Alistair Darling: ‘Unity beats division every time’

HMS Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth Dockyard, Fife. Picture: PA
HMS Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth Dockyard, Fife. Picture: PA
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ON FRIDAY, the largest Royal Navy ship ever built was launched at Rosyth. It was a symbol of the strength of the United Kingdom, an illustration of what we have to lose if we break up our 300-year-old partnership.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was built by thousands of workers from all parts of the UK. When it comes into service it will be part of our global efforts to maintain peace throughout the world.

It would not have been built in Scotland if we were not part of that greater, stronger whole. Put bluntly, the UK does not build its warships in foreign countries. That is a part of what we would lose if we separate.

Last week, I visited a family-owned firm of engineers in Midlothian, MacTaggart Scott. They built part of that aircraft carrier, with pride. They rely on the guarantee of Royal Navy orders. Yes they export, but their selling point is that they build for the Royal Navy.

I believe passionately that on our small island we achieve far more together than we ever would apart. Look at what we’ve achieved as a union of nations.

Not just in industry. Think of the stories, the sport and songs we share. Burns, Best, the Beatles: what we share enhances all of our lives.

The connection felt by people throughout the UK is beyond doubt. We see that in their emotional reaction. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve stopped me in the street, in all different parts of the country, over the Past two years. Strangers, who’ve grabbed me by the hand, looked me in the eye, and said: “You must win this.”

September’s vote will be decided by those of us who live in Scotland. Here in Scotland and throughout the rest of the UK the silent majority is beginning to speak out. We know that what unites us is greater than what divides us. Why break up a successful union, to take a leap into the unknown? This is not about the past. It is about all of our futures.

So no matter where you live or how you plan to vote you must be free to speak without fear of intimidation or abuse.

It’s in Scotland’s best interests to stay a partner in the UK. Our future prosperity depends on the jobs that come from our firms having access to something bigger. It is not only defence or engineering. Whether it’s renewable energy, our food and drinks industry, finance and science, or the creative industries, we succeed because we are part of the UK, not despite it.

In science and medicine we are world leaders in research and development. That is because of our links to UK universities and charities. Why should we lose that, when so many lives depend on medical and scientific advances?

Nations in co-operation would, with separation, become states in competition overnight. It would leave us poorer, more unequal and divided. Throughout my life, I’ve believed in working together. Unity and solidarity beat division and isolation every time.

Recently I met an 18-year-old student, about to start her first year at university. She said: ‘All my life I’ve been told that there should be no boundaries to my ambition. That there’s nothing I can’t do. Yet with my first vote I’m being asked to choose something smaller, to narrow my vision. Why would I do that? ‘

September’s vote is not just about this generation. It is about my children, your children and their children’s children. Let’s take inspiration from the engineers who built HMS Queen Elizabeth. That ship will sail still in 50 years time. I hope it will be sailing as part of the Royal Navy, of all our nations.

• Alistair Darling is the leader of Better Together and former Chancellor of the Exchequer