PRIME Minister David Cameron is to make a new intervention in the Scottish referendum debate with a speech soon appealing to the rest of the UK to get behind Scotland staying in the Union.
Having refused to take on SNP First Minister Alex Salmond in a television debate, Mr Cameron told MPs and Lords on Westminster’s national security committee that he will be making a speech soon to defend the UK.
It is expected the speech will come at the Scottish Conservative party conference in Edinburgh between 14 and 16 March.
Answering a question from Tory MP Mark Pritchard on the national security implications of independence, Mr Cameron said: “In a nutshell I believe we are more secure together as well as prosperous.
“Scotland is making an enormous contribution to the UK’s defence and, I will be making a speech about this soon, which is why it is very important that everybody in the rest of the UK emphasises hiw much we benefit from Scotland staying in the UK.
“That is an argument I feel very passionately about.”
Mr Cameron also used his appearance to deny that his cuts to the UK’s armed forces budget has reduced Britain’s influence in the world.
The Prime Minister’s comments came shortly after former US defence secretary Robert Gates warned that the Government’s military cuts will prevent Britain being a “full partner” with America.
Committee chairwoman Margaret Beckett said the committee was worried that the Government had set an “unrealistic” target to implement the cuts while ensuring there was no reduction in the UK’s global influence. And she asked whether ambitions set out in a recent document to “expand” British influence would simply mean “spreading ever thinner across the world”.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that “of course the defence budget has come down in real terms - not by a huge amount but by a small amount”.
But he told the committee: “Even in terms of defence, because we have made choices - fewer battle tanks in Europe, more investment in drones and cyber and flexibility - I would argue that there has been no long-term reduction in Britain’s defence capabilities and our ability to stand up for ourselves in important ways around the world.
“I also reject the idea that you can only measure how engaged you are and how successful you are in projecting influence by how much money you spend. No business goes about its life like that.”