A vote to stay in the UK is the patriotic Scottish choice
by John Reid, former Home Secretary, and a former Secretary of State for Scotland and Defence
This article first appeared in today's Daily Mail
This week we marked the 20th anniversary of John Smith’s death. I had the privilege of calling him a friend. He was a great man. By common consent he would have been a great Prime Minister of the UK. And he was a great Scot, a man who loved his country and its people – and who did both proud.
If he were alive today, John would be taking the fight to the nationalists. His forensic analysis and biting wit would have been put to good use in taking apart, bit by bit, Alex Salmond’s flimsy case for breaking up the UK.
John was the architect of what we Scots have today as part of the UK – the best of both worlds. We have our strong Scottish Parliament taking decisions about key areas of Scottish public life such as our schools and hospitals; AND we benefit from the strength, security and stability that come from being part of the larger UK. The only thing putting this at risk is Alex Salmond’s obsession with separation.
We Scots have played a leading part in the intellectual, social, political, literary, sporting and economic life of the UK. But we have gained as well as given. Not just as part of an economy that remains one of the strongest in the world, but also in making our country a better place to live. The NHS, a Welfare State, pensions, national insurance, minimum wage, excellence in education, civil equality and a host of other measures of social justice and opportunity in which we led the world. The idea that we Scots have been held back because we are part of the UK is risible.
Just as I have a pride in our past – Scottish and British – so I have a faith in, and a positive vision for, our future. I reject the nationalists’ innuendo that those of us who believe that the brightest future for Scotland is as part of the UK are somehow less “Scottish”, or less caring about our country.
This is nothing less than an insult to the majority of Scots who say they will vote No in September. Of course, some people have the right to argue for separatism. But we also have every right to decide that, as a nation, the welfare of the people of Scotland will be best promoted and protected in partnership within the UK. That is the crucial question - what best promotes and protects the welfare of the people of Scotland. That is what defines true patriotism. And by that criteria, a No vote is the patriotic choice in the referendum.
My belief in continuing the 300 year relationship between the countries of our isles is both emotional and pragmatic. Emotional because I value our bonds of history, culture, family and friendship; pragmatic because I know that pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK works in Scotland’s best interests.
Scots of my generation have benefited a great deal from being part of the UK. We have a responsibility to make sure that future generations similarly benefit. When we vote in September we are voting to secure the brightest future for those who will come after us.
The opportunities available to young Scots from being part of the UK are huge. From the extra research investment that goes into Scotland’s top universities to the job opportunities that are created through being part of the single UK market, the chance for young Scots to get on in life is so much greater as part of the UK than it ever would be if we separated.
The great challenges our nation face, including the increased costs associated with our rapidly ageing population and declining oil revenues, are best tackled by being part of something bigger. Our strength in numbers as part of the UK works in the best interests of Scotland.
Of course we can change and we can always improve. My own party, Labour, has set out plans for the further devolution of tax and welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote. We have set out a vision for a better Scotland within the UK by tackling unfairly high energy prices, ending the scourge of zero hour contracts and supporting our young people back into work.
But we don’t need to change our passport to bring about the change we need in Scotland.. Pooling and sharing our resources across the whole of the UK means the burden of meeting the cost of a rapidly ageing population and tackling the drop in North Sea oil revenue can be shared by an economy of over 60 million people, rather than just 5 million people. We can maximise our opportunities and minimise the risks by partnership within the wider UK
The SNP want to avoid all mention of those risks of breaking up the UK. They say such talk is “negative”, but that won’t wash. As children, we all learned to “look before you leap”. Those in business know that any future plans have to be risk assessed. A risk assessment is an essential and sensible part of any future planning. It is not a negative act – it is a positive step designed to avoid catastrophe and increase the chances of success in the future.
Scots deserve to know what would replace the Pound, which sustains hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and keeps the cost of mortgages, car loans and credit card bills down.
Our pensioners who have worked all their lives to enjoy retirement deserve to know how their pensions would be paid.
Families in Scotland deserve to know what would happen to the money we have to spend on our schools and hospitals. With the money we get from the North Sea very volatile and declining all the time, the nationalists need to be up front about the impact this would have on our public services.
These are fundamental questions that Scots deserve answers to. The idea that people can go to the polls blind on such matters simply isn’t credible.
In fact, the negativity lies elsewhere.
One campaign in the referendum wants to keep the countries of our isles together; the other wants to break them apart.
One campaign believes we can work together to tackle injustice and reduce inequality; the other wants to turn the nations of the UK into competitors.
One believes that by our common endeavour we can achieve much more than we can achieve separately; the other sees separation as a matter of principle, whatever the costs to the welfare of the people of Scotland.
What can be more negative that the divisive, grievance based campaign that is being run by Alex Salmond and his fellow separatists?
I am Scottish and proudly so. That’s why I will fight to ensure that future generations will be able to say that they are both Scottish and also part of something bigger. Those of us who have had the privilege of benefiting from our union have a responsibility to preserve it for generations to come.