Scuffles broke out and insults were hurled on Tuesday as the battle for Scotland’s future descended into its most acrimonious day of political fighting.
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said the campaign has had “an ugly side” after he was forced to cut short a visit in Edinburgh having been jostled and heckled, while George Galloway, the Respect MP, claimed he had been told he was going to “face a bullet” at a rally in Glasgow.
With emotions running high in the final hours before polling begins on Thursday in the referendum, nationalists were accused of waging a “campaign of lies” on the NHS, with the future of the health service set to be the crucial final battleground in the referendum race.
Claim and counterclaim intensified between the two camps, but on Wednesday the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, will issue an appeal to the people of Scotland, urging them to “wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country”.
In an open letter, Mr Salmond will urge Scots to cast their vote with “a clear head and a clear conscience”, describing the moment facing them in the polling booth as “the greatest, most empowering moment any of us will ever have”.
His letter concludes with the rallying call: “Let’s do this.” He says: “For every scare tactic, there is a message of hope, opportunity and possibility.”
But on Tuesday, leaders from the No campaign claimed to be the victims of heckling and harassment, with Mr Miliband called a “f****** liar” and Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat minister, saying he was shouted down at a rally in Glasgow. Mr Galloway said he was “threatened with a bullet” at the same event.
Scottish independence: What will happen to key British institutions?
Scottish independence: What will happen to key British institutions?
1/7 The 2015 General Election
If it votes for independence, Scotland won’t leave the union until 2016 meaning, under current arrangements, that if Scots decide to go it alone they will still vote in the 2015 general election. The possibility of Scotland swinging the vote in favour of the government with which it will negotiate their independence has led some to call for the elections to be delayed. Downing Street has said, however, that it has no plans to postpone the election despite claims a yes vote could lead to a constitutional crisis.
2/7 The NHS
Alex Salmond has said a Yes vote in the referendum is the only way to save Scotland’s National Health Service. This claim was undermined, however, yesterday when research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies determined that Scotland’s devolved government spent less in real terms on its health service than England. Despite this, the splitting up of the NHS would be more straightforward than other institutions, as it is already managed from Holyrood.
3/7 The BBC
The Licence fee in Scotland currently raises around £230m which the Yes campaign says it would use, along with the assets of BBC Scotland, to create a Scottish Broadcasting Service or SBS. It says the SBS would continue to provide original content to the BBC and Scotland would receive access to all current programming, including BBC1, BBC2 and national radio stations. The government has said since February that an independent Scotland would lose any automatic rights to BBC programming.
4/7 The Pound
The No Campaign is hoping that doubts over whether or not Scotland will be able to keep the pound will sway the referendum in its favour. George Osborne has said that the UK will not let Scotland keep the pound if it votes to leave the union and the leader of the Better Together coalition, former Chancellor Alistair Darling, has called the Yes campaign’s suggestion that it keep the currency “mad”. Alex Salmond has claimed repeatedly that Scotland will be able to retain the pound and has said speculation to the contrary is little more than fear mongering.
5/7 The Army
Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war and the stationing of the Trident Nuclear fleet north of the border are unpopular in Scotland. The Scottish Nationalists have railed against the war saying they would scrap Trident and create a new Scottish defence force based on existing Scottish regiments.
6/7 The Royal Family
Scotland would keep the Queen as a head of state under current plans proposed by the Yes campaign, as Elizabeth Queen of Scots. It would also remain part of the Commonwealth. However a second referendum could be held to determine what form a new Scottish state would take.
Scotland’s Rugby and Football teams would remain as they are if Scotland voted to leave the UK but the British and Irish Lions could be forced into a name change. What would happen to the British Olympic Association also remains up for debate. Scotland’s most successful Olympian Sir Chris Hoy has said he is wary of independence because of the number of Scottish athletes living and training in England and what their status would be.
A succession of senior Labour figures turned on Mr Salmond, accusing him and his party of repeatedly lying by suggesting that the NHS in Scotland would be vulnerable to privatisation in the event of a No vote.
They spoke out after leaked documents showed that Scotland’s health service is facing a “funding shortfall” of up to £450m in 2015-16, suggesting that deep cuts are likely after the referendum.
The leaked NHS documents, which were presented to a meeting of health board chief executives and civil servants last month, say the closure of services in Scotland will have to be considered. “The status quo and preservation of existing models of care are no longer an option given the pressing challenges we face,” they read.
Mr Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, said the suggestion that NHS funding would have to be cut in order to make the savings was “absolutely untrue”.
His deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, said the leaked paper highlighted the pressure being placed on Scotland’s NHS from Westminster.
Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, said Mr Salmond’s “lies have been exposed, laid bare”, adding: “It is the SNP who are perpetrating a lie about what the NHS can and cannot do in Scotland.”
Margaret Curran, Labour’s shadow Scotland Secretary, added: “We have got a campaign of lies from the SNP who are trying to tell us that the NHS is under threat when in fact it is under threat from the SNP.”
Alex Neil, the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, said: “We have not been lying to people at all. We are not going to be cutting the NHS budget. We have passed a budget for this year and we have published a budget for next year and both of those show a substantial increase in spending for the NHS.”
The drive for independence has led some MPs to demand that the Westminster anomaly allowing Scottish MPs to vote on England-only issues is urgently addressed. They were referring to the “West Lothian question”, which was first raised in 1977 by Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for that Scottish constituency.
Read more: A nation divided against itself
Who gets Jim Naughtie and will pillar boxes be blue?
The Quebec effect: Risks in Yes and No
Faced with slew of warnings, City takes a step back
David Cameron hinted on Tuesday that a plan to deal with the problem was under consideration, but added that the Government was not “remotely near” creating an English Parliament.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research think-tank warned that Mr Salmond’s threat to withhold Scotland’s share of the UK national debt if no formal currency union is agreed after independence may backfire.
“International investors are likely to see walking away from debt as opportunistic and charge very high borrowing premiums or exclude Scotland from international capital markets,” it said in a report. “This would imply an immediate return to a fiscal surplus and unprecedented austerity.”
But John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, insisted that a currency union would be agreed after a Yes vote “because it’s in the overwhelming financial interest of the rest of the UK as well as an independent Scotland”.Reuse content