Cameron forgets name of No campaign as ‘positivity’ promise crumbles


  anas sarwar By Bob Duncan

The Scottish National Party has claimed that Prime Minister David Cameron is “on the back foot” after he forgot the name of the anti-independence No campaign and resorted to more scare stories despite a pledge from Labour MP Anas Sarwar to scale back on negativity.

The SNP seized on yesterday’s coalition relaunch by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, in which the Prime Minister claimed that an independent Scotland would be worse off and less safe.

This weekend, Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar, who is running his party’s 2014 referendum campaign, promised that the No campaign would fight a positive campaign in 2013 and called on the Yes Scotland campaign to do the same.

Sarwar said scare stories about life in an independent Scotland would not convince voters to back the No campaign. He wrote: “She [Nicola Sturgeon] 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.”

Sarwar’s promise was then shattered for the second time in 24 hours when the Prime Minister, echoing comments from Treasury Chief Danny Alerxander, claimed an independent Scotland would “categorically” be worse off.  Lib Dem MP Mr Alexander had insisted that Scots would be £1 worse off each year with independence.*

Embarrassingly, Mr Cameron couldn’t even remember the name of the Better Together No campaign – first calling it the “Yes campaign”, and then “Alistair Darling’s campaign”.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said:

“As the UK Coalition’s botched relaunch shows, the No campaign has started the New Year firmly on the back foot. Danny Alexander’s silly claim that an independent Scotland would cost people in Scotland one pound over a whole year had David Cameron floundering, and resorting to the old fears and smears that Scotland would be worse off with independence – even though the UK Treasury are no longer saying this.

“In the space of 24 hours, the No campaign has broken the Scottish Labour deputy leader’s promise that they would fight a positive campaign.

“The reality is the latest figures show that Scotland is financially stronger than the UK as a whole to the tune of £2.7 billion – or over £500 per person in Scotland.

“Even more embarrassingly, the Prime Minister couldn’t remember the name of the No campaign – first calling it the ‘Yes campaign’, and then ‘Alistair Darling’s campaign’.

“Since David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s infamous Rose Garden media appearance, the Westminster Government’s promises on issue after issue lie in tatters. Pledges on meeting borrowing reduction targets, on reversing years of decline to Scotland’s defence footprint and on reforming the House of Lords – to name but a few – have all been abandoned.

“The coalition’s track record has been an appalling one and people are understandably fed up of decisions on key issues affecting Scotland being made by a Westminster Government that has been rejected by people in Scotland.

“Decisions affecting Scotland should be made by people in Scotland, who by definition care most about getting them right. Only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will give us that opportunity, and ensure that Scotland is no longer paying the price of being tied to a failing Westminster system.”

Meanwhile, the reputation of the No campaign suffered a further blow, after Scottish Secretary Michael Moore stepped in to block the release of devolution files, held by the National Archives of Scotland, which critics say are likely to be highly relevant to the current independence debate.

Jamie Hepburn MSP has written to the head of the No campaign, Alistair Darling, calling on him to support the release of the files, which are currently being blocked from publication by the UK Government. The files date from 1997, and relate to UK government discussions about the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Hepburn, who has led the call for the release of the hidden files, explained in his letter that this presented an opportunity for Mr Darling to prove that the No Campaign will engage, as promised, in a positive and open debate in the run up to the referendum in 2014.

Mr Hepburn claimed that, since Mr Darling was Chief Secretary to the Treasury during these discussions in 1997, any reluctance on his part to support publication would suggest that there is something to hide on the part of the No campaign.

Hepburn said:

“This revelation at the start of 2013 has already been an embarrassment to the Westminster system and to the No campaign – and these files should be released immediately.

“It is important that people know whether Mr Darling supports the release of the files, which document a key period in Scotland’s home rule journey.

“If not, what does the No campaign have to hide?”

*[Article updated 17:22 January 8th 2012]