There have been grumblings amongst pro-Union supporters for some months now. However, it’s taken one of the leaders of the ‘Yes’ campaign to spell it out. If we’re going to have a proper debate on Scotland’s future, then the ‘No’ campaign has to set out in detail what a vote for them would mean for Scotland.
In a speech in St Andrews, Nicola Sturgeon challenged the ‘Better Together’ campaign to set out its vision of Scotland after a ‘No’ vote. She argued that the Scottish Government had provided “a compelling case for independence” in its ‘Scotland’s Future’ white paper and claimed that unionists had to respond with a vision of their own.
“The referendum is not a choice between change and no change,” she said. “It is about choosing the kind of change we want for Scotland and who we want to be in the driving seat of it, ourselves, or Westminster. It is a choice between two futures. That means that the consequences of both a Yes vote and No vote need to be considered carefully. And that means both the Yes and the No campaigns have an obligation to inform.
“Those of us on the Yes side take that responsibility seriously. In November, the Scottish Government published the independence white paper, Scotland’s Future, setting out the practicalities and opportunities of what will happen if Scotland votes Yes. I believe it sets out a compelling case for independence. It gives robust, credible and common sense answers to the legitimate questions that people have. I am happy to let you – the Scottish people – be the judge of it.
“But to make an informed choice between these two futures, you also need to know what a No vote will mean for Scotland. Now, as we enter this next, vital phase of the campaign, it is time for the No campaign to spell that out in detail to allow you to compare and contrast the competing visions for the future of Scotland and make your own minds up.”
A spokesman for Better Together however insisted that the SNP’s “White Paper manifesto for breaking up the UK was nothing more than a wish list without a price list. Rather than facing up to the consequences of breaking up the UK, the nationalists promise us the sun would shine brighter everyday if only we were independent. The idea that the White Paper was compelling is, frankly, laughable.
“There is a strong positive case for Scotland remaining part of the UK. Today we have the best of both worlds – a strong Scottish Parliament with responsibility for schools, hospitals and childcare, and we benefit from being part of the larger UK. Why would we want to trade the strength and security of being part of the UK for the risk and uncertainty of independence?”
The problem is that too many people believe that the ‘No’ campaign has relied too much on the fear factor. They don’t appear to have the kind of vision which appeals to the hearts of voters – and this referendum will be decided as much on how people ‘feel’ with their hearts as with the evidence examined by their heads.
In an article in The Sunday Times, the entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter warned that the negative tone of the debate could even deter voters from taking part in the referendum. He was worried by a number of factors – not least that the fate of the Union could be decided by just a fraction of the Scottish population as there is no minimum threshold on the number of votes needed in the referendum on September 18.
“I’m concerned,” he said, “that there is no minimum turnout required. Most of us could stay in bed and 20,000 vote, but as long as you’ve got 10,001 votes it’s a Yes or a No. Not for a moment do I expect that to happen, but from a straw poll over the festive period I sense a general annoyance with a debate that is polarised, unproductive and lacking in ambition.
“I am undecided, principally because I simply don’t believe I have enough information to go on and many questions remain unanswered. Moreover, I’m not sure we’re asking the questions the public wants answers to. Equally, we need Alex Salmond and his team to address critical issues and questions to inform people who really are undecided.”