Natural majority for independence says Sturgeon as No vote clarity sought

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  By a Newnset reporter
 
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that there is a natural majority in favour of independence if Scots can be persuaded of both the benefits of voting Yes and the perils that await a No vote.
 
In a keynote address to be made on Monday, the SNP’s referendum campaign head will seek to move the debate onto a new level in which the No campaign will be called on to clarify several key areas.

Chief amongst these will be the effects of planned welfare cuts, the EU membership of the UK and the costs to Scotland of maintaining the Trident nuclear weapons system.

The speech to Yes activists in Glasgow marks the start of 70 weeks to the referendum, and will begin to highlight specific policies designed to lift people’s sights to the possibilities of independence in vital areas such as welfare.

Ms Sturgeon will refer to a YouGov poll finding commissioned by the SNP – showing 47 per cent of people in Scotland would be more likely to vote Yes, or already plan to vote Yes, if they can be persuaded that Scotland will be fairer and wealthier compared to the UK, with 45 per cent taking the opposite stance.

The SNP Depute Leader will tell the audience that a Yes vote offers the opportunity to create a fairer society.  She will say: “I mean that people will vote Yes if we can persuade them that it opens the door to a wealthier and fairer country.”

Ms Sturgeon will set out the hallmarks of the Yes campaign as distinctive features on the road to winning the referendum.

“And be in no doubt, win is what we intend to do.

“We believe that Scotland should be governed here at home, from our own Parliament, and not from Westminster; that we should hold the powers in our own hands to shape a nation that lives up to our ambitions of fairness and prosperity; that we should have no-one else to blame if we fail to do so; and that we should have a new relationship of equals with our friends across these islands.  That is the vision that can win the argument and win the referendum.”

In order to help illustrate the “two futures” theme, Ms Sturgeon will say that the No campaign “has its own questions to answer” about what a No vote means – and will term these the “UK 2020” questions. 

They include:

  • Will the UK still be a member of the European Union, or even of the single market, in 2020?
  • How much more means testing will have been introduced into the Westminster benefits system by 2020?
  • How many more children in Scotland would be living in poverty by 2020 as a result of Westminster welfare cuts?
  • How much more money would be spent by Scottish taxpayers on keeping UK Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde?

She will say: “Ever greater cuts in public spending, a welfare state dismantled beyond recognition, people working longer for less, higher levels of child poverty, a growing gap between rich and poor, billions more wasted on nuclear weapons, and no real prospect of any more powers for our parliament. 

“That is the bleak prospect of sticking with Westminster government – and that’s why a No vote is the real gamble with Scotland’s future.”

Ms Sturgeon will conclude: “Ours is a campaign of optimism and aspiration, and one which I believe represents the best of Scotland.  That is why I believe Yes can and will win – and if we do, Scotland will never look back.”

The speech from the Deputy First Minister coincides with a planned speech from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown which will mark the launch of a separate Labour campaign against independence.

In a trailer for his speech, it has been reported that Mr Brown will call on Scots to vote against independence in order to prevent England from experiencing years of Tory rule.  Also among the speakers at the launch of ‘United with Labour’ at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow will be Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and her deputy Anas Sarwar.

Commenting, Labour’s referendum coordinator Anas Sarwar said: “We are excited about putting forward our case for Scotland in the United Kingdom based on Labour values of solidarity, community, fairness, equality and social justice.

“Our vision is for a fairer, better Scotland that stands strong within the United Kingdom, working in partnership with our neighbours.”

However Mr Brown’s emergence at the heart of Labour’s launch was immediately seized on by First Minister Alex Salmond who said the former Labur leader’s arguments were “political, arithmetical and intellectual nonsense”.

Mr Salmond added: “Let’s leave to one side Gordon Brown’s record as Prime Minister and his responsibility for the UK’s economic crash, and just focus on his argument.

“Mr Brown used to argue against independence because of the social union with the rest of the UK – but the social union stays with independence.  He is now arguing against independence on the basis of the political union – but it is this political union that has clearly failed Scotland on any measure, and needs to be replaced with a new relationship of equality between the nations of these islands.

The First Minister added: “It is political nonsense because Labour cannot with any credibility call on Scotland to save England from the Tories – while at the same time being in the same campaign as the Tories telling Scots to vote No.  No amount of cosmetic launches can disguise the fact that Labour are joined at the hip with the Tories in the No campaign.

“It is arithmetical nonsense because Scotland has had 30 years of Tory governments being imposed on Scotland by Westminster – over half the period since 1959, including the long 18 years of Tory government after 1979, and the current Tory-led coalition.

“By contrast, for only 26 months – from the 1964 to 1966 elections, and between the two elections in 1974 – have MPs from Scotland made any difference in terms of electing Labour, every other Labour government would have been elected south of the Border anyway.  It is impossible for 8.4 per cent of the UK population to dictate to the rest, and the electoral record shows that it is a totally threadbare argument.

“Intellectually it is nonsense because the reality is that nations are entitled to choose their own governments – something that Gordon Brown should realise given the disastrous 28 per cent share of the vote Labour got in England in 2010, and which Scotland can do nothing about.”

Alan Grogan from ‘Labour for Independence’ group said Labour had picked “the wrong side” in the referendum debate.

He said: “We have tried to exert Labour values in the UK for years and we have never had the country we want because the power base of that country is in middle England.  If we want the country we’d like to see, then the only way to do that is through independence.”