Scottish independence referendum: 4 weeks to go

THE Scottish independence referendum campaign enters its final stage today with just four weeks to go until the fate of the nation is revealed.

Picture: HeMedia
Picture: HeMedia

MSPs met at Holyrood for the last time before the referendum yesterday, clearing the decks for the last stretch of the campaign beginning with speeches by key figures from both campaigns.

Scottish singing duo The Proclaimers will join Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins in Edinburgh this morning, promising “an important campaign announcement”.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown will join Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont to make the case for a No vote in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander will join Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar argue for keeping the UK together at a mosque in Pollockshields.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will begin the final leg of his party’s campaign to keep Scotland in the union with a visit to St Andrews in Fife.

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon opened today’s campaigning with a message for pensioners, insisting Mr Brown must explain why he is “backing Tory plans to cut payments for pensioners across Scotland”.

She said: “When he was the prime minister, Gordon Brown backed a much slower increase in the state pension age, but now the Labour party has joined the Tories in plans to increase the state pension age to 67 from 2026.

“This decision is unfair to men and women across Scotland and will mean that Scottish pensioners continue to lose on average £10,000 compared to pensioners in the rest of the UK.

“The decision to follow the Tory lead and abolish savings credit is a direct hit on poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement.

“This is a particularly mean spirited decision and Labour should be ashamed that they have signed up with the Tories on this cut.

“Similarly the decision not to increase pension credit in line with the triple-lock is a blow to poorer pensioners.

“Labour and the Tories are singing from the same hymn sheet on pension cuts and it is only a Yes vote that will protect pensioners in future from these cuts.

“Scotland is a rich country which can well afford to fund our pension payments and an independent Scotland will give pensions and pensioners the priority they deserve.”

A Better Together spokesman said: “Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s bluster, the reality is that independence would put the hard earned pensions of Scots at risk.

“The impartial experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made clear that a separate Scotland would need to make extra cuts worth £6 billion to things like pensions in the first few years after independence. That’s a risk we don’t have to take.

“Pooling and sharing our resources across an economy of more than 63 million people in the UK, rather than just five million people in Scotland, secures the pensions of Scots. We should say no thanks to putting that at risk with independence.”

Mr Rennie will set out his arguments for a No vote in the referendum, stating the country benefits from shaping its own agenda in the Scottish Parliament while ‘’sharing risk and reward across the broad UK shoulders’’.

He will then join activists as they hit the streets of the town as part of Scottish Liberal Democrat canvassing events spanning the country from Shetland to the Borders.

Mr Rennie is expected to say: ‘’I can think of no better way to kick off our final leg of campaigning than in St Andrews, home to the third oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of St Andrews.

“It is one of the many reasons that I am proud to be a Fifer. It is one of many why I am proud to be Scottish.

“It is one of the many reasons I believe that we can and will achieve more as part of the UK family of nations.

“That is the positive case for the best of both worlds that Scottish Liberal Democrats have been making throughout this campaign.”

Scotland will go to the polls on September 18, with the result expected to be revealed the following day.