Scottish independence: David Cameron urges Scots to stick with Great Britain

British Prime Minister David Cameron has waded forcefully into the debate over Scottish independence, delivering an impassioned call to keep the United Kingdom together just seven months before Scots vote on whether to break up the three-century-old union.

On political, economic and military grounds, Mr Cameron argued, Scotland is better off as a part of Great Britain. But Mr Cameron also made an unusually emotional appeal, invoking Scotch whisky, the Sherlock Holmes franchise and the Team GB Olympics squad as examples of successful collaborations that would be diminished by a split.

"This is our home - and I could not bear to see that home torn apart," Mr Cameron said. "I love this country. I love the United Kingdom and all it stands for. And I will fight with all I have to keep us together."

Polls suggest that most Scots agree that they should stick with their southern neighbours, and that Scotland will opt to remain a part of Great Britain in the September 18 vote. But opinions remain fluid, and some surveys show those favouring independence gaining ground as the debate heats up.

Friday's speech was politically treacherous for the Prime Minister. Mr Cameron, and the Conservative Party he leads, are not popular in Scotland, which tilts left politically.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that "some people have even advised me to stay out of this issue - and not to get too sentimental about the UK".

But, he said, "I care far too much to stay out of it. This is personal.

‘‘The name Cameron might mean 'crooked nose’ but the clan motto is 'Let us unite’ - and that’s exactly what we in these islands have done,’’ the Prime Minister said.

Mr Cameron chose the velodrome at the Olympic Park in east London for his first major intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign, trying to appeal to the national pride that surrounded the highly successful Summer Olympics in London 18 months ago.

‘‘For me, the best thing about the Olympics wasn’t the winning,’’ Mr Cameron said. ‘‘It was the red, the white, the blue. It was the summer that patriotism came out of the shadows and into the sun, everyone cheering as one for Team GB.’’

Mr Cameron focused on the importance of the ‘‘powerful’’ United Kingdom brand and how much it mattered in the world, and how it could be damaged. Scottish independence would ‘‘rip the rug from under our own reputation,’’ Mr Cameron said, arguing that ‘‘we matter more in the world together’’.

The immediate response from the Scottish National Party was predictably critical, accusing Mr Cameron of being afraid to come to Scotland and debate the party leader, Alex Salmond.Salmond called Cameron ‘‘a big feartie,’’ or coward, for refusing a debate.

By population, Scotland is only a small part of a union that also includes Wales, Northern Ireland and England - just 5 million people out of a total population of 63 million. But economically, militarily and culturally, it plays an outsize role.

About 4 million people over the age of 16 and living in Scotland will be able to take part in the referendum, promised by the ruling Scottish National Party, on September 18. Scots living outside Scotland cannot vote.

Mr Cameron directed much of his speech to those in the United Kingdom who live outside of Scotland, encouraging them to make their Scottish neighbours feel welcome and arguing that "we would be deeply diminished without Scotland".

He cited the virtues of North Sea oil, Scottish shipyards and the hit television show Sherlock - which, as Mr Cameron pointed out, was "written by a Scot a hundred years ago, played by an Englishman today - and created for TV by a Scotsman".

The Prime Minister also trumpeted his skills as a pitchman for Scotch spirits, noting that "whether I'm in India or China, there's barely a meeting where I don't bang the drum for whisky abroad".

Mr Salmond, Mr Cameron noted, is no less a salesman. But "the clout we have as a United Kingdom gives us a much better chance of getting around the right tables, bashing down trade barriers, getting deals signed".

Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement, ‘‘This is a cowardly speech from a prime minister who uses the Olympic Park in London to give highhanded lectures against Scotland’s independence but hasn’t got the guts to come to Scotland or anywhere else to make his case.’’

Touching on Mr Cameron’s image as an elite, Eton-educated southerner, she said, ‘‘David Cameron, as the Tory prime minister, is the very embodiment of the democratic case for a 'yes’ vote for an independent Scotland - and he knows it.

’’She argued that using the Olympic Stadium on the day the Winter Olympics formally opened in Sochi, Russia, ‘‘seeking to invoke the successes of London 2012 as an argument against Scotland taking its future into its own hands,’’ only ‘‘betrays the extent of the jitters now running through the 'no’ campaign.’’

Washington Post, New York Times

‘‘For me, the best thing about the Olympics wasn’t the winning,’’ Cameron said. ‘‘It was the red, the white, the blue. It was the summer that patriotism came out of the shadows and into the sun, everyone cheering as one for Team G.B.’’Cameron focused on the importance of the ‘‘powerful’’ United Kingdom brand and how much it mattered in the world, and how it could be damaged. Scottish independence would ‘‘rip the rug from under our own reputation,’’ Cameron said, arguing that ‘‘we matter more in the world together’’ - the same argument used by Britons who want Britain to remain in the European Union.Cameron said that while the decision was up to the Scots, ‘‘all 63 million of us’’ - in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - ‘‘are profoundly affected.’’‘‘We would be deeply diminished without Scotland,’’ he said.He pulled out all the Scottish stops, citing the Scottish Olympian Chris Hoy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his own West Highland heritage. He also mentioned Scotch whisky, saying it ‘‘adds 135 pounds to the U.K.’s balance of payments every single second,’’ which in another context might be an incentive for Scots to vote for independence. However, with Britons anxious about making ends meet, Cameron did not mention Adam Smith, the Scot famous for the ‘‘invisible hand’’ of the free market.About 4 million people over the age of 16 and living in Scotland will be able to take part in the referendum, promised by the ruling Scottish National Party, on Sept. 18. Scots living outside Scotland cannot vote.Early opinion polls have shown a large plurality of Scots intending to vote to remain in the union, but the numbers are soft. In some recent polls, greater numbers have said they intend to vote for independence.Given the unpopularity of Cameron and his Conservative Party in Scotland, which is dominated by the Scottish National Party and the opposition Labour Party, Cameron has been wary of intervening too much in the debate, fearing a counterproductive effect. The pro-union campaign, which is meant to be nonpartisan, is led by Alistair Darling, a Labour member of Parliament from Scotland and former chancellor of the Exchequer, who had a cabinet post during the entire Labour reign from 1997 to 2010.Darling and his team have been emphasizing questions about whether an independent Scotland would have to reapply to join the European Union, whether it could continue to use the pound or adopt the euro, whether it would have a truly independent central bank, and even whether oil and gas revenues from declining production in the North Sea would be enough to fund Scotland’s budget.(STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL MATERIAL FOLLOWS.)The immediate response from the Scottish National Party to the excerpts - the ‘‘preaction,’’ as one BBC radio announcer put it - was predictably critical, accusing Cameron of being afraid to come to Scotland and debate the party leader, Alex Salmond.Salmond called Cameron ‘‘a big feartie,’’ or coward, for refusing a debate.Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement, ‘‘This is a cowardly speech from a prime minister who uses the Olympic Park in London to give highhanded lectures against Scotland’s independence but hasn’t got the guts to come to Scotland or anywhere else to make his case.’’Touching on Cameron’s image as an elite, Eton-educated southerner, she said, ‘‘David Cameron, as the Tory prime minister, is the very embodiment of the democratic case for a ’yes’ vote for an independent Scotland - and he knows it.’’She argued that using the Olympic Stadium on the day the Winter Olympics formally opened in Sochi, Russia, ‘‘seeking to invoke the successes of London 2012 as an argument against Scotland taking its future into its own hands,’’ only ‘‘betrays the extent of the jitters now running through the ’no’ campaign.’’  

 

The story Scottish independence: David Cameron urges Scots to stick with Great Britain first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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