DAVID Cameron has declared the independence referendum campaign is “personal” for him in an impassioned plea to the rest of the UK to get behind efforts to keep Scotland British.
Speaking in the Olympic velodrome in Stratford, East London, the Prime Minister also warned that those who want more devolution “should vote No because a vote for separation is the end of devolution”.
The event, hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University, saw Mr Cameron give the strongest indication yet that he would reject a currency union with an independent Scotland, describing it as “extremely difficult”.
However, First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday accused Mr Cameron of making a “bogus” argument and repeated his challenge for the Prime Minister to agree to a head-to-head debate on the issue. He also suggested Mr Cameron should be in Somerset dealing with the floods which have led to hundreds of homes being evacuated.
In a speech designed to make the positive arguments for keeping the UK together, Mr Cameron told his audience: “This is personal.”
At a venue chosen to symbolise the successes of the whole United Kingdom working together as Team GB, Mr Cameron said the Olympic medals were won under the banner of a Union Flag that was not only red and white, but also blue. The London Games – at which 14 of Team GB’s 65 medals were won by Scots including Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy – were an example of the “power of collaboration” which had given the UK a major place in the world.
Name-checking UK-wide assets from the BBC, NHS and armed forces to the country’s place on the UN Security Council, Nato and the G8, and such cultural icons as Sherlock Holmes, Emeli Sande and Scotch whisky, the Prime Minister said: “We come as a brand – a powerful brand. Separating Scotland out of that brand would be like separating the waters of the River Tweed and the North Sea.
“If we lost Scotland, if the UK changed, we would rip the rug from under our own reputation. The plain fact is we matter more in the world together.”
He said there was a moral case for preserving the Union which had made the UK “a country that has never been cowed by bullies and dictators, a country that stands for something … our shared values. Freedom. Solidarity. Compassion. Not just overseas, but at home.”
Citing the inspiration British values gave to such fighters for freedom as Nelson Mandela, Mr Cameron said: “Our Parliament, our laws, our way of life – so often, down the centuries, the UK has given people hope. We’ve shown democracy and prosperity go hand in hand, that resolution is found not through the bullet, but the ballot box.
“Our values are of value to the world. In the darkest times in human history there has been, in the North Sea, a light that never goes out. And if this family of nations broke up, something very powerful and precious would go out forever.”
Mr Cameron acknowledged many people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland felt there was no place for them in the debate on Scots independence, whether they were “quiet patriots” who thought there was little they could do to influence the outcome or “shoulder shruggers” who felt separation would not matter much to life south of the Border. And he said there were “a few” who thought the rest of the UK would be better off without Scotland.
“All the above are wrong,” said the Prime Minister. “We would be deeply diminished without Scotland. This matters to all our futures. And everyone in the UK can have a voice in this debate.”
His words were welcomed by former paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who describes herself as Welsh and British. She said the Olympics had shown “what happens when everybody supports each other”.
“I think you can be British and Welsh, and a little bit of everything,” she said. “Because that is how I feel. I’ve lived in England for 20 years. My daughter has just been selected to represent England at canoeing.”
She added: “I’m not sure I have ever cheered for an English team before. But, for the first time, I will be cheering for England.”
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “David Cameron continues to lecture Scotland, but still refuses to debate in Scotland. To use the Olympic Games as a political tool shows the No campaign and its leader are running scared and running out of ideas. The positive case for No clearly doesn’t exist.
“In September, we have a chance to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands and ensure that we always get the government we vote for.”