Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore told an audience in Edinburgh today that the SNP must stop talking about the process, must stop trying to get the UK Government to negotiate the terms under which Scotland could separate from the UK and get on with setting out their case.
We cannot have the Scottish Government fast forwarding through all the difficult bits to their longed for ending where they clinch a referendum victory.
People want to know what independence would mean for them, their families, and their communities.
Planning the summits and designing the constitutional apparatus is like framing and hanging a picture that is yet to be painted. No matter how gilded and fancy the frame, the missing image is the essential part. I know that it is also the most difficult part for the SNP. But, to be blunt, that is their problem. They must treat the people with respect and start painting the independence picture.
He announced that the UK Government would be publishing a series of papers showing what Scotland gains from being part of the UK:
We have a great and wide consular network with over 14,000 people in nearly 270 diplomatic offices, projecting our values around the globe and looking after Scots abroad. And as an integral part of the UK Scotland benefits from significant levels of influence in the EU, UN, G8 and other international institutions. But it’s not just on the international level that you can see the integration and benefits that being part of our shared United Kingdom brings. We also have close social, cultural and family ties across the UK.
More than 800,000 Scots live and work in other parts of the UK. Each year, around 50,000 people move to Scotland from the rest of the UK. One common passport, one national insurance system and one shared tax system that allows the free movement of people, goods and investment. Together providing a level of prosperity that is greater than the sum of its parts.
There is no-one in this debate who says Scotland couldn’t go it alone. What we – and those who share our view – are saying is it is better for Scotland and the rest of the UK to stay together in our United Kingdom.
He added that the debate must involve all of Scotland, not just politicians and business people:
I want charities, voluntary organisations, and social enterprises to be at the heart of this great debate. You have a crucial role to play. But most of all, you must help each and every voter in Scotland to seek out the evidence and find the information that will allow them to reach an informed decision in the referendum.
Although there is very long way to go before the referendum, the SNP has seen support for independence fall in recent months. A new poll suggests that barely a quarter of Scots currently back a split. While that should not give any cause for complacency to the Better Together campaign, especially given the high number of undecideds, Yes Scotland is bound to be frustrated that it’s actually going backwards the more the prospect of independence is discussed. It’s so much easier for them to shift the discussion to process and negotiation rather than the substantive issues that separation would create. It would be a shame if they and the SNP gave into the temptation to do so.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings