Darling launches ‘Better Together’ campaign but cuts and negativity form backdrop


By a Newsnet reporter
The pro-Union ‘Better Together’ campaign was officially launched today in Edinburgh by former Chancellor Alistair Darling.
The Labour MP was joined by former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie and her replacement Ruth Davidson.  Also present were Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, her deputy Anas Sarwar and Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.

The No campaign has been billed as the focal point for those who wish Scotland to remain in the Union and campaigners have insisted that it will rely heavily on positive messages.

However the launch suffered an embarrassing setback when it coincided with welfare cutback proposals announced by UK PM David Cameron.  The campaign also came in for criticism after opponents claimed it was “mired in negativity” and contained “threadbare” arguments.
The campaign brings together an alliance of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties in a partnership aimed at thwarting the hopes of the pro-independence Yes Scotland group.

According to Alistair Darling, a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum will mean a “a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination”.

Mr Darling emphasised cultural, economic and social links he claimed were strengthened through Scotland being in the Union.

Mr Darling explained: “When Scotland votes in the referendum, we will face a historic choice which will shape our country and our families’ futures, not just for the lifespan of a parliament, but for generations to come.

“Chairing this campaign, is one of the most important things I have ever done in politics – the decision we make is the most important we will make in our lifetime.”

The Labour MP added: “We make a positive case for staying together.  A positive case that celebrates not just what makes us distinctive but also celebrates what we share.

“We put the positive case for staying together.  We are positive about our links with the rest of the United Kingdom, through families and friendships, through trade and through shared political, economical and cultural institutions.”

However Mr Darling also launched a sustained attack on the SNP, rehashing many of the claims and arguments that have featured prominently in the Scottish media over the last few months.

There were attacks on an independent Scotland’s economic prospects, the plan to maintain Sterling, membership of the EU and Scotland’s ability to send aid to less well of nations.

No-Campaigners also claimed that Scots would be cut-off, with borders being introduced making the visiting of relatives difficult.  Leaflets were circulated implying that Scots currently employed by English and Welsh firms would lose their jobs.

Responding to Mr Darling’s speech, SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“Alistair Darling’s use of smoke and mirrors during his speech exposes a campaign mired in negativity.  His threadbare case against independence has been exposed by the weakness of his arguments, and his presentation suffered from three devastating failures.

“Firstly, he claimed that the Union was a ‘celebration’ of Scottish values, on the very day that the Prime Minister of that political union is proposing to eliminate housing benefit for young Scots.

“There is no celebration of Scottish values in this Westminster Government’s policy toward young people, nor in the last Labour Government’s pursuit of an illegal war in Iraq.

“Secondly, the anti-independence campaign’s claim to be making a positive case has been exposed as a fraud.  Alistair Darling’s presentation was littered with words such as ‘borders’, ‘division’ and ‘upheaval’ – expressing arguments better suited to the 18th century than to the 21st.

“No rational person seriously believes that England would cease to be a major market for Scotland’s goods – and Scotland for England’s – following independence.

“And equally no informed person would be unaware that Scotland is playing a world-leading role in tackling climate change – but Alistair Darling seemed to be unaware that it was the Scottish Parliament that was responsible for this, or indeed that our efforts have been praised by the UN Secretary General.

“Clearly, if it was up to Mr Darling, he would take these powers back to Westminster.

“With achievements like these, it is no wonder that the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has found that seven in ten Scots trust the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests, compared to just 18 per cent who trusted Westminster.

“Thirdly, Alistair Darling said not a single word about the anti-independence campaign’s alternative vision of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“That is because – at heart – this is a Tory-led campaign, which is intent on conceding nothing to the people of Scotland, and hiding behind its refusal to spell out an alternative policy before the referendum. Urging people to vote no with only vague Tory promises of something else will only encourage more people to vote Yes to an independent Scotland.

“On all three counts, the No campaign has had its weaknesses exposed, and Alistair Darling is operating as the frontman for a Tory-led campaign of relentless negativity toward Scotland and its prospects.

“As we learned last year in the Scottish elections, negative campaigns are only successful when they face another negative campaign.

“Yes Scotland will be relentlessly positive as a winning antidote to the depressing negativity of the No campaign.”