Independence: ‘Yes’ camp hit out at Australian PM

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Picture: Getty
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Picture: Getty
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AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Tony Abbott has become the latest international leader to warn against Scottish independence claiming that those wanting to split the UK were not friends of freedom.

Abbott’s remarks earned him a rebuke from Alex Salmond, who claimed the Australian leader’s comments were “bewildering”.

The SNP leader spoke out after Abbott said that it was hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.

On a visit to London, Abbott made the remarks, which are the most outspoken so far on the Scottish situation by a world leader.

Abbott, who was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, said: “What the Scots do is a matter for the Scots and not for a moment do I presume to tell Scottish voters which way they should vote.

“But as a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it’s hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.

“I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, not the friends of freedom, and that the countries that would cheer at the prospect of the break-up with the United Kingdom are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.”

Abbott’s comments follow Barack Obama’s public backing of the No campaign. Earlier in the summer, the US president said he favoured “a strong, robust, united and effective” partner.

The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she believes Scottish independence would be a “loss for both sides”.

The Chinese premier Li Keqiang, during a visit to London in June, also said he wanted a “strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom”.

The Pope is another world figure who appeared to urge caution about independence when he said he was worried by “all division”.

The tone of Abbott’s remarks appeared to irritate Salmond.

A spokesman for First Minister said: “Tony Abbott has a reputation for gaffes, but his bewildering comments have all the hallmarks of one of the Westminster government’s international briefings against Scotland.

“Many Australians, including the great number with close Scottish connections, will look on in bafflement at these remarks – Australia is a country that has gained its independence from Westminster and has never looked back.”

The Yes campaign likened Abbott’s remarks to those made by the former Nato chief Lord Robertson, who claimed that a Yes vote would be “cataclysmic” for the West at a time of international turmoil.

A Yes Scotland spokesman said: “Independence seems to be working well for Australia… The decision about Scotland’s future is one for the people of Scotland to make - a point that even David Cameron asserts.”

A spokesman for Better Together said: “President Obama, Hillary Clinton and even the Pope have all said they hope Scotland stays part of the United Kingdom… The one consistent message from world leaders is that Scotland is better together with the other parts of the UK.”

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