No campaign in meltdown as Labour tries to disown latest border guard threat

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Signs of disarray within the ranks of the No campaign have emerged after the Labour party sought to distance itself from comments allegedly made by its own leader in a newspaper interview.
 
Today the No campaign has been accused of going ‘into complete meltdown’ after an Ed Miliband threat to build border posts with an independent Scotland provoked a spectacular backlash – prompting the Labour press office to try and disown the interview.

After Mr Miliband’s comments were reported by the Mail on Sunday, the Labour press office immediately disowned the story and tried to blame the newspaper, tweeting: “Ridiculous splash in Mail on Sunday. There is no Labour ‘plan’ for border guards in independent Scotland and nor does Ed say that. Rather than establishing borders, Ed is focused on keeping the UK together”

However, according to the newspaper, Mr Miliband was quite clear on the issue, telling a reporter: “If you don’t want borders, vote to stay in the United Kingdom”.  Asked to clarify if this meant border guards and passport checks, he said “it would have to be looked at”.

Compounding Labour denials, a spokesman for Mr Miliband also said: “The last time I looked there were two sides to the Border – and we would be in charge of one of them.  It would be up to us, not Mr Salmond, to secure our northern border.”

The border threat was widely reported in many newspapers and also featured in a BBC article which said a newly elected Labour Government at Westminster would “consider building border posts if Scotland voted for independence.”

Commenting, South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“The No campaign has gone into meltdown as Ed Miliband’s latest attempt to scare people into voting No has spectacularly backfired.

“Ed Miliband is putting forward the ridiculous proposition that he would share an open border with Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands – but he would erect border posts with an independent Scotland. No wonder the Labour party is running for cover.

“All of these territories have been part of the Common Travel Area since the 1920s, and that sensible arrangement will continue after Scotland becomes independent – because it is in everyone’s interests for it to do so.”

Claims by Labour officials that the Labour leader has made no such claims, contradict comments Mr Miliband himself made in June when he raised the prospect of border patrols in the event of independence.

On a visit to Scotland, Mr Miliband said: “It’s certainly the case that we would have to have a look at the issue of a border if we’ve got different immigration policies. It totally stands to reason.”

Ms McAlpine added: “The No campaign’s credibility has completely collapsed – the more they try and frighten people into voting No, the more they are moving toward support for Yes.

“As the referendum approaches, more and more people are realising that Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – and a Yes vote next week is the golden opportunity to make that wealth work for the people of Scotland – building a fairer society, creating job opportunities and protecting Scotland’s NHS.”

The apparent contradiction at the top level within the Labour party is being seen by Yes opponents as a sign of panic within the No campaign as a newly published poll has revealed Yes may in fact have overtaken its rival in the referendum race.

The poll, from Yougov, puts support for Yes on 51%, with support for No at 49%.  However another survey carried out by Panelbase has shown the reverse, with No on 52% and Yes on 48%.

The two polls are being interpreted by both sides as evidence that the result of the independence referendum is now too close to call.  However few are now challenging the fact that all recent polls confirm that momentum is now very definitely with the Yes campaign.