Yes and no camps ramp up campaigns ahead of the Scottish independence referendum
08:14 03 March 2014
North of the border talk of a break between Scotland and England has dominated politics for years.
TIMELINE TO THE REFERENDUM
1707: A failed attempt to colonise Panama leaves Scotland in financial ruin. It forms a political union with England.
1745: The Jacobite rebellion. Bonnie Prince Charlie fails to overthrown the Hanoverian rule in London.
1885: A Scottish Office and Scottish secretary are re-established
1886: Scots start to question the status quo after the Irish Home Rule bill is introduced.
1913: Scottish Home Rule bill introduced, but progress is hampered by the outbreak of the First World War.
1921: The Scots National League (SNL) set up in London with the main goal of independence.
1934: The Scottish National Party (SNP) is formed.
1967: SNP candidate Winnie Ewing wins the Hamilton by-election.
1968: Declaration of Perth – Tory leader Edward Heath commits to some form of Scottish devolution.
1969 -73: The Kilbrandon Commission looks at the viability of altering the constitutions of the two countries.
1974: The October general election sees 11 SNP MPs returned to Westminster, meaning they secured 30pc of the total vote in Scotland.
1979: Referendum on devolution is held and 52pc vote “yes”, but the Scotland Act is repealed after rules mean that 40pc have to vote in favour for the answer to be valid.
1997: Labour win the general election and another referendum on devolution is held with 74.3pc of voters backing the Scotland Act.
1998: The first Scottish election for a devolved parliament, with control over most domestic policy, is held. The SNP emerge as the largest party, closely followed by Labour.
2011: SNP win a majority in the Scottish parliament with 69 seats.
2012: First minister Alex Salmond launches his campaign for independence in Edinburgh.
It was only 38 years after the 1707 political union that Bonnie Prince Charlie led the failed Jacobite rebellion against Hanoverian rule.
Since then, Scottish history has been peppered with independence movements. Devolution was finally achieved a few years ago, but a full split has never come as close as it will on September 18.
The people of Scotland will simply vote YES or NO to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Which is why Westminster has suddenly gone into campaign overdrive in the last few weeks.
South of the border there are very few voices calling for a split, and politically it has consequences for England.
Labour’s chances of winning power will be diminished if Scotland gains independence – there is only one Tory in Scotland.
And the Tories will not want the legacy of being the party in power when Scotland broke away.
Even before the date was set the former chancellor – and Scot – Alastair Darling compared independence to buying “a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination”.
In a rare show of unity the three main political parties have joined forces to try to persuade Scotland to stay and put the kybosh on Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond’s plans for a currency union. Chancellor George Osborne has told Mr Salmond that it would not be possible, while Labour leader Ed Miliband said that a eurozone-style currency union would be “risky and costly for both Scotland and the rest of the UK”.
But Scottish first minister Mr Salmond is having none of it.
In the aftermath of the speech, where Mr Salmond was told that he couldn’t have the pound, one admittedly Nationalist-commissioned poll suggested that the gap between “yes” and “no” had closed, with 70pc of voters in Scotland agreeing the pound was as much Scotland’s as the UK’s.
And Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister, said it “demonstrates that Westminster politicians trying to lay down the law to Scotland is backfiring, with nearly two-to-one believing that these attacks on the idea of independence benefit the Yes campaign most”.
However, as the referendum approaches, Mr Salmond is going to have to come up with a better answer about currency than that the three main parties are bluffing. There is no clear plan B.
This time last week, Mr Cameron took on the oil issue claiming that the broad shoulders of a united England and Scotland would be better placed to exploit what is left of the North Sea resources.
But the Scottish first minister again rebuffed any such suggestion saying: “It hasn’t been so much the broad shoulders of Westminster as the vast cavern in the Treasury over the last 40 years where they’ve accumulated massive oil and gas revenues from Scotland. The reason they want to hang on to Scotland’s resources is that they’ve done so well out of them over the last 40 years. I think the next 40 years should be Scotland’s turn.”
Economically, the Westminister politicians believe they are winning the argument. And if they don’t think they have got economics covered, the prime minister went for an emotional tack asking all of us to phone a friend in Scotland to tell them we want them to stay.
The perception down south is that the better together campaign is winning the argument. But across the border it may not be so clear cut. Referendums do not always go to plan. While the “No” campaign may be ahead in the polls, there is still a real possibility that the people of Scotland ignore the pleas of the southerners and decide this is their chance to go it alone and see what happens.
Tomorrow – Four resident and one former resident East Anglian Scots give their views.
Comment – Page 26
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