Now is the time to really focus. Now, with one week to go before the Scottish people take a decision that could end the United Kingdom as we know it. Now is the time to cast aside political calculation and have everyone say what they think. Naturally, Alex Salmond is delighted that the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition abandoned Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It was a decision that betrayed desperation, but this is a critical time for those, including this newspaper, who want to keep the Union together.
Let us add our voice, then, to the voices of the UK’s political leaders. It may be that pleas for the Union from London-based media are counter-productive, just as it may be that undecided Scottish voters are put off by appeals from London-based politicians. But such calculations have inhibited supporters of the Union for too long. David Cameron has been perhaps too courteous in staying away from the referendum campaign most of the time, for fear of being seen to be trying to dictate to the Scottish people.
If the arrival of the three Westminster party leaders drives more voters into the arms of the Yes campaign, so be it. The campaign to save the Union will never satisfy Mr Salmond’s partisans. If we point out the practical problems of a country with no currency, we are accused of being negative and emotionless. If Mr Cameron drops everything to make an emotional, personal appeal, complete with a reference to “effing Tories”, he is accused of panic and hysteria.
Well, it is time for the rest of the UK to show that it cares about Scotland’s future. If anything, the Prime Minister should have been more emotional yesterday. Instead of speaking in a closed, antiseptic meeting, he should have taken to the streets and faced the barracking. As should Ed Miliband.
One of the positive things about the past few weeks of the referendum campaign has been the life, passion and unpredictability of democracy in the raw, and Mr Cameron should have waded right in. Even so, he went there and he made his case – and the nationalists have still failed to answer fundamental questions about the currency of an independent Scotland, its public finances and its economic prospects.
Yesterday’s news from Standard Life, the Edinburgh-based pensions company, which is planning to move some operations to England if Scotland votes for independence, should give Yes voters pause. As should the statement from BP that the Scottish people would get more benefit from its industry if they stayed in the UK.
Yes voters ought to recognise that independence is all very well in its own terms but it cannot automatically solve their problems or make them better off. City analysts – that is, analysts in the City of Edinburgh – agree that an independent Scottish economy would be weaker and probably less balanced than it is as part of the UK’s. Some Scottish people would rather be independent even if they are poorer and less secure. That is a point of view. It is unlikely that people who believe in it can have their minds changed. But we do not believe that such people are in a majority in Scotland.
Yes, unionists are panicking. That is because they are desperate for the people of Scotland to think again over the next seven days about a case that seems “not proven” to us. To think again about the sustainability of Scotland’s share of the deficit. And to think again whether they really want to bring to an end our shared history, shared pride and shared strength.Reuse content