The anti-independence campaign has suffered an embarrassing setback after the latest scare story was revealed to be baseless before it is even launched.
Newspapers are today reporting that people from Scotland would be forced to pay international roaming charges in England should they vote Yes in next year’s referendum. However the scare unravelled within hours after it emerged the EU voted to end the charging system two weeks ago.
The blunder followed reports that the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable will this week publish a paper that will warn that making a mobile phone call in England will see Scots hit by so-called roaming charges, causing the cost of the call to soar.
According to a briefing note circulated by Number 10 Downing Street: “People from one country using their handset in the other could incur international roaming charges when travelling. Calls on both sides of the Border could inadvertently incur international roaming charges if their mobile phone connected to a mast on the other side of the border.”
The Scottish National Party seized on the report claiming the Westminster government had been caught red-hand after the European Commission voted two weeks ago to phase out the charges by July 2014. Europe’s 27 commissioners followed a recommendation from vice president Neelie Kroes, and voted to abolish roaming charges in Europe.
It also emerged that the move by the EC to end roaming charges was welcomed in a motion to the Scottish Parliament on 14th June which was supported by members of all three Unionist parties at Holyrood.
SNP MP Mike Weir said: “Just this month the EU moved to abolish charges across Europe by next summer. It is complete incompetence and the Westminster government should have the good grace to cancel its publication and go back to the drawing board.”
The latest anti-independence report from the UK coalition is also set to try to whip up fears over the future of the postal service in an independent Scotland.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s report by Vince Cable, UK consumer minister and Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson said: “If Scotland left the UK, posting a letter or making a call could cost more – and there could be less choice for customers.”
She added: “In order for Royal Mail to compete and deliver a good service and not be undermined by other companies, then they need to invest in new state-of-the-art equipment. If that is paid for by the taxpayer, then that money is competing with money for hospital scanners and school buildings.”
The claims come despite key figures in the postal industry having condemned Westminster’s approach in evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee earlier this week, while having talked up the opportunities to improve the service offered by a Yes vote next year.
Earlier this month in response to suggestions that the No campaign would seek to use the future of post offices in their campaign, Willie Marshall, Secretary of Communications Union (CWU) Scotland, Number 2 Branch, said:
“Privatising Royal Mail will be the biggest threat to customers and employees all over Scotland but particularly in remote and rural areas if the universal service obligation is ditched. People know perfectly well that an independent Scottish government would protect those services in a way that Westminster simply won’t.”
Commenting, SNP MP Mike Weir added:
“This is an embarrassing own goal from the Westminster Government who have managed to shoot themselves in the foot not once, but twice.
“They have tried to whip up fears over the future of the postal network in an independent Scotland, but evidence given just last week by key figures in the industry made clear that a Yes vote provides clear opportunities to develop postal services.
“Meanwhile it is the uncertainty that Westminster is creating over its future relationship with the EU that is really concerning the postal sector.
“On top of that, they have tried to claim that people from Scotland would face roaming charges while in the rest of the UK when just this month the EU moved to abolish them across Europe by next summer.
“The Westminster Government are showing either downright dishonesty or a complete lack of knowledge of what is happening in the real world from this report.”
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