I am about to head off to Stirling to see Alistair Carmichael deliver his first keynote speech of the year in which he will set out the benefits of Scotland remaining in the UK. The pro-UK arguments have mainly been quite dry and technical and he wants to do more to relate them directly to people’s practical concerns and to celebrate what the UK has achieved by building such institutions as the NHS and the BBC.
He will say
That partnership has a remarkable history. And we’re not just talking about the past – right now Scotland sees the benefit of this long shared history.
Right now, we get the benefits from natural resources like North Sea oil – but are able to manage the volatility in production and price as part of a much larger and diverse economy made up of 60 million individuals rather than just 5; 4.5 million companies rather than 320,000 – a market with no boundaries, no borders, no customs – but with a stable UK currency that is respected and envied across the world; a single financial system, and a single body of rules and regulations.
Let us not forget we get more back than we put in. Public spending in Scotland is consistently 10% higher than the UK average.
We’re able to absorb, to protect and to cherish differences: differences of culture, religion, accent, origin and much, much more. But let no-one underestimate what we share.
Our commitment to the UK family is not just about the facts and figures. It’s also about the values and ambitions we share.
The hands that built the United Kingdom have created things of enormous value. Together that strike a chord of pride within us and remind us all of what we can achieve together.
Together, we built a National Health Service. Together, we built the BBC – three letters that stand for excellence in broadcasting at home and around the world. Together, we have built a formidable sporting culture too. At London 2012 Games those outstanding athletes weren’t cheered on by parts of the UK, but by all of us.
They were our representatives. They worked together, they competed together – many had trained together at facilities across the UK. Their success fed our pride.
The NHS, the BBC, our sporting events, teams and heroes. These are just a few of the things that bind together our family in pride and endeavour. Shared values, shared effort, shared achievements. Why should we now break these things up?
By staying together, we can build on those values to create a strong and secure future. The hands that built the United Kingdom are still hard at work.
For too long we’ve let go unspoken the contribution that Scotland makes to the UK. And we’ve been equally silent on the benefits that we get from being part of it.
2013 was the year when the UK Government started putting the record straight.
We’re talking about a complex, detailed piece of analytical work – that’s because what we have in the UK is a product of years, of decades worth of cooperation and negotiation – both within the UK and with our neighbours.
You’ll find no grandiose flights of fancy here only the very facts of our United Kingdom:
· our banks are safer;
· we have greater financial protection for savers and pensioners;
· greater levels of competition delivering cheaper mortgages and insurance for families and businesses;
· we invest in research, infrastructure and industry to remain at the forefront of new technological developments;
· we have a single labour market which allows people to move freely within the UK for jobs.
The list can – and does – go on. And together these facts add up to make the positive case for Scotland in the UK.
We are hearing more ideas from the pro-UK side about how that union can develop further in the future. The first, of course, published well over a year ago, was Sir Menzies Campbell’s Commission which talked about more powers not just to Holyrood, but beyond that, to local communities.
On Saturday, Gordon Brown talked about using the union to promote social justice. While it’s a welcome contribution, it’s crying out for wry observation that he didn’t exactly do that when he had the chance. 10p tax, anybody? Having said that, the Scottish Government, even with the powers it has under devolution, could be doing so much more to combat poverty and poor housing, but instead tells us we have to wait for independence before anything can change.
I’ll be tweeting from Alistair’s speech this morning and I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings