Scottish independence: Only Labour can stop UK break-up, says Ed Miliband

Ed Balls goes through his speech with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Picture: PA
Ed Balls goes through his speech with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Picture: PA
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LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has conceded that the SNP can win the referendum and claimed his only his party can prevent the break up of the UK.

In a speech to the Scots Night reception at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, Mr Miliband spoke of his fears of the break up of the UK.

Telling the audience that it was one of the most serious issues for him, he said: “Let’s face it Scotland could become independent and that would be a disaster for the United Kingdom.”

But whilst praising the work of former chancellor Alistair Darling in heading the Better Together group and bringing pro-Union parties together, he said that only his party could win the campaign.

He said: “Let’s face it, it is only the Labour Party that can win this battle.”

And he insisted that the campaign would be fought on Labour values of solidarity.

He said: “I don’t think solidarity stops at the Border.

“I care about the poor child in the East End of Glasgow; I think that a family in Edinburgh worries about a poor child in the East End of London.”

Earlier, he praised the “fantastic” leadership of Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and hailed her deputy, Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar, as a young talent.

Mr Miliband said Mrs Lamont showed leadership with her recent speech on the tough decisions she said would be needed to be made on public spending. Scottish Labour delegates were told by Mr Miliband last night that it was time “to live with reality” and accept that there were difficult decisions to make on the economy.

He endorsed the approach taken by Ms Lamont in a major speech last week. Ms Lamont said difficult choices would have to be made over prioritising funding for services such as free care for the elderly, free prescriptions and tuition fees paid from the public purse.

Mr Miliband praised Mrs Lamont’s “excellent leadership” for starting the public debate.

He said: “We’ve got to live with the reality of the public finances we’re going to face. We can’t pretend there aren’t difficult decisions we’re going to have to make, and we have to find a way of delivering social justice in these tough times.”

He added: “The SNP know that with declining budgets and an ageing population, there will be huge pressure on budgets. And the truth that the SNP must accept is that if nothing is done, it will be the most vulnerable who suffer.”

But SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mrs Lamont of taking Scottish Labour to the right and said that an endorsement of her views by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson showed that “Labour and the Tories are joined at the hip.” She added: “People in Scotland overwhelmingly back these universal benefits.”