By Martin Kelly
Incessant negativity coming from the anti-independence camp could backfire according to a top pro-Union businessman.
Robert Durward, who is the managing director of Cloburn Quarry Company, has written to Better Together head Alistair Darling urging the Labour MP to focus on a more positive message instead.
According to the Sunday Times, in his letter Mr Durward said that “constantly lining up people to denigrate Scotland’s options and capabilities could easily backfire and there are already signs of this”.
The businessman added: “Unionists must of course counter the campaign for separation, but the best way to get a result will be to concentrate on what can be achieved rather than on what is allegedly beyond us.
“Scotland has significant problems in education, health care, housing, employment, transport and finance, so why not put your collective brainpower, political experience and media access into identifying solutions for these issues?”
The businessman has suggested another cross party parallel group, Better Scotland, be set up that would allow the country’s challenges to be addressed.
He added: “You have gathered an impressive team, you have two years to influence the outcome but it can only be done in a positive manner. At present you risk making matters worse.”
The warning follows an almost constant flow of scares and negativity often portraying a post-referendum apocalyptic scenario with an independent Scotland unable to sustain itself. Scares have included claims that an independent Scotland would be forced to join the Euro, that the rest of the UK would cease trading with Scotland and bizarrely that electricity generated in Scotland that currently helps keep the lights on south of the border would no longer be purchased.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, a Better Together spokesman denied that the No campaign was too negative.
He said: “Our campaign message is an entirely positive one. Scotland has achieved great things as part of the union and we also believe there is much more we can do in the future when we stand together with our friends, families and workmates from across Britain.”
The attack by a leading businessman follows a recent decision by the Scottish TUC not to join Labour alongside their Tory and Lib Dem partners.
The negative attacks are expected to continue this week following figures published last week by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
The body, created by Chancellor George Osborne after the 2010 general election, last week forecast a fall in North Sea extraction levels and oil prices. The figures have been used by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) in order to suggest that Scotland’s deficit will be greater than that of the UK in 2014/15.
According to the Sunday Times, the OBR forecasts – described by the SNP as pessimistic – which claims oil receipts will fall by fifty per cent over the next two years have been used by Professor John McLaren of the CPPR to paint a gloomy picture of the Scottish economy.
Mr McLaren’s report follows recently published figures that indicate an independent Scotland would currently have a deficit which was less than it shoulders as part of the UK.
The gloomy prediction by the OBR follows similar claims made by the body in July this year when it forecast that by 2040 North Sea oil would generate receipts only half that previously expected.
In July it said: “Our projections for oil and gas prices are also lower than last year…oil prices rise from $95 a barrel in 2016 to $173 a barrel in 2040.
“This compares with a projection in last year’s report of a rise from $107 a barrel in 2015, rising to $206 a barrel in 2040.”
However the body’s reputation as an accurate forecaster suffered a blow this year after it was forced to admit its previous forecasts on the UK economic performance were widely inaccurate.
In December last year, just months after being formed, the body was forced to revise UK growth figures from its initial projection of 2.5% growth for 2012 down to just 0.7%. Official figures last week showed that the UK economy in fact shrank by 0.1% throughout 2012.
Appearing in front of a Commons Treasury Select Committee in July 2012, OBR head Robert Chote conceded that the chance of OBR predictions being “bang on the nail” were “practically nil”. The appearance followed another prediction that claimed snow over Christmas last year would reduce the chances of the UK slipping back into recession.
In fact the heavy snowfall that eventually hit the UK was one of the factors blamed for plunging the UK into a double dip recession in April.