Carmichael: We should be proud of what we are achieving in the UK, not talking about leaving

Union FlagIn a week where I’ve despaired a bit of the pro-UK campaign in the Scottish Independence Referendum, it’s good to see Alistair Carmichael come out brimming with pride at what we have and what we’ve built together in the UK. In a speech at Edinburgh University last night. Yes, it’s a wee bit listy, but we actually need to look at and appreciate what we’ve got rather than just assume that the grass on the other side is going to be greener. Frankly, when people are wooed by the thrill of something new and exciting, the results can often not be the bliss they anticipate.

I can’t believe he got through a list of the benefits of the UK without mentioning Ant and Dec once, but never mind. He also could have paused to reflect on the web of social protection that we have built – human rights, employment rights, health and safety legislation, a health service which actually gets it right most of the time and which has the flexibility to meet the different needs north and south of the border.

We’ve made so much progress by partnership, working together across the UK.

I’m liking the language in this – it’s not quite there yet, but we need more, please. The UK side has to put some effort into this relationship, so that nobody takes each other for granted.

I hear whispers of more of this sort of thing at our Conference in Aberdeen this weekend.

This is what Alistair said:

Those of us who want Scotland to stay part of the UK need to be less shy when it comes to talking up the benefits the UK brings us. There are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to talk the UK down or blame it for every conceivable ill.

If we pause to reflect on what we get from being part of the UK family then we should be proud of what we are achieving, not thinking about leaving.

The UK works well for Scotland. We are benefitting because we are part of the UK, not despite being part of the UK. Just think about some of those benefits that we don’t shout about nearly enough and our opponents try to pinch or airbrush.

A UK economy with the strongest growth in the G7.
Record low interest rates.
Inflation down this week to just 1.7%
A strong and stable currency that has the respect of the international markets.

Scottish economic performance, as part of the UK, is second only to London and the South East of England.

Our unemployment rate is lower than the UK average.

Our employment rate is higher than the UK average.

As part of a larger UK, we are predicted to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030.

We have a truly single UK jobs market with no barriers to movement (national insurance, tax, pensions) which provides opportunities for thousands of Scots.

We have a single tax and regulatory system that allows the financial services sector and a host of other businesses to base themselves in Scotland without concern about the location of their customer base.

Being part of a larger UK economy we know we have a lender of last resort big enough to protect or banks and our savings.

As part of a larger UK our government can afford to invest in the North Sea’s future and absorb the impact of a 40% drop in production this year and the on-going decline of those resources that we know is coming the years ahead.

Scotland’s big employers are queuing up to say the UK provides strength, stability and jobs for Scotland . BP, Shell, Aggreko, Babcock, Standard Life, Black Rock are just some of the recent examples.

Being part of a big, successful UK economy with a stable currency, and low interest rates and a single tax and regulatory system also keeps our mortgage costs low.
It keeps our insurance costs low.
It keeps our energy bills down.

The UK’s size means Scotland has more influence in the EU, where we have a louder voice in the Council of Ministers, speaking up for Scotland’s fishing interests, our oil & gas sector, our financial services.

We have influence at the G7, G20 and NATO

We have an overseas aid budget that is now the second highest in the world and that allows Scotland to contribute more to humanitarian causes than we ever could as a smaller country.

And it is also worth saying that the UK has led the world with inspirational projects like Band Aid, Comic Relief and Sport relief that have raised hundreds of millions of pounds through UK generosity and creativity. Scotland played our full part in last week’s Sport Relief effort that has already raised more than £53 million for people in the UK and around the world.

We have a strong Scotland with a strong Scottish Parliament in a United Kingdom.

We can take the decisions with regard to our health, education, justice, transport and the environment at Holyrood. But we can do so while retaining our proud place at the heart of the UK family.

A family that we have built and which continues to provide opportunity and security on an unprecedented size and scale. We should keep building that family, not break it apart.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I think this is a good tack to take: accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

    But we do need to tackle head on the principal question many Scots have: what’s going to be done to make society fairer and more equal. That is one of the arguments the Nats always make: that Scotland is somehow more egalitarian and social democratic than those nasty, Tory English. We need to be taking them on on their own ground, and it’s a question that is really pressing at UK level, not just as part of the Scottish debate.

  • Alex Dingwall 28th Mar '14 - 12:00pm

    I am somewhat more taken back by your comment that: “He also could have paused to reflect on the web of social protection that we have built – human rights, employment rights, health and safety legislation…….”

    On Employment Rights we have seen our party acquiesce to a sustained reversal of hard won rights by the Conservatives. None of which were in either party’s manifesto or indeed the coalition agreement.

    • Reducing the amount of time employers need to consult on collective redundancies from 90 days to 45 days.

    • The removal of legal aid for all employment cases except discrimination.

    • Increasing the time an employee needs to work before bringing a claim of unfair dismissal from one year to two years. (affecting 12% of employees)

    • Applying fees to tribunal claims. The result has been an 80% reduction in equal pay claims being brought, 66% drop in claims of discrimination on sexual orientation claims and a 60% drop in Race Discrimination cases brought.

    • Removing the right to have unfair dismissal claims heard by a full tribunal. The industrial jury has been replaced by judge only hearings in ever more types of claim.

    • As of 29 July 2013 employers can now have confidential conversations with an employee to instigate the termination of their employment. Such conversations are not disclosable in an employment tribunal in respect of unfair dismissal claims.

    • Repealing the protection of employees from harassment by third parties in the Equality Act

    • Abolishing the statutory questionnaire in the Equality Act which is used to help gather evidence in discrimination cases. Discrimination claims are already hard to win and shamefully this vital tool will cease to be available as of this month.

    • Removing s47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 effectively removing the 114 year old right of an employee to rely on a breach of health and safety legislation in any claim for personal injury.

    Rights hard won by trade unionists have been reversed by decades. Our party needs to hold our ministers far more to account on these matters and I hope the manifesto team will seek to provide a clear vision on how we restore and improve employee rights.

  • michael murphy 28th Mar '14 - 8:57pm

    Very disappointed with Nick Clegg’s comparison of UKIP and SNP today. The YES campaign is NOT for pulling apart and Isolation but for democracy and co-operation with RUK and Europe. If he believes the current set up is one of partnership within the UK and he also believes in Europe why does he not put the case to the people of England Wales and NI that they hand over income tax, corporation tax, national insurance, VAT, duty, APD, Oil Revenues, Welfare policy, Defence and Foreign affairs to Brussels to determine for them in exchange for a block “grant” and the pleasure of hosting French Nuclear weapons somewhere in the Thames Estuary. What reaction do you think he’d get trying to sell that as better together in Europe ?

  • chris j smart 29th Mar '14 - 12:38pm

    I regret that your list of diluted Employment Rights is yet another stark reminder of how far the LIb Dem parliamentary party has betrayed the rank and file voter using the excuse of coalition. No wonder the Scottish people are seriously considering trying to start afresh. Having strong ties to Scotland I can fully understand the reaction to recent input from London based politicians being an upsurge in support of total independence. The more pressure that is applied to ensure continued union the more Scots will vote for independence. As with broken pledges the Poll tax experiment is not yet forgotten . The only reason Scotland has remained within the UK has been lack of self confidence. The lack of confidence was the result of loosing so many of their best to emigration. The Scots have been providing brains for the UK and across the world since the beginning of the industrial revolution . Although I might feel it would be frying pan to fire perhaps they have just had enough of status quo.

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