Scottish independence: Trio in £1m bid to save Union
THE campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom will launch in the second half of this month, The Scotsman can reveal, with Charles Kennedy and Annabel Goldie confirmed as joining Alistair Darling at the helm.
Organisers have set a target of amassing a £1 million war chest by the start date, which is timed to come just after First Minister Alex Salmond appears before the Leveson Inquiry.
Campaign managers have ruled out adopting a No platform in the run-up the 2014 referendum and will instead promote Scotland in “partnership” with the rest of the UK.
Although the anti-independence campaign logo is unlikely to include an explicit Yes slogan, a campaign source confirmed that it “certainly won’t have No” featured in its wording.
Former chancellor and Edinburgh MP Mr Darling will be confirmed as the chairman of the campaign, joined by former Liberal Democrat leader Mr Kennedy and former Scottish Tory leader Miss Goldie, who will be unveiled as patrons.
A campaign source said that key campaign messages will be about the “positive case” for Scotland in the union as well as promoting “partnership” with the rest of the UK.
The move comes just weeks after the glitzy launch of the rival pro-independence Yes campaign, which saw it endorsed by high-profile celebrities, such as Hollywood actors Brian Cox and Alan Cumming.
Organisers of the anti- independence movement insist their campaign will be “less presidential” than the Yes group, which was launched by the First Minister in Edinburgh last month. A source from the anti-independence campaign suggested the group expected to have an initial fighting fund of up to £1m, with the cash coming mainly from individual backers.
However, they admitted the fund will be dwarfed by the Yes campaign’s multi-million war chest, which was bolstered by donations to the nationalists of £1m from Ayrshire lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir and a similar amount from the late Edwin Morgan, Scotland’s former Makar.
The source said: “We don’t know what the question is yet in the referendum, but we certainly won’t have No in the campaign logo. It will be something about the positive case and benefit for Scotland of being in the Union. Nothing definite has been decided, but it’s likely to emphasise partnership.
“Alistair Darling will chair it, but it will be less presidential than Alex Salmond’s role. He will be the lead figure, but he’ll also be one of three patrons of the campaign, along with Charles Kennedy and Annabel Goldie.”
The launch is deliberately timed to coincide with Mr Salmond’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry in London, when the First Minister is likely to be asked about his meetings with News International owner Rupert Murdoch.
The news about Mr Darling’s post as chairman comes after months of speculation about his role in the unionist campaign.
Mr Darling, the MP for Edinburgh South West, admitted he had had several long meetings at his home with leading figures from across unionist parties about the launch.
Mr Kennedy’s role as a patron of the campaign will represent his first return to frontline politicssince he quit as Lib Dem leader in 2006.
Both Mr Kennedy and Miss Goldie, who resigned as Scottish Conservative leader last year, are expected to speak at events and travelling around the country promoting the campaign.
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish and senior Tory MSP Murdo Fraser were among those welcoming the decision not to campaign on a No platform.
Mr McLeish said: “The idea that the campaign against independence can be sustained by simply saying No has been clearly established as a nonsense.”
Mr Fraser, who last year campaigned to lead the Scottish Tories on a platform of a centre-right breakaway from the UK party, said: “It’s sensible to set out a positive case for the union and for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom rather than splitting away as a small independent country.”
The SNP insisted last night that the anti-independence campaign would be based around “fundamental negativity” and would lead to confusion ahead of the referendum.
SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse said: “If the anti-independence parties can’t even bring themselves to admit that theirs is a No campaign, it shows just how defensive and negative they are.
“This is completely inept. The No side is the campaign that dare not speak its name – and is fated to be mired in confusion.
“And if reports that they are losing financial support on a daily basis are true, then it seems there are many others unconvinced by this topsy-turvey strategy.”
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