Scottish independence: Alistair Darling warns ‘no way back’ after split
THE campaign to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom is set to launch today with a stark warning that there is “no way back” if the country votes for independence in the 2014 referendum.
A half-million leafleting blitz is planned across the country to coincide with today’s launch of the Better Together campaign, which will be headed by former chancellor Alistair Darling.
Blue State Digital, the new media strategy gurus behind US president Barack Obama’s election campaign four years ago and François Hollande’s recent victory in France, have been signed up to run the campaign’s website.
Today’s launch will be low-key and sombre, in contrast with Yes Scotland’s glitzy launch last month, an event dominated by actors, poets and songwriters.
“The choice we make will be irrevocable,” Mr Darling is expected to say today.
“If we decide to leave the United Kingdom, there is no way back.
“It is like asking us to buy a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination.”
Nationalists have accused the pro-Union campaign of negativity, because it has no “positive alternative” to independence, and called for an “honest, grown-up debate” about the country’s future.
Mr Darling will head the campaign for Scotland to remain in the UK and today’s marketing drive includes full-page adverts in a range of newspapers, including The Scotsman.
The former chancellor is expected to say: “We can have the best of both worlds: a strong Scottish Parliament and a key role in a strong and secure United Kingdom. The truth is Scotland’s future, our future and our families’ future will be economically, politically and socially stronger as a partner in the United Kingdom.
“The truth is that this coming together of family, friends, ideas, institutions and identities is a strength, not a weakness. It is an ideal worth celebrating.”
Mr Darling is expected to be joined by the Scottish leaders of the main pro-Union parties: Labour’s Johann Lamont, Conservative Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats.
The campaign is believed to have a funding pot of £1 million and its donors will be made clear in the coming weeks, although its spending is likely to be dwarfed by Yes Scotland. The pro-independence campaign has £2m available after donations from the late poet Edwin Morgan and the Ayrshire Euromillions winners, Colin and Christine Weir.
The pro-Union lobby has also manoeuvred away from calling itself the No campaign, amid concerns this did not convey a sufficiently positive message.
It will have more “down-to-earth” approach compared with Yes Scotland, whose campaign launch in Edinburgh last month was dominated by celebrities, including Hollywood stars Alan Cumming and Brian Cox – who do not live in Scotland.
Mr Darling said at the weekend: “I don’t think people are impressed when you line up actors, no matter how good they may be, who have flown in from the other side of the Atlantic to tell us what to do. This campaign will be decided in Scotland by people living here.”
Yes Scotland has been beset by problems, with the Scottish Greens stopping short of endorsing it and independent MSP Margo MacDonald claiming the movement had been hijacked by the SNP.
Mr Darling will also seek to head off Nationalist claims that the pro-Union campaign had been “consigned to negativity”.
“We put the positive case for staying together,” he is expected to say at the launch at Edinburgh’s Napier University today.
“We are positive about our links with the rest of the United Kingdom – through families and friendships, through trade, and through shared political, economical and cultural institutions.
“We’re positive about being a proud nation within a larger state and the far wider range of opportunities for our people that this creates. We’re positive about all of the identities we share – Scottish, British, European, citizens of the world – and don’t see the need to abandon any of them.”
The campaign leaflets, which will be distributed at railway stations today, highlight the one in five workers employed by English firms in Scotland, as well as those working for the UK government in places such as the Department for International Development offices in East Kilbride.
They also point to the 800,000 Scots who live and work in England and Wales “without the need for papers or passports”.
The SNP’s landslide victory in the Holyrood elections last year means a referendum on independence is now inevitable. It is likely to be held in 2014, although the parties are still wrangling over the prospect of a third ballot option of more powers for Holyrood.
SNP referendum campaign director Angus Robertson called for an end to the “scaremongering silly season” on the constitutional future, including recent claims that independence would see Edinburgh Zoo lose the giant pandas from China.
He said: “Part of the job and the process of the Yes campaign is to answer all the questions, and explain all the benefits and merits of independence – and that is exactly what we are doing.”