CHANCELLOR George Osborne is to lead a fresh push in Scotland in defence of the Union in the coming weeks as UK ministers prepare for the final 12 months of the independence referendum campaign.
The UK government last night said a tour of Scots cities by government ministers will focus largely on the economy.
Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will all be in Glasgow for their party’s conference next month, while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s keynote conference speech will be on 18 September, exactly a year before the poll.
But ahead of their conference at the end of next month, senior Tory ministers including Mr Osborne, who chairs the Cabinet committee on Scotland, are expected to tour Scottish cities. A UK government spokesman said: “We promised to make the positive case for Scotland staying part of the UK and so far we have produced hundreds of pages of analysis. Analysis that no-one has challenged. Cheaper mortgages, safer banks and more jobs are all part of the evidence that we have laid out for the Scottish people.”
He added: “There is a growing sense the independence camp will now say anything and do anything to try and lure people towards a Yes vote. They want people to believe that independence is a lot like the UK, when in fact it is about leaving the UK.
“UK ministers are going to step up pressure in this area over the coming weeks. There is a real determination to expose this deliberate attempt to dress up independence as something else.”
Last night the SNP Scottish Government dismissed the tour by UK ministers as more negative campaigning and said devolution has already made the economic case for independence.
A spokesman for SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It was the No Campaign itself that described its own campaign as ‘Project Fear’. This figleaf of a ‘positive’ campaign is a clear sign that they know how deeply damaging that revelation was. But people won’t be fooled – everything about the No campaign is negative and designed to talk Scotland down.
“The fact is that attracting inward investment is a devolved matter and Scotland acts independently on that issue – it shows what Scotland can achieve with independence. ”
News of the ministers’ tour comes as an Angus Reid poll suggests support for independence could be catching up on backing for the Union, with the gap narrowing from 16 per cent to 13 per cent since January.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “We are finding that once people focus on the choice facing them – between a Yes that puts Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands and a No that means more of the same from a Westminster system that is squeezing family incomes – people who were No become undecided and those who are undecided move towards a Yes.”