Scottish independence: David Cameron hails Union

DAVID Cameron will claim today that independence fails to answer any of the major challenges facing the nation, as he makes his latest intervention in the referendum campaign.

David Walliams serves up a plea to the Prime Minister for an end to world poverty. Picture: PA
David Walliams serves up a plea to the Prime Minister for an end to world poverty. Picture: PA
David Walliams serves up a plea to the Prime Minister for an end to world poverty. Picture: PA

In a speech to Conservative activists at the Scottish party conference in Stirling today, the Prime Minister will argue that none of the key emerging issues confronting the UK and Scotland – from globalisation, to terror threats, to the country’s ageing population – require independence as their solution.

“There is simply no challenge we face today where breaking up Britain is the right answer,” he will argue.

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But Mr Cameron will also face calls from Alex Salmond to “apologise” over the conduct of the pro-UK campaign.

The First Minister said last night that, on Mr Cameron’s watch, the unionist campaign had been spreading “fears and smears” over the consequences of independence.

His comments come after a report by Ernst and Young earlier this week argued that the referendum was not deterring investment in Scotland, contrary to claims by Chancellor George Osborne last year that businesses were “worried” about investing in Scotland.

The Prime Minister’s visit today is his first to Scotland since April when he visited Glasgow and comes with the pro-independence campaign still to show it can boost support above the 50 per cent mark required for victory next September.

According to extracts released last night, Mr Cameron is expected to say: “Our United Kingdom’s history has always been one of shared endeavour. Proud in our individual identities – but working together for a common good.

“We saw it when our soldiers fought together under one flag on the beaches of Normandy. We saw it when our doctors came together to build our NHS. We saw it in the scientific breakthroughs that we made together: from the television to penicillin. And we saw it last summer as athletes from around Britain – no matter where they were from – draped themselves in one flag.”

He will add: “And there is still so much more to come. Why wouldn’t we want to face the future together? There is simply no challenge we face today where breaking up Britain is the right answer.

“The future I see for Scotland is part of a dynamic, enterprising, prosperous, compassionate Britain. A Britain that isn’t just competing in the global race, but winning in the world. A country where we are pulling together, not pulling apart.”

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However, Mr Salmond last night challenged Mr Cameron to distance himself from what he described as the “scaremongering” coming from the pro-UK camp.

Nationalist figures argue that UK government warnings about Scotland’s credit rating, its status within the EU and about the uncertainty caused by the referendum have all rebounded on them in recent weeks.

Mr Salmond said: “It is time for the No campaign to draw a line in the sand under their fears and smears about Scotland, and fulfil their pledge to pursue a positive campaign based on reality.”

The First Minister also repeated his call for a head-to-head debate with Mr Cameron on the future of the country.

The pro-UK campaign has called on Mr Salmond to debate with Alistair Darling, the leader of the Better Together campaign – a call that has so far been rejected by the independence cause.

The Tory conference in Stirling will also hear tomorrow from Scots party leader Ruth Davidson, amid internal party criticism over her decision to back the principle of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Two fringe events will hear contrasting views from party figures today on the bitterly contested issue.

However, the decision not to stage a debate on the conference floor has angered some within the party who claim there should be the chance to discuss Ms Davidson’s change of policy.

Nationalists’ military vision ‘more like devo-plus’

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The SNP’s plans for defence after a Yes vote are more like “devo-plus” than independence, a military expert has warned.

An independent Scotland, which would keep the country’s existing regiments from the UK army, would be heavily reliant on the “protective umbrella” of international bodies such as Nato and the European Union, according to Professor Sir Hew Strachan. He suggests Scotland could instead adopt a more radical approach and focus on air and maritime operations.

And with no money for fast jets, Scotland should consider buying drones.

He added the continuation of the UK monarchy after independence means that soldiers in the proposed Scottish Defence Force will not “necessarily need to commit themselves to a new oath”.

Better Together takes fight to English towns

THE campaign group leading efforts to keep Scotland in the UK plans to set up a network of groups in towns and cities across England in a bid to galvanise support from Scots south of the Border.

Better Together – the cross party, pro-Union campaign organisation headed by former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling – plans to set up local committees in areas with large ex-pat Scottish populations. Following the launch of Better Together London this week there are plans for similar organisations in Corby, Blackpool, Liverpool and Newcastle, as well as other cities where Scots want to take part in the campaign.

Scots living in England will not have a vote in next year’s referendum.

However, Better Together hopes they will help with fundraising, while also persuading family and friends in Scotland to vote to remain part of the UK.

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A Better Together spokesman said: “We will try to find local leader and then set up committees. It will be quite informal, but our aim is to give a voice to Scots living in other parts of the UK in the referendum debate.”

Devo-max finding favour says survey

A No vote in the independence referendum next year will not settle Scotland’s constitutional future, new research has indicated.

Only a devo-max style settlement, where the Scottish Parliament is handed full control over tax-raising and spending, holds any prospect of becoming the settled will of Scots, according to the Scottish Social Attitudes survey.

Alex Salmond was keen to have devo max as a third option on the referendum ballot paper, alongside a Yes or No to independence, but it was ruled out by the Coalition government at Westminster.

The research findings place more pressure on the pro-Union parties to iron out proposals for more devolution in the event of a No vote next year, which the report warns will only “instigate further debate” about the constitutional question.

The report, compiled by ScotCen Social Research, says support for a Yes vote has also fallen from 43 per cent in 2011 to 35 per cent in 2012.

“Rather than proving to be ‘decisive’ it would seem that a majority No vote will simply instigate yet further debate about Scotland’s constitutional future,” the report warns.

“The contours of the current constitutional settlement do not match those of majority public opinion so far as the division of powers between Westminster and Holyrood is concerned.”

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As well as control in areas like health and education which it already enjoys, the report shows that most Scots say Holyrood should have control over welfare and taxation.