prices, higher shopping bills, job losses, flight of industry, oil shocks and financial upheaval which he claimed would follow a Yes vote.
Scots eager for change have been urged to vote No in order to gain “further devolved change as part of the UK” rather than the “undisputed disruptive change” of independence.
Mr Murphy said independence could lead to an extra £1,600 on the average mortgage, £160 on the average credit card bill and £359 on the average annual shopping bill, based on recent projections.
The Scottish economy contains all of the ingredients that have caused disruptive shocks over the last 40 years without the “broader shoulders of the UK”, he said.
“Back in 1997, Labour won the general election on the crest of the sentiment that things can only get better,” Mr Murphy said in his first major referendum speech in Glasgow today.
“Fast forward all these years and there’s a group of Scots who worry that things can’t get any worse.
“I know that winning this referendum isn’t just about proving how things can indeed get worse with independence.
“Because this isn’t a choice between the current status quo versus the uncosted uncertainty of us turning the rest of the UK into a foreign country. Scotland faces a choice between different versions of change.”
Devolution plans trailed
Labour will set out its proposals for further devolution tomorrow. The Liberal Democrats published its latest “home rule” report last week while the Conservatives pledged more devolution at its conference at the weekend.
No party has offered a guarantee of specific powers ahead of the referendum, leading to nationalist accusations that they are offering “half-baked” promises.
Mr Murphy suggested devolution of tax, wages and welfare powers could feature in Labour’s offering tomorrow.
“We need an increased minimum wage and more people on a living wage,” he said.
“That’s why as I and others have reflected, that even before the Calman proposals on tax are introduced, it’s right that we consider if we have the right balance on tax decisions between the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
“It’s why it’s also crucial that we look at how we can decentralise aspects of the social security system. Welfare is what I would call ‘an every day of the week’ type of devolution. It has the ability to transform people’s lives for the better.
“Over the next six months and one day it will be increasingly clear that the referendum choice is between the disruptive risk of change with the nationalists, versus further devolved change as part of the UK.
“No-one disputes that independence is disruptive change.
“There have been three disruptive shocks in my lifetime. One of oil, one of industry and one of financial shock.
“Today we face the disruption of independence which while different from the previous events, also has the three elements of oil, of industry and financial shocks.
“As we saw last week a collapse in oil revenues would have meant a £4.4 billion cut in the funding for public services in one year.
“We have seen Scotland’s big employers, from shipyards to Standard Life, raise the prospect of Scotland losing thousands of jobs.
“And the SNP’s lack of a credible currency plan raising the prospect of a fresh period of financial upheaval.”
Better Together needs to target the 300,000 working an lower middle class Scots who “are more likely to be undecided than any other group”, he said.
Scottish Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said: “This is a deeply hypocritical speech from someone who failed to show up when the SNP tried to stop the Tories abolishing the 50p tax rate, whose party abolished the 10p tax rate and who is part of a campaign almost entirely funded by Tory business figures.
“Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and with independence we can make sure everyone benefits from our wealth, not just the Treasury in Westminster.
“With a yes vote we can keep the pension age at a level that works for people in Scotland because pensions and welfare are more affordable in Scotland than they are for the UK.
“We can ensure all public sector workers in Scotland get a fair deal with a living wage and we can ensure the minimum wage always keeps pace with the cost of living.
“And we can provide the transformational childcare that would help parents into work whilst ensuring we all benefit from Scotland’s immense natural resources.
“With Labour’s cuts commission threatening free personal care, the abolition of prescriptions, free tuition and the gains of devolution that have helped so many people across Scotland, it is only a yes vote that will really improve jobs, living standards and the economy in Scotland.”