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Scottish independence: David Cameron vows to win Scots ‘hearts and minds’ over independence

Nick Clegg and David Cameron pictured during the Coalition's mid-term review

Nick Clegg and David Cameron pictured during the Coalition's mid-term review

  • by DAVID MADDOX
 

PRIME Minister David Cameron has vowed to win “arguments of both the head and the heart” to preserve the ties that bind Scotland to the rest of the UK in the run-up to the independence referendum.

• David Cameron insisted that Better Together campaign would win fight for hearts of Scottish voters by showing ‘we are stronger together’

• Cameron expected No campaign to be able to show ‘categorically’ that Scotland would be worse off without the Union

• Cameron praised former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, on doing a ‘fantastic job’ leading the No campaign

Unveiling the coalition government’s mid-term review with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday, Mr Cameron claimed that Scotland would be “categorically be worse off” on its own.

However, as well as the economic argument, the Prime Minister insisted the campaign to preserve the Union must also win the fight for the hearts of Scottish voters.

He said: “I think there are important arguments of both the head and the heart that need to be made in this great debate about the future of our United Kingdom, and I profoundly hope that Scotland will vote to stay in the United Kingdom. I think when it comes to the arguments of the head, things like would Scotland be better off, I think we will be able to show, categorically, that Scotland would be worse off, would be less well off.”

But Mr Cameron insisted financial considerations were only a part of the decision that Scottish voters will face in the 2014

referendum.

“There are arguments of the head, but I profoundly believe we must win, not only the arguments of the head, but also of the heart: that we are better off together in the United Kingdom, there’s a solidarity that we show each other, if different parts of the United Kingdom have a difficult time, we are all there ready to stand behind those parts of the United Kingdom.

“We are stronger together, we are better off together, we are safer together. So those heart arguments will also, I think, win the day.”

Mr Cameron used the review to insist the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would see out a full five-year term in office.

The 46-page progress report, entitled The Coalition: Together In The National Interest, lists actions from reducing the budget deficit to introducing reforms to the public services.

And it sets out plans – many previously announced – for further action ahead of the general election scheduled for May 2015.

Insisting their actions to reduce the level of public borrowing were “necessary and right”, the two men committed themselves to continuing to “pursue our deficit reduction plan, while protecting vulnerable groups and key long-term investments”.

And they confirmed that detailed plans would be published before the summer for public spending for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which are expected to extend the age of austerity beyond the general election and effectively commit Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to a degree of shared economic policy after 2015.

The document also includes an opt-out for Lib Dems on voting on tax breaks to support marriage, while some Tories will be furious that it re-emphasises the commitment to push through gay marriage.

There are also plans to introduce road charges for foreign lorry drivers.

The government will go ahead with plans to draw up a paper looking at what powers could be repatriated from the EU, despite Lib Dem opposition.

And with Lib Dem former schools minister Sarah Tether set to rebel in a vote on capping welfare this week, the two men acknowledged there would be many disagreements over the next two and a half years.

Mr Cameron said: “The road ahead won’t be easy, there have always been issues on which we disagree and doubtless there will be more in the months ahead. But the key point is not whether you have disagreements, it is how you handle them.”

Disputes were tackled in a “reasonable and civilised way”, he said. “More importantly, Nick and I are completely united on the big issues that brought our two parties together in the national interest and which remain this government’s sheet anchor today.”

Mr Cameron added: “Our resolve and sense of shared purpose, if anything, have got stronger over these last two and a half years.

“So over the next two and a half years it will … be full steam ahead as we continue to put political partisanship to one side and do what is right to serve our country and national interest.”

Mr Clegg said the “big purpose” of the coalition remained the building of “a stronger economy in a fairer society”.

He contrasted the willingness of the two parties to work together with the political divisions in the United States and parts of Europe.

“It is a source of immense pride to me – and I think every­body in the coalition – that we have put partisan differences aside to act in the national interest and have acted fast and have acted boldly to deal with the economic challenges that this country faces,” he said.

In his own mid-term review, Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said Scotland could “stand tall in the world” as a result of its place in the UK.

He added: “We have also seen Scotland’s two governments work together constructively. We have overseen the biggest transfer of financial power in three centuries to the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Act, alongside a range of other powers, such as control of drink-drive limits and air weapons.

“We have also negotiated a fair, legal and decisive referendum on independence.”

The comments came after figures showed Scots would be £1 worse off each year under independence, using an analysis of oil revenues over the course of devolution.

The analysis produced by Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander was intended to expose the SNP claim that people would be £500 better off a year as a “myth”, but independence campaigners seized on the £1 as being a “price worth paying”.

The SNP yesterday said the coalition was “on the back foot” over how the economy of an independent Scotland would fare.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said: “As the UK coalition’s botched relaunch shows, the No campaign has started the New Year firmly on the back foot.”

 

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