Scottish independence: Campaigners gear up for defence of Union

'The No campaign should steer clear of celebrities.' Picture: Ian Rutherford
'The No campaign should steer clear of celebrities.' Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE campaign against independence will be labelled “a stronger Scotland, a United Kingdom” in a staunch defence of the union between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, sources have revealed.

The cross-party bid to save the union – headlined “Better Together” – will be launched next week and will emphasise the strength of the UK in the belief that despite voting in an SNP Government, Scots still maintain a strong political affinity to the UK, especially amid the current economic turbulence. The clear message comes despite claims in recent weeks that the campaign would water down a distinctly “Unionist” message because of the risk of alienating undecided voters in the coming independence battle.

As well as the economic strength of the UK, the campaign believes that recent events, from the Diamond Jubilee to the massive response to the Olympic flame in Scotland, have demonstrated a powerful sense among thousands of Scots that they feel part of the UK as well.

One campaign figure said: “We are setting out our stall and being honest about what we want. We want Scotland to be part of the UK. We think it would be stronger and more prosperous and more secure as a result of that.”

The campaign also intends to contrast its own up-front defence of the UK with the “Yes Scotland” campaign which, it argues, has been “too defensive” on the details of the case for independence.

Pro-Union insiders will say those plans – which include remaining with the pound, the Bank of England, and giving London control of Scotland’s financial regulations – will leave the country with even less independence than now, as Scotland has to adapt to the policies of a foreign country.

That attack will seek to weaken the SNP’s case that the pro-Union cause is opting for a Tory-led government at Westminster over one run independently in Edinburgh.

The launch of the campaign on 25 June comes with still well over two years to run before Scots get the chance to vote, with Alex Salmond insisting it should not take place until the autumn of 2014. Current polls suggest that the electorate will vote to remain in the UK.

The “Yes Scotland” campaign in favour of independence was launched earlier this month and has set a target of collecting one million signatures before the vote.

The pro-Union campaign said it will not seek to hide the massive political differences between the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory figures who will head it up. They include former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, ex-Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and former Tory leader Annabel Goldie.

They will all unite, however, around the view that Scotland is better off in the UK.

The insider said: “The UK has been something associated with a source of strength and in the key arguments we will be making that point. We are all Scottish and proud to be Scottish but actually, regardless of all these questions of identity, the patriotic thing is what is good for our country. The UK is a source of strength.”

Another key figure in the campaign added: “There is not the antipathy to the concept of the UK that would be believed. We’ve seen the response to the Olympic flame, for example; people have a sense of being British and being part of the United Kingdom.”

The pro-Union campaign team also hopes it can contrast its own “confidence” about the UK with the “Yes Scotland” campaign which, it argues, has shown itself to be “defensive” about independence, attempting to play down the impact it will have. One campaign figure highlighted a recent BBC Question Time appearance by SNP minister Alex Neil who said he wanted to remain British after independence. The source said: “People don’t trust politicians generally but we are picking up that people are sceptical about what the Nationalists are saying about independence. They are tying themselves in knots.”

The campaign is also likely to highlight the chaos in the Eurozone as an example of what could happen under the SNP’s proposals. One campaign source said: “It would lead to even less independence than you have got just now. We would have to submit our budget [to the UK Government], having lost all influence over the way the system is run.”

The campaign is not expected to offer a proposition on more devolution next week, leaving that to individual parties to consider.

Campaign chiefs say they are “confident” of winning the referendum, and will make the case that the vote must take place to remove all uncertainty about Scotland’s future.

However, speaking yesterday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared: “The No campaign – however it likes to dress itself up and whatever it wants to call itself – has yet to provide a positive case for the Union.”