Scottish independence: Better Together warned to beware complacency

Henry McLeish: 'I don't support an un�reformed Union'. Picture: SNS
Henry McLeish: 'I don't support an un�reformed Union'. Picture: SNS
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FORMER Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has accused the Better Together campaign of “complacency”, as he warned that support for Scotland leaving the UK would increase in the run-up to the 2014 referendum.

Mr McLeish told The Scotsman he would not be joining the unionist campaign led by former chancellor Alistair Darling, as he claimed it was promoting an “unreformed Union”.

The former Scottish Labour leader went on to criticise his party’s shift away from backing free university tuition and free NHS prescriptions, as he claimed it was an attack on universal services and a “knee-jerk reaction”.

Mr McLeish, a high-profile supporter of devo-max, or full economic powers for Holyrood, claimed the cross-party Better Together had no vision of how to extend and enhance devolution.

He issued a stark warning to the pro-Union parties that the gap would narrow among voters supporting and opposing independence and claimed that the one-third supporting a Yes vote would be seen as a “low- water mark” in the lengthy run-up to autumn 2014.

Mr McLeish said: “There is a huge danger of complacency within Better Together.

“In one sense they should be confident, as I don’t believe the SNP will win independence in the referendum.

“I don’t support an un­reformed Union. I’ll vote against independence, but I’m not going to join the official organisation.

“At the moment, with a third of Scots saying they will vote for independence, it might well be that that’s the low-water mark for the SNP. It could also be that support for Better Together is at a high-water mark.”

The former First Minister also suggested his party had yet to learn the lessons of its disastrous defeat at the 2011 Holyrood elections, claiming that Labour was not “distinctively Scottish enough”.

He said: “Labour still isn’t learning the lessons fast enough. The party is still not distinctively Scottish enough, whereas that’s the strength of the SNP.

“It’s easy to criticise policies such as free tuition, but Labour can’t wait two years to say what it’s going to do.”