PRO-UK campaigners have launched a fresh attack on their opponents in the referendum campaign, accusing them of seeking to “steal our language” by saying independence represents “the best of both worlds”.
The chief executive of Better Together, Blair MacDougall, claimed yesterday that SNP politicians had been forced to copy the pro-UK’s own key slogan as they sought to reassure voters over independence.
Better Together launched last year, using “the best of both worlds” to argue that a No vote next year would ensure Scots could have both a devolved Scottish Parliament and membership of the United Kingdom.
However, in a speech earlier this summer, Nicola Sturgeon argued that independence “really would represent the best of both worlds”. She said a Yes vote would lead to a sovereign Scotland as well as a close relationship with the rest of the UK.
Mr MacDougall yesterday noted that subsequent campaign material has continued to use the phrase, with SNP ministers seeking to assure Scots that many of the ties with the rest of the UK would remain.
The battle to use the well-known expression is not surprising, however. Figures within the pro-UK side said that, when they proposed it to key focus groups of Scottish voters last year, it “tested off the chart”, describing exactly what voters wanted.
After Better Together launched their campaign with it, pro-independence backers privately acknowledged they should have used it themselves.
It now appears that both sides are aiming to co-opt the phrase – albeit to describe markedly different constitutional offerings. On Monday, reacting to comments by former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, both the SNP and Better Together issued responses declaring that their own plans would give Scotland “the best of both worlds”.
Mr MacDougall yesterday claimed that the pro-independence side’s adoption of the phrase was an attempt to “de-risk” the independence offer.
He argued: “Over recent weeks, the Nationalists have attempted to adopt the slogan as their own. Leading Nationalists have used the phrase again and again over the summer.
“Their attempt to steal our language is an embarrassing admission that it is our pro-devolution campaign that is offering what the clear majority of people in Scotland want, not the independence campaign.”
He added: “Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery but most people don’t want to purchase counterfeit goods. If the choice is between an independence campaign pretending to be a devolution campaign and a campaign which is wholeheartedly for devolution within the strength of the UK, Scots will choose the real thing.”
However, Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon have argued over the summer that their own plan meets the description more accurately.
A senior SNP source said: “It’s arrogant of the No campaign to claim ownership of language.”