The day after thousands of veterans remembered their fallen comrades on the Normandy beaches, Lord Reid suggested the events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion would remind voters of emotional and family ties that bind the UK.
A row erupted following Reid’s remarks when Yes Scotland argued the former Labour UK Cabinet minister was guilty of playing politics with the heroism of the soldiers, who joined forces to defeat Hitler’s Nazis.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday after he had addressed a Better Together rally in Stirling, Reid said that the arguments for remaining within the Union were not simply about the economic stability of being part of the UK.
“There is also the argument of the heart – the emotional dimensions of this,” Reid said.
“Part of this is the family connections throughout the United Kingdom – part of which is the long history of sacrifice and overcoming adversity together and it is that aspect, that I think probably the greatest anniversary in modern UK history was D-Day. There you had men and women drawn from Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales – ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things and did it together. So anniversaries like that – or in more modern times [and] in less dramatic fashion the successful Olympic Games in which Scots played a part – I think these form of family and emotional ties will come to bear [in the referendum] – as well as the advantages and risks.”
Reid’s remarks came on the back of the extraordinary scenes witnessed on Friday when 2,000 D-Day veterans, mostly in their nineties, gathered on Sword Beach for a moving ceremony, which remembered the 4,000 Allied troops who lost their lives.
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader and First Minister, was on the roll-call of dignitaries – along with the Royal Family, heads of state, Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama – in France to pay tribute to the generation who fought against Fascism.
But Reid’s political point linking the prospect of a No vote with the commemorations was criticised by Yes Scotland, the campaign arguing for Scottish independence.
A spokesman for the Yes campaign said: “It does John Reid no credit to actually try to politicise the sacrifice and heroism of brave soldiers from this country and indeed all the allied nations who fought together on D-Day and beyond – and to talk about D-Day in the same context as the Olympic Games is very ill-judged indeed.”
Reid was speaking after an address to Better Together supporters in which he argued against the notion that voting No to independence is unpatriotic.
The politician, who also served as Scottish Secretary and Northern Ireland Secretary in Tony Blair’s Labour government, said the idea that voting against independence was unpatriotic was “insulting to the vast majority of the Scottish people”.
Arguing that “no one campaign has a monopoly on patriotism”, Reid also attacked Salmond for ignoring the views of those who have taken issue with some of his arguments for Scottish independence.
“The more the Scottish Nationalists say that ratings agencies don’t know anything about ratings, that the governor of the Bank of England doesn’t know anything about sterling, that the president of Europe doesn’t know anything about Europe, that the Institute for Fiscal Studies doesn’t know anything about fiscal studies, that economic experts don’t know anything about economics, you begin to think that, however sincere Alex Salmond’s commitment is, his pursuit of his own objectives is blinding him to reality,” Reid said.
“We got rid of the divine right of kings and we are not about to restore divine wisdom to Alex Salmond who can, by decree, suspend reality.”
With tomorrow marking 100 days until Scotland goes to the polls for the referendum, Reid is to step up his Better Together activities.
Reid also welcomed Obama’s intervention last week when the US President signalled that his preference was for a No vote, saying that American wanted a “strong, robust and united” Britain.
“I think the fact that someone like President Obama highlights the dangers and risks involved in it [independence], means that it highlights the question and concentrates the mind of people in Scotland who up to this point might have regarded this as less significant than it is,” he said.
“It is hugely significant, and when the president of the United States decides to comment, that marks its significance.”
However, the Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan believes that Obama’s intervention in the debate will not boost the No campaign.
Canavan said: “Many people throughout the world now perceive President Obama as the defender of Trident and Guantanamo Bay. That will not win many votes in Scotland.”
Meanwhile, writing in today’s Scotland on Sunday, Salmond reflects on the 100-day milestone by proclaiming that no other nation in history has been as well-placed as modern Scotland to become independent.