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The Better Together campaign must try harder

26th June 2012

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Yesterday saw the launch of the official cross-party 'Better Together' campaign against Scottish independence, in preparation for the proposed referendum that will most likely be held in the autumn of 2014.

In Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, all three main pro-Union parties in Scotland (Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives) gathered together to voice their concerns over splitting the three-hundred year old political union between Scotland and England.

Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling is being put forward as the figurehead of the 'No' campaign, whilst prominent former Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy and former Scottish Conservative leader, Annabel Goldie, are being rolled out to stress the Union cause.

A seemingly impressive line-up, one might think. Surely a cordial coalition of anti-independence parties should destroy the, now, Scottish National Party-dominated 'Yes' campaign? Perhaps not.

Despite all the friendly handshakes (of which there was a suspicious amount of) between Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, it all seemed very false to this observer.

None of these parties have been particularly cordial in their relations with one another in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament in the year since the Scottish Parliamentary Elections of May 2011. Serious tensions have arisen, particularly as Scottish Labour attempt to press home to Scottish voters the damage which the Westminster coalition of the Lib Dems and Conservatives is doing to those of us north of the border. It seems that the entire proposed 'unity' of the campaign is based upon the age-old tenet of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'.

Prior to the official launch and press conference, the 'No' campaign had been desperate to highlight that their message for Scotland remaining in the Union was a positive one, hence 'Better Together', and that they could match the 'Yes' campaign's optimism for Scotland's future, but as a key player in the United Kingdom, as opposed to going it alone.

However, the speech Alistair Darling gave was not one which I would necessarily describe as 'positive'. Certainly, he never actually said that Scotland would be worse off if it became independent, but the majority of supposed 'positives' were merely negative points which had been re-worded and disguised as being positive. A key example would be when Darling talked of the act of independence itself, in a particularly doom-mongering manner:

"The last thing we need are the new areas of uncertainty, instability and division that separation will involve. The choice we make will be irrevocable. If we decide to leave the United Kingdom there is no way back. We can't give our children a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain destination."

Not exactly positive, is it?

Darling also spoke of the recent economic crisis, and how similar sized-nations to Scotland, such as Iceland and the Republic of Ireland, went into economic depression, and implying that, had Scotland not remained in the Union, it too would have faced such an outcome. This is forgetting that nations such as Sweden and Denmark, also of similar size to Scotland, have not only survived the economic collapse, but have actually fared better than the UK has.

Another key reason that 'Better Together' is promoting as to why Scotland should remain in the Union is that one in five workers in Scotland is employed by an English company. Evidently, the 'Better Together' campaign has not heard of 'capitalism'. It is ludicrous to suggest that English companies would suddenly pull out of an independent Scotland. There still remain British companies in the Republic of Ireland, despite independence. Globalisation and free-market economics mean that this implication is purely a scare tactic, designed to frighten Scots into voting against independence.

A recurring theme of the 'Better Together', and 'No' campaign as a whole, is that an independent Scotland would lose all the international influence that it, apparently, gains from being a part of the United Kingdom. I, and I'm sure many other Scots, do not give a damn about 'international influence'. So what if an independent Scotland would not have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, or be a member of NATO? The Republic of Ireland seems to do just fine, and it does not have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, nor is it a member of NATO. Regardless, the 'No' campaign is clearly deluded as to how important the UK still is, internationally.

As far as being a military power, the UK is not a major force any more, despite what it might want to believe. It still spends absurd amounts of money on defence, but it has been recognised by several governments that the UK cannot sustain it's current military operations or role. The 'No' campaign talks of the losses of jobs at Faslane Submarine Base, where the UK's nuclear submarine fleet is housed. These submarines use the Trident nuclear missile system, which is to be renewed in the next decade. The government has estimated the cost of renewal at between £15 billion and £20 billion. This cost could rise to as much as £34 billion, once VAT has been accounted for. The money saved from not renewing the UK's nuclear weapon arsenal, which will never be used and does not serve as a deterrent, could easily be used to re-employ and fund those who are made redundant as a result of the Faslane closure in an independent Scotland.

Excuse me if I, for one, would be glad for an independent Scotland to be a neutral nation, which does not get itself involved in attempting to police the globe. I would also be extremely pleased not to hear of the deaths of Scottish soldiers in a prolonged and futile military occupation of Afghanistan on a regular basis.

Of course, the 'Yes' campaign is not without issues. A couple of weeks ago, the pro-independence Scottish Greens walked out of the official 'Yes Scotland' campaign, leaving just the Scottish Nationalists and the Scottish Socialist Party as the proponents of the campaign. This is a major blow for the official campaign, as the Greens are the only party with seats in the Scottish Parliament to support independence, outside of the SNP. They are still in favour of independence, and will campaign as such, but they seem unlikely to be returning to the fold of the SNP-dominated 'Yes Scotland' campaign.

I am also not deluded enough to believe that, as it stands, Scots would vote for independence. In several polls, it has been shown that the option to stay in the Union has a consistent ten to twenty-point lead. However, support for independence is at it's highest point in decades, and there are still two years of campaigning ahead of us before Scots go to the polls to decide our constitutional future.

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