CAMPAIGNERS against Scottish independence must give people a “positive” reason for staying within the UK, Alistair Darling has said, ahead of a major speech this week on the case for Scotland’s place within the Union.
In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the leader of the Better Together campaign says he aims to make the “head and heart” case on the continuation of the 30-year-old Union, pointing to the economic and social benefits of the single UK state.
It comes after a week in which the pro-UK campaign has been accused by opponents of “scaremongering” its way to winning next year’s referendum, by exaggerating the downsides of independence and failing to offer a convincing case for the UK.
Darling says today that as well as raising questions about independence, the No campaign must give people a “good reason to come out and vote” in favour of the UK over the next year if it is to win convincingly.
His speech at Glasgow University will list factors including the European single market, UK-wide freedom of movement and the contribution Scotland has made to aid and international affairs as part of the UK.
However, the Yes Scotland campaign last night hit back, saying an attempt by the pro-UK side to set out a positive case would, if true, be the “biggest U-turn in recent political history”.
In the interview, Darling said he believed there would be a convincing win for the pro-UK side, but only if it focussed on the “positive” case.
The history of the Union had shown how Scots could prosper, he said: “There are still incredible opportunities here. Why would you construct barriers to that now, where there are none at present?
“Nobody is going to put me off from asking the difficult questions and we have done that over Europe and over the currency. What I want to do this week is to make the case for the UK.”
He said: “A great number of people are proud to be Scottish and proud to be British and they want to know why they have to choose between them. They don’t want to choose between them. The emotional case is just as strong as it is for somebody who holds a different view.”
He added: “If you weren’t in the UK, is there a case for joining it? Yes, emphatically there is. There are extremely powerful economic reasons.”
Darling also said it was likely that the case would include a set of proposals from the three pro-UK parties on devolution after a “no” vote.
He said: “Even the Tories are now saying there has to be some sort of change. This is not a static thing. The three parties would first have to develop their own offers.”
Given the length of the campaign, however, both sides would “struggle” to hold the interest of the public, he said. He added: “I hope that whatever the result next year this puts the matter to bed for a generation.”
Responding, a spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “The No Campaign going into positive mode would be the biggest U-turn in recent political history. But we won’t be holding our breath on that one. We will always make the positive case for an independent Scotland.”