By Chris Rumbles
The SNP has called on Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael to withdraw what it says are ‘bizarre’ comments calling a ‘No’ vote in the independence referendum the ‘patriotic decision’.
Speaking to an audience in Glasgow on Tuesday, Liberal Democrat MP Carmichael spoke of how rejecting independence could be deemed a ‘patriotic decision’ if voters felt the ‘Yes’ campaign lacked convincing answers.
Carmichael’s comments, however, contrast those he made in his first speech as Secretary of State in November last year. In that speech, Mr Carmichael said the independence referendum was not “a debate about patriotism” and that “once you start mixing up politics and patriotism you can quickly get into dangerous territory”.
The remarks from Mr Carmichael delivered in Glasgow on Tuesday focused on the issues of pensions and currency after citing a new report from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland that called for greater information on an independent tax system for Scotland.
In his speech, Mr Carmichael said: “Being passionate about independence does not make you more Scottish. It does not mean you are the only ones that care about Scotland’s future.
“People who care are asking questions about our pensions and the Pound and if they do not get convincing answers then the patriotic decision will be to reject the idea of Scotland leaving the UK”.
However in his first speech as Scottish Secretary in November last year, the Lib Dem MP told an audience in Inverness that the independence debate was not about patriotism and that you are not a better Scot if you support independence or if you don’t.
He said: “This is not a debate about patriotism – It is a debate about whether or not we should continue to work together across the United Kingdom, or whether we should go it alone.”
Describing Mr Carmichael’s statement as ‘bizarre’, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said the speech was further evidence of an increasingly ‘desperate’ Better Together campaign.
Ms Ewing said: “Alistair Carmichael’s bizarre claim is another example of the No campaign attempting to foster division. The fact is that the referendum should not be about identity or patriotism – it is about democracy.
She added: “Mr Carmichael should have taken his own advice – he has previously said that mixing politics and patriotism can lead to “dangerous territory”. Alistair Carmichael’s claim yesterday wasn’t just offensive – it was entirely hypocritical and he should withdraw it immediately.”