For a while, I’ve considered what argument I’d make for Scotland staying in the UK. Truthfully, when the ‘Project Fear’ tagline escaped the headquarters of Better Together I wasn’t surprised, because it’s exactly the tactic I would have pursued. People, Scots or otherwise, are particularly fond of saying they want change in politics, but they don’t really. Explain Nigel Farage’s economic policies to anyone without mentioning him or his party, and it’s only Tories that are drawn to voting for him. Real change, let’s say the idea that you elect the cabinet at a GE, thus perhaps ending up with a Tory as Defence Minister, Labourite as Home Secretary and a Green in charge of climate change; well that truly rocks the boat, and no one wants that. It’s partly because of that that the case for AV failed so spectacularly.
So convincing Scots not to vote for change shouldn’t really be that hard. Many already want to stay, even if they don’t feel particularly ‘British’. It’s to the credit of the Yes campaign that they’ve educated so many – myself included to an extent – on the financial viability of an independent Scotland. Most did think the oil was running out, England subsidised us, our economy was too volatile and didn’t really count all that much. Too wee, too poor and too stupid, in other words. For me this wasn’t a dealbreaker, because I’d rather the country be run by people in it that actually care, as opposed to a bunch of millionaires 600 miles away even if we would be a bit poorer, but that’s me and I completely understand people who are scared by that.
Playing on those fears and uncertainties then, seems perfectly logical. Negative campaigning has a history of success. One need only look to recent US elections to see that the 2008 positive campaign success of President Obama was something of an aberration. Contrast it with the Swift Boat scandal of John Kerry, or the linking to President Clinton’s misdemeanours of Al Gore. UKIP’s entire election strategy is based on negativity. Be feart of foreigners, hate the Government, hate the opposition. It’s working too, at least in England.
Where’s the positive case for the Union, though? We’ve been promised it, and we’ve been promised it because the negative one is failing to a frankly staggering degree. Well don’t hold your breath because I don’t think it’s coming. I don’t think it’s because one doesn’t exist though. You can make a positive argument for anything if you try hard enough. So I thought I’d have a go. If I was David Cameron, this is what I’d say to Scots, coupled with an extensive tour of the place, public meetings, drops into pubs, university visits, the works. Scots aren’t going to be swayed by a speech from London, and they won’t respond well to a flying cabinet visit.
Below, I’ve also tried to base the speech on the way the PM speaks, rather than the way I do. See what ye think.
“First, let me say that though I intend to be active in the Better Together campaign, it’s right and proper that the Scottish people should be the masters of their own fate. I agree with the referendum process and I will respect your decision.
Let me say also that in the event of a Yes vote, however much I hope that is not the result, of course we will still be friends. While my interest and that of the rest of the government and parliament will be rightly focused on what’s best for the remainder of the United Kingdom, where possible we will look for solutions that benefit those both North and South of the Border. There are many areas we could work together on, as we now do with our other friends and allies around the world.
As the Scottish people make their decision, it is entirely appropriate that they be fully informed, and in pursuing that goal I will support the forthcoming efforts of Better Together as they outline some very real risks that could face an independent country. I reject however, any attempt to ‘scare’ the Scots into voting No. We’ve seen that tactic tried in the past and it has failed; the Scots are too smart for that.
Ours is a Union that has seen ups and downs, and hasn’t always been easy going. For three centuries we’ve laughed and loved, and sometimes argued and bickered. Beyond that however, we’ve emerged stronger, with statesmen from Scotland standing tall among the greats of the Government, Scottish exports joining English, Welsh and Irish ones making ours a dynamic and strong economy, and Scottish sportsmen and women helping to make our teams some of the most competitive in the world. No one should doubt that Scotland is a vital part of this Union, and we are all stronger for her involvement.
There are some, who ask me, ‘David, why are you so passionate about staying with Scotland,’ for passionate I am. They suggest that any future Tory government would only be strengthened by the loss of Scottish Labour votes. For me however, this issue is above party politics. I will continue to argue against Alex Salmond, but this referendum is not about the SNP, or the Conservative party. It is bigger than that. It is about the future of the five million people living in Scotland today, and their children that will live here in the future. No one should be in any doubt that this is the great vote of our age and party politics has no place in it.
Indeed, for perhaps the first time, you will see a united front, of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures come together and make a positive case, for one of the few things we can truly agree on is that our Britain is made greater through Scotland’s participation.
Alex Salmond will no doubt use past grievances to justify Scotland leaving, and no one, not even a Tory Prime Minister, can deny that at times in our shared history, sometimes London has failed Scotland. That is unfortunate, and unacceptable. This referendum should not be based on past mistakes however, but on the exciting future Scotland can enjoy as part of the United Kingdom.
The ingenuity inherent to the Scottish people will mean they are a success whether they vote Yes or No. Only with a No vote however, can they truly contribute to something bigger than themselves, with their friends and family in Newcastle, Carlisle, Bristol, Belfast and Newport. Only as part of this Union can we all, those in Scotland and those without, work together on all things to make all things better. It is a fact that with the best will in the world, as separate nations we will disagree and sometimes our interests will be separate, but together what is good for Edinburgh is good for London, what is good for the Shetlands is good for Yorkshire, what is good for Scotland, is good for all of us, because together we share the graft, and together we reap the rewards.
Never in history has there been such a successful union of nations than this one started three centuries ago between a very different Scotland and England. Back then, division was rife and wars between us were not a forgotten event. Today though we don’t always agree, we work through our differences to find solutions that not only work for us, but make the world look on in envy.
Our United Kingdom is truly special, and it would be lesser if in September, the Scots chose to leave it. With all my heart, I want you to stay. We want you to stay. You are our friends, you are our family. You are us, and we are better for you. I hope that in the debate leading up to September, we can convince you that you are better for us but for now let me finish simply.
Scotland. Thank you for what you’ve already given us and the world as part of this Union. I can’t wait to see what we do next. Please, stay with us.”