Backlash against Westminster bullying grows as Darling’s former aide joins Yes campaign


  By a Newsnet reporter
As the backlash against the currency threat issued by UK Chancellor George Osborne threatens to derail the campaign against Scottish independence, it has today emerged that the former election agent of Labour MP Alistair Darling has joined the Yes campaign.
According to the Sunday Times the Labour MP’s first election agent, Ian Newton, has joined the Yes campaign citing the intervention of the Tory Chancellor as a reason for the move.

The revelation is the latest in a string of damaging blows to the Better Together campaign which is headed by Mr Darling and follows comments from two of the UK’s biggest banks – Barclays and RBS – who last week indicated a lack of concern over the prospect of a Yes vote.

However it is the visit to Edinburgh by Mr Osborne on Friday that has dominated referendum exchanges, with both sides seeking to capitalise on the Chancellor’s speech.

Initial coverage appeared to place the Scottish Government on the back-foot and Mr Osborne’s stance on a currency union was strengthened when Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls publicly backed his Tory counterpart’s move.

However the joint stance from the two main UK parties has slowly backfired with growing evidence that most Scots see the Tory/Labour alliance as an attempt to intimidate ordinary Scots into voting No.

That view has been strengthened with comments from senior Labour party figures condemning the threats. 

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish issued a strongly worded statement which criticised what he described as the “relentless negativity of the No campaign”.  Mr McLeish was joined by Labour MP Austin Mitchell who said the comments from Osborne constituted an attack on the North of England.

The MP for Grimsby tweeted: “Message to all three parties: stop bullying Scotland! The north is watching you and Scotland is our front line. Do them down and you kick us.”

Commenting on the growing row over Mr Osborne’s speech, SNP MSP Sandra White said it was evidence of “sheer panic” at the heart of the Westminster establishment over the shrinking gap between Yes and No in opinion polls.

She added:

“In what is a deeply embarrassing development for the No camp and Alistair Darling, his first election agent, Ian Newton, has declared that he is now among the many people in Scotland who are moving to Yes in response to George Osborne’s threats, and Labour’s parroting of the Tories.

“To deepen this embarrassment, veteran Labour MP Austin Mitchell has called on Westminster to stop ‘alternatively threatening and patronising Scotland’.

“Last week, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish called for ‘common sense’, highlighting that the relentless negativity of the No campaign will bring more people to vote Yes.

“People across the UK are also taking stock of the way Westminster is treating Scotland, and they don’t like what they see.  Even the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph are catching on, with yesterday’s UK edition of the Daily Mail saying the ‘negative, threatening approach…is proving counter-productive’ and the Telegraph’s assistant editor in agreement that Westminster is bluffing on currency.”

The MSP’s comments coincided with polls that showed support for a Yes vote surging in the aftermath of the Chancellor’s speech.

She said: “And polls last week showed that people across Scotland will not be bullied – with one poll finding the gap between Yes and No narrowing to 4 points, which translates to 48% Yes to 52% No when don’t knows are excluded; and another poll showing that Osborne’s cack-handed intervention is encouraging people into the Yes camp.

“This lack of respect from Westminster will get the No campaign nowhere. People across Scotland are coming to the realisation that the best response and best way forward is to vote Yes in September.”

According to a poll in the Courier newspaper, which asked 677 people: “Have recent statements on the future of the pound changed how you will vote in the referendum?”

42% said they were more likely to vote Yes, 32% said they were more likely to vote No and 27% were unchanged.

A separate poll for the Daily Record asked 561 people: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The result was: Yes: 40.8%, No: 44.5%, Don’t know: 14.7%

When asked, “Would Scotland being prevented from keeping the pound change your vote in the independence referendum?”

18.1% of Yes voters said they would change their vote, but a huge 63.5% of No voters said they would change.  Those who said they did not know stood at 18.4%.

Meanwhile, in a sign that the currency tactic may have backfired badly, the BBC, which initially broke the news that the Chancellor was to rule out a currency union, has signalled a desire to move away from currency onto the issue of the EU.

Today the broadcaster, which has come in for heavy criticism over a tendency to favour the No campaign in news output, invited EC President Jose Manuel Barroso to give his views on the EU membership of a newly independent Scotland. 

Mr Barroso, whose carefully worded views have underpinned many of the EU claims from the No campaign, told Andrew Marr that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to get agreement from all other EU members on the new membership of a new country that had been part of an existing member state.