LibLink: Ming Campbell: I will vote no to independence because I love Scotland

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TWillie Rennie’s “sunshine strategy”, talking up the positive side of Scotland staying in the UK even got a mention on the Andrew Marr Show during our Scottish Conference. The independence referendum is sorely needing a lift, and on the rare occasion it gets it, it is usually down to a Liberal Democrat, it has to be said. Charles Kennedy, Mike Moore, Willie Rennie and Alistair Carmichael have all added some much-needed appreciation of the UK and thoughtful consideration of the arguments. This is  contrast to the efforts of some in the Labour Party. George Robertson, for example. A tad hyperbolic to predict “cataclysmic” effects if Scotland chooses independence. It puts my slight strop with Danny Alexander a couple of weeks ago into perspective. Tavish Scott said at a recent fringe meeting at Scottish Conference that it would take the Labour big beasts like John Reid to bring out the no vote in the Central Belt. I’m not sure he’s right, because quite  lot of the central belt has had enough of Labour throwing its weight about. If they go in with the attitudes espoused by Robertson, it’ll be entirely counter-productive.

Ming Campbell has continued the sunshine strategy with a piece over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free. He combines positive arguments to stay in the UK with a bit of a kick up the backside for both sides, saying that the pro UK parties need to show the path to more powers ahead of the vote on September 18th.

He starts, though, by talking about his love for Scotland. Some on the pro independence side are prone to questioning your Scottishness if you get too British for their liking.

In pre-referendum Scotland it is necessary to state one’s qualifications for publicly joining in the febrile and sometimes abusive debate about Scotland’s future. One Scottish MSP has said that those who oppose independence are anti-Scottish, hence the need for me to establish credentials. I was born in Scotland, my parents were Scottish, I went to school and university in Scotland, I married a Scot, I qualified in and practised law in Scotland, I represent a Scottish constituency, and I am the chancellor of Scotland’s oldest university.

I yield to no one in my love of my country. I shall vote no not because of uncertainties about membership of the EU or Nato, or the possibility of a currency union, but because I am unflinching in my belief that it is neither in the interests of the United Kingdom nor Scotland that we should separate. To do so would be to diminish both.

He goes on to outline some of the benefits that the UK has brought Scotland and vice versa:

For 300 years we have enjoyed the benefits of a single market. We have lived at peace with each other save for the last convulsions of Jacobitism in 1745. We have neither suffered invasion, nor civil war, fascism or communism. Look around you and see how few countries can make that claim. We have lived in a political system envied and copied around the world. We are members of the EU, Nato, the G7 and the Commonwealth, and have a permanent membership of the security council of the UN.

Nor have we lacked a Scottish political voice in the UK. We have been given a parliament and a referendum has been confirmed. In recent times David Steel, Robin Cook, Malcolm Rifkind, John Smith, Gordon Brown, Charles Kennedy, John Reid, Alistair Darling and others have occupied the great offices of state or led UK-wide political parties.

From the pro-indy side, he wants more clarity:

Are we not entitled to clear and unequivocal evidence that to do so would do more than satisfy the ambition of one political party? Are we not entitled to be confident that we can meet the uncertainties of currency and of membership of international institutions? Do we not require evidence that an economy based on unpredictable oil reserves and revenues can be sustained, with promises of high public spending and low taxation? None of these assurances is available. Even on the balance of probabilities, the case for independence has not been made.

And from the pro-UK side, a pathway to more powers is required. He’s given the detail in his Campbell II report, but here’s the reasoning behind it:

But those, like me, who exercise our right to argue against independence also have a duty. And that is to recognise that the majority of Scots still prefer a solution that allows Scotland to remain in the UK but for its parliament to have greater powers, most particularly economic. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats publicly acknowledge this reality. They differ in nuance and detail, but not in principle.

You can read the whole article here.

And, as an extra treat, if you want something really funny to read, anyone who has ever been canvassing will love this account of a pro independence campaigner’s doorstep debut. I’d better put in a naked men warning, though.

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

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  • How does the saying go, “If you love someone, set them free” 🙂

  • Julian Dean 8th Apr '14 - 6:43pm

    The general public will vote to leave and mainly because they detest being controlled by Tories.

    Very simplistic but entirely true.

  • One of the finest statements to date on remaining united, Ming Campbell is quoted ” I am unflinching in my belief that it is neither in the interests of the United Kingdom nor Scotland that we should separate. To do so would be to diminish both.” This is why as a non-voter in the south, a great lover of Scotland, I am passionate for us to embrace one another and forge a new future as a united, yet much more devolved, country into the 21st century.

    What really worries me is that the Better Together campaign is making similar mistakes to the abortive AV campaign … or even Clegg in his debate with Farage over the EU … making the (correct) “head” arguments but in such a way as to lose the “heart”, and thus the vote.

  • @ Julian Dean

    “The general public will vote to leave and mainly because they detest being controlled by Tories.Very simplistic but entirely true”

    No, they detest being told that there isn’t unlimited public funding for lots of nice government spending. Just as a whole load of Lib Dems have decamped to Labour because Labour promises lots of goodies, even though their sums don’t add up and involve spending money many times over.

    Yet people won’t listen, will they?

  • RC
    Julian Dean is much nearer the mark. For more than a generation in Scotland even rightwing people have not voted forthenConservative and Unionist Party. The clue is in the name.

    If someone suggested that England should be run by a small clique of people all of whom went to the same elite school in say Massachusetts people would say it was a mad idea. It is nothing to do with Labour promising lots of goodies. You may not have noticed but in the Scotland referendum the Liberal Democrats and Labour are on the same side, the unionist side. How mad is that?

  • Mr Campbell’s article got a roasting in the comments on the Guardian.

    To start with he says in his article “We [ie the Scots] were given a Parliament….” as one of the benefits of Union. Given?! We campaigned and fought for one! The fact that we had to be “given” it by another political institution in the face of bitter opposition from initially two of the three Unionist parties says a lot.

    Looking to the future, if Mr Campbell thinks that the Unionist parties differ only in nuance over more powers for the Scottish Parliament then he, firstly, must know what the Tory proposals are and, secondly, the Lib Dems must be lacking in ambition if they are aligned aligned with Labour’s “devo nano” proposals. What happened to ” Home Rule ” and federalism?

    Having combined with the Tories and Labour to deny Scotland a vote on devo max in the referendum, the Lib Dems are now saying trust us, the cheque will be in the post once we have agreed what we are going to “give” you with the Tories and Labour.

    Sorry Ming, it doesn’t match up the majority wishes of people in Scotland. I would have voted for devo max; I will be voting for independence.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 9th Apr '14 - 4:28pm

    Guys, to me this looks like a back-room discussion by people who will work out what be believe and how to put it into practice. What we need next is a simple voting sound-bite – such as Labour does- like – the rich must pay higher taxes than the poor. Keep it simple, as that is what people vote about. Let us know when you have made the important decision for the Manifesto [that is the thread isn’t it?]

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 9th Apr '14 - 4:30pm

    Sorry guys, posted in the wrong thread. Will try again.

  • I think much better than Scottish independence (with all of its question marks) would be a renegotiated Union, arranged between equals, which gives Scotland a better deal than it got in 1707 — a Union which would allow for an open border and shared institutions, but which would give the Scots the authority to decide, for instance, whether they want to have nuclear weapons stationed in or transiting their territory; and which might allow Scotland a separate voice in some international organisations, such as the EU.

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