Labour’s anti-independence chief admits scare stories will not work


  By G.A.Ponsonby
The MP in charge of Labour’s No campaign has admitted that a reliance on scare stories will not be enough to convince voters to reject independence, according to a Scottish newspaper.
Speaking to the Daily Record Labour MP Anas Sarwar, who is also Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party, pledged to up the level of debate.

The Glasgow MP was responding to calls from Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who last week urged an end to the repeated scaremongering that has marred the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future.

He said: “She is right to say there has been a lot of negative campaigning.  We will be raising the level of debate and ensuring that Scotland gets the level of debate it deserves.

“I’ve never said Scotland couldn’t be successful under independence. But I believe Scotland will be better off as part of the UK and I will be making a positive case for it in the campaign.”

However, almost immediately Mr Sarwar launched an attack on Alex Salmond, accusing the SNP leader of being dishonest.

“The SNP also have to raise the tone.  One of the first Yes Scotland press releases said they were going to give Scotland an honest and transparent debate.

“But Alex Salmond hasn’t been honest and transparent about advice on an independent Scotland joining the EU.”

The remark is believed to be a reference to a BBC interview in which Mr Salmond confirmed advice on the EU had been sought “in terms of the general debate” from Scottish government legal advisors.  However the Scottish government subsequently claimed it had not sought specific legal advice on the issue of the EU membership of an independent Scotland, which was only sought with the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement.

Mr Sarwar’s pledge to up the level of debate comes one week after Nicola Sturgeon urged both sides to conduct the debate over Scotland’s future in a positive way.

Speaking at the end of the year, Ms Sturgeon said: “Now that the legal basis of the referendum has been confirmed through the historic Edinburgh Agreement, the debate that follows on the substance of the argument must be a positive one – the people of Scotland deserve no less.

“I want to see – on both sides of the debate, and whatever we think Scotland’s constitutional future should be – everyone involved engaging in a positive way that encourages the people of Scotland to turn out and make an informed choice on their future.”

Calls for a more mature debate follow a stream of bizarre claims from those opposed to independence. 

Some of the claims from pro-Union politicians included:

  • Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the former Tory Solicitor General, claimed that England could have no choice but to bomb Scottish airports in order to defend itself from attack if Scotland became independent
  • Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that passport checks would be issued at Scotland’s border with England
  • There were claims that the Westminster Government would seize custody of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo post-independence
  • Lord Caithness suggested that the northernmost Scottish Isles and Rockall be ruled from London in the event of independence
  • Philip Hollobone, a Tory MP says that an independent Scotland would face an economic crisis similar to Greece
  • According to Ian Davidson MP and Michael Kelly, former Labour Councillor and Lord Provost of Glasgow, individual constituencies could stay part of the UK if Scotland voted for independence
  • Anti-independence campaign leader Alistair Darling claimed that friends in the rest of the UK would become foreign
  • The Scottish Tories suggested that independence would increase the number of sick days taken by public sector workers – on the basis that there were fewer absences during the two-week period of the Olympics, when compared with the same period last year
  • The Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee queried if people could still buy wine from The Sunday Times Wine Club or whether the school curriculum would include ‘English’

Mr Sarwar himself claimed that in an independent Scotland, Scots wouldn’t have access to their favourite television shows or current affairs programming.  The Glasgow Labour MP also courted controversy when he wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond complaining about the celebration of Scottish Olympic success held in Glasgow, arguing that the event should not have been restricted to Scottish athletes.