Alistair Darling makes passionate plea for Scotland to stay in the UK

Former Chancellor launches pro-union 'Better Together' campaign in Edinburgh

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Indy Politics

Alistair Darling made a passionate defence of the United Kingdom yesterday as he launched the campaign against Scottish independence by insisting the nationalists do not have a monopoly on patriotism.

The former Labour Chancellor vowed to enthuse Scots about the status quo as the pro-union campaign tries to neuter the SNP's emotional appeal. "There are passions on both sides of this argument. It is not going to be one-way traffic," he said at the launch event in Edinburgh.

And he added: "We love Scotland, but loving Scotland does not mean leaving the United Kingdom behind."

If Mr Darling was unaware of the strength of nationalist feeling, he was given a vivid reminder when he arrived at Edinburgh's Napier University for yesterday morning's launch. He was greeted with hundreds of Saltires pegged to the railings, fixed to hedges and pinned to the lawns outside the university along with the slogans "End London Rule" and "Alba gu bràth" ("Scotland forever" in Gaelic).

The pro-independence campaign had even hired a trailer to drive around the campus raising awareness for their cause – at least until the lorry was forced off the road by a puncture.

Inside, Mr Darling's message was about the logic and the sense of staying together. "Inter-dependence, not independence," he said.

Mr Darling declared: "The truth is we can have the best of both worlds: a strong Scottish Parliament and a key role in a strong and secure United Kingdom." He added: "This is about what unites us, not what divides us."

The former Chancellor also took the opportunity to point out that his campaign would not be accepting donations from outside the UK – a clear reference to the donations which the SNP-run effort is expecting from Sir Sean Connery, who lives in the Bahamas, and others. But Mr Darling remained coy about the funding of his campaign, fuelling suggestions that the initial cash injection has come from Tory donors.

Mr Darling was joined by senior representatives of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties – but not the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, who could not make the event because his father is ill. The focus of the "Better Together" campaign was ordinary people. More than 40 individuals from all over Scotland came to Edinburgh to explain why they believed in the UK. This was a deliberate move by the pro-union strategists. They know they have to attract people from all parties and none to their side if they are going to halt the SNP's momentum. There were shipyard workers from the Clyde, a farmer from the Borders, a retired army officer from the west coast and a former beauty queen from Inverness.

Organisers of the "Better Together" campaign know yesterday's launch was the easy bit and that enthusing Scots about the virtues of "No Change" will be more difficult. But, as one senior UK government official said yesterday: "At least we are up and running. Now there is someone to challenge the SNP and say – it is all right to stand up for the United Kingdom."

Independence campaign: the battle lines

Get rid of nuclear weapons in Scotland, create a Scottish defence force.
No: Keep Trident at Faslane and protect the 40,000 defence- related jobs in Scotland.

Keep the pound but with the option of joining the euro after a referendum.
No: Keep the pound and enjoy low interest rates in comparison with the eurozone.

Scotland to become an immediate full member of the EU.
No: Remain a key member of the EU but outside the eurozone.

Keep the monarchy but establish a Scottish consulate in London and a Governor General in Scotland.
No: Keep the monarchy as head of state, with homes in Scotland, regular visits and all existing links to Scotland.

Ally Scotland with Scandinavian countries and oppose foreign invasions like Iraq.
No: Use Britain's existing network of embassies to promote Scotland and its exports abroad.