The Better Together campaign needs to move on to positive ground if it’s to win the referendum honestly and convincingly. It should outline its vision of Scotland’s future in the United Kingdom as comprehensively as the SNP have done in their 650 page white paper.
So far, the difficulty has been that the Better Together campaign has three different visions of a future Scotland – Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat – all within the United Kingdom. But this needn’t be such a stumbling block. The SNP’s white paper steps round it by first outlining the advantages of independence – whether you are left, right or centre – and then going on to write its manifesto for the next election.
The Better Together campaign should do the same and publish a “Blue Red and White Paper” of similar length and in similar detail. It would set out the case for remaining in the UK, and then allow each party to outline its policies on childcare, health, education, defence, environment , transport, local government, justice etc. As the SNP have rightly concluded, you cannot really separate the constitutional issue from the question of what sort of country do you want Scotland to be. No one should despair of seeing his or her utopia created in a united Britain.
It’s important that the case for remaining in the UK is a positive one, built around the idea of co-operation and inter-dependence. How do we achieve what everyone wants – full employment, good public services, decent housing, fair and free markets, sustainable energy, living wages, secure pensions, care for the environment? I think most people now recognise that sovereignty needs to be shared in this complicated world. Some decisions are best taken at a global level, others on a European level, others at a UK level, others at a Scottish level, others at a local council level. And all decisions should be taken as near the people affected as possible. So independence, as the SNP has already discovered, is not a clear concept.
Emotion will also play a large part in this campaign – indeed I think the largest part. And here, the Better Together Campaign needs to emphasise the UK’s common language, culture, way of doing things, family ties, our island home, our shared history for the last 300 years. And what we can still do together….stand up for freedom, equality, helping others in times of disaster or war. Even if Scotland could be richer on its own – thanks to its oil or its renewable energy or its water or the inventiveness of its people or whatever – we should be sharing that good fortune with the poor people of Yorkshire or Liverpool or Cornwall or Wales or Northern Ireland or the neglected boroughs of London. Britain will not be Britain without us.
And there is one last point that should go into the “Blue Red and White Paper “. Let’s not abandon this pioneering project of devolution, so soon after it has started. Britain – by increasing the powers of its four kingdoms – is rightly following the example of the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and Spain and dispersing power downwards, nearer the people. All three unionist parties are committed to making devolution work and indeed, adding to the powers of the Scottish Parliament. In all the opinion polls, this is what most people in Scotland say they want.
So let’s see the Better Together campaign get away from negative sniping over figures or constitutional niceties – try instead to agree with the SNP on these issues – and get on with publishing the substantive case for Scotland staying in the Union.