Carmichael’s top reason for No vote overtaken by events say SNP

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  By Martin Kelly
 
A so called ‘Top Twenty’ list of advantages of the Union has been ridiculed by the SNP after nationalists said its number one reason – a UK pound – had been undermined by today’s announcement by the UK Treasury that it cannot pass any of the UK’s debt burden to an independent Scotland without an agreement between both sides.
 
Commenting on a speech by Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael in which the Lib Dem MP listed the NHS and the British and Irish Lions rugby team as reasons for voting No, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford called the list “flimsy and inaccurate” and said the UK Treasury announcement “entirely undermines Mr Carmichael’s rhetoric” on currency.

In his list, Mr Carmichael had included the UK pound as the number one reason why Scots should vote No in September’s referendum, describing it as “a stable UK currency that is respected and envied across the world,”

Highlighting other areas, he added: “Whether that’s the British Lions [sic], or next month’s Winter Olympics, or of course, our astonishing achievements in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“At those Games, the UK won 29 gold medals. And over the Games, as the tally went higher, so did our collective sense of national pride.

“Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Katherine Granger. Those outstanding athletes weren’t cheered on by parts of the UK, but by all of us.

“They were our representatives. They worked together, they competed together – many had trained together at facilities across the UK. Their success fed our pride.

“The NHS, the BBC, our sporting events, teams and heroes. These are just a few of the things that bind together our family in pride and endeavour.”

However the claim on currency was undermined when in a surprise announcement the UK Treasury admitted it was required to take full responsibility for all of the massive £1.4trn debt accumulated by successive Westminster governments.  First Minister Alex Salmond, who has said Scotland will service its share of the debt, said the announcement would leave a newly independent Scotland in “an extremely strong negotiating position” in post Yes talks.

Criticism of Mr Carmichael’s list was not restricted to the issue of currency.  The inclusion of the NHS has baffled observers with many pointing out that the health service in Scotland is already independent.  Mr Carmichael’s citing of Team GB Olympic sportsmen and women and the British and Irish Lions rugby team as reasons to vote No follows calls last week by former First Minister Jack McConnell for politicians not to use major UK sporting events in the independence campaign.

Commenting, Bruce Crawford MSP, who also chairs the Scottish Parliament’s Referendum Bill Committee, said:

“For months we have been asking the No campaign to set out the case for voting No – and now that he has done it Mr Carmichael has unwittingly made the case for voting Yes. If this is the best that the No campaign can do, we are even more confident of achieving a Yes vote in September.

“Extraordinarily, Mr Carmichael cites the NHS in his speech, which thankfully operates independently in Scotland from the health service south of the border – and is a perfect example of why having decision making powers in Scotland are so important. If Westminster, rather than the Scottish Government, ran our health service, it would be subject to the same privatisation and fragmentation that is destroying it in England.

“Laughably, Mr Carmichael invokes the ‘British Lions’ as a reason to vote No – oblivious to the fact the British and Irish Lions rugby team encompasses the independent Irish Republic, and each constituent national team also competes independently!

Describing Mr Carmichael’s list as “flimsy and inaccurate” the SNP MSP contrasted it with the Scottish Government’s detailed 670-page guide to an independent Scotland – which he said answered 650 questions covering every point that Mr Carmichael raised, and “far more besides.”

Mr Crawford added: “Each point that Mr Carmichael makes is either an area of policy where Westminster control has been ruinous, and against Scotland’s interests and the votes of Scottish MPs – such as brutal welfare cuts and Royal Mail privatisation; issues which would be unchanged – such as free movement across the border; or common sense matters where it would be in the overwhelming interests of the rest of the UK and an independent Scotland to co-operate – such as a shared sterling area.

“The Treasury’s announcement today on debt, for example, reflects the reality of how such common sense arrangements can and will be done – and entirely undermines Mr Carmichael’s rhetoric.

“The reality is that the UK Government presided over the near collapse of the financial system; pensioners in Scotland stand to be penalised by Westminster’s acceleration of the state pension age; and the base rate for current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and mortgages will be the same across the Sterling area if we become independent.

“The outlook for Scotland if there is a No vote would be a massive cut in Scotland’s budget – politicians in each of the anti-independence parties signed up to the Westminster report calling for a £4 billion cull in Scotland’s cash.

“Mr Carmichael’s low quality arguments are very easily dismissed. It is now time for the No campaign to answer the 50 hard questions that we have posed about the dangers of voting No.”

A full transcript of Mr Carmichael’s speech can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/scottish-referendum-2014-scotlands-choice

Below is the list of twenty points cited by Mr Carmichael as reasons to vote no:

  1. As part of the UK we keep the strongest currency option – the UK pound.
  2. Financial services companies can be headquartered in Scotland and enjoy access to large UK market and one set of UK rules.
  3. Safer banks with the whole of the UK standing behind them.
  4. Greater financial protection for savers and pensioners (FSCS).
  5. The UK’s £860m cyber security programme protects online shopping, banking and business.
  6. More competition in the larger UK means cheaper mortgages and insurance.
  7. More spending per person in Scotland.
  8. We share the cost of expensive and vital communications networks like UK broadband and the UK postal service.
  9. A true domestic UK single market has no barriers with added bureaucracy or costs to hamper Scottish business.
  10. With 60m people in the UK we share risks and spread costs.
  11. We have highly skilled and integrated armed forces with one of the largest defence budgets in the world.
  12. The UK uses our international influence to make a positive difference through alliances and relationships.
  13. UK makes a vital contribution to humanitarian operations around the world.
  14. Fiscal-revenue stream is steady, not volatile.
  15. In MI5, MI6 and GCHQ we have world class security and intelligence services protecting everyone in the UK.
  16. The single UK labour market means workers can move freely across the UK.
  17. 200+ UK institutions, like the BBC and the Met Office, serve all of the UK and don’t have to be replaced.
  18. A strong research base supported by shared infrastructure.
  19. Highly skilled defence sector protects and creates quality jobs in Scotland.
  20. Devolution offers the best of both worlds.