Published: Sunday 7th September 2014 by The News Editor
The campaign over the future of Scotland is now so close that every voter in the referendum could tip the balance, the man leading the campaign to keep the United Kingdom together has warned.
Alistair Darling, leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, spoke after a shock poll put support for independence ahead for the first time, with less than two weeks to go until polling day.
Mr Darling insisted he was “increasingly confident” Scots would opt to stay part of the UK, but warned the next 10 days would be “critical”.
As a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put support for a Yes vote in the September 18 referendum at 51%, compared to 49% for No – when undecided voters are exlcluded – it emerged a detailed timetable for the transfer of more powers to Holyrood would be made public before that vote.
Chancellor George Osborne revealed this would be announced in the coming days, although Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted Scots would not be fooled by a unionist campaign which is “engulfed in panic”.
Ms Sturgeon, who was addressing undecided women voters in Glasgow, said: “‘I think the No campaign is missing the fact that this campaign in Scotland has moved beyond any place where people can have the wool pulled over their eyes.
“One of the really invigorating things about this campaign, and for politicians one of the challenging things, is that we have now got a well-informed population that is capable of seeing through what the politicians say and coming to their own decision.
“That’s why we see the Yes campaign ahead and why I’m confident, although it will take really hard work, we will see Yes win on September 18.”
She claimed that it ”increasingly looks as if the No campaign think people in Scotland are daft”, adding: ”If the No campaign parties had any serious intention of delivering substantial new powers for Scotland, then why has it taken until 10 days before polling day, with a poll showing Yes in the lead, for them to come up with this?”
Mr Darling, who was camapigning at a food and drink festival in Balloch, Loch Lomond, said the YouGov poll had shown that “every voter in Scotland can now tip the balance in this referendum”.
He added: “We are very confident that we’re going to win but people have to realise this is a close contest, it will go right to the wire.”
Mr Darling said: “I believe passionately we can build a better and stronger Scotland without breaking up the country. The risks are real to families in Scotland, we should be spending the next 10 days doing everything we possibly can to make sure we can get that fairer and better Scotland and avoid the risks of separation.
“I believe the next 10 days are critical, it’s clear now that every voter in Scotland can tip the balance in this referendum, it’s that close.
“I want to see a stronger and better Scotland, and I passionatley believe you can do that better without breaking up the country.”
The former chancellor continued: “The campaign was always going to be close, I’ve always said this would go right down to the wire. What is very clear now is every voter in Scotland holds the balance, they can tip this referendum.
“I believe people will know it’s not a protest vote, it is about the future of our country. If we decide to leave there is no going back.
“I’m increasingly confident we will win and I intend to spend the next 10 days arguing every moment of the day to build a better and stronger Scotland, a Scottish Parliament with more powers, we can do that within the United Kingdom and avoid the risks of breaking up the UK.”
His message was echoed by former prime minister Gordon Brown, who said: “Nobody was ever going to be complacent – a fight is on, it always was a fight.”
More than a third (35%) of Labour voters could back independence, the YouGov study today suggested, up from 18% a month ago.
Mr Brown said: “I think people want change but they are deciding what kind of change.
“And the ‘what kind of change’ is either a Scottish Parliament with stronger powers, part of the UK for pensions, healthcare, jobs and security, or breaking every link with the UK.”
After it emerged a timetable for new powers for Scotland would be set out, Mr Brown said: “I have been pressing, so has the Labour Party, for some weeks now for a more definitive statement about the timetable for the delivery of extra powers.
“I think when people see the full scale of the powers the Scottish Parliament will have, and our ability to do things while retaining the benefits of the UK, including the currency, I think they are going to decide on the extended powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK.”
Mr Brown, who was campaigning with his wife Sarah in Kirkcaldy, added: “I hope the other parties will support what is a Labour proposal, a Labour initiative, so that these powers are guaranteed, and so a No vote doesn’t mean nothing happens, a No vote means we move quickly to the delivery of extra powers.”
He spoke out after Mr Osborne had told BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ”You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland. More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state.
”That will be put into effect – the timetable for delivering that will be put into effect the moment there is a No vote in the referendum.
”The clock will be ticking for delivering those powers, and then Scotland will have the best of both worlds.
”They will both avoid the risks of separation but have more control over their own destiny, which is where I think many Scots want to be.”
These reforms would include ”much greater” fiscal autonomy and control over tax rates as well as more powers over welfare rates, he said.
But Alex Salmond dismissed the move as a “bribe” from Westminster politicians.
Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland the First Minister said: “Are we expected to believe, after hundreds of thousands have already voted, that there’s a radical new deal?
“This is a panicky measure made because the Yes side is winning on the ground.”
He added: “They’re trying to bribe us, but it won’t work as they have no credibility left.”
Meanwhile Ms Sturgeon said: “I’ve always been confident the Yes campaign will win, that there will be a Yes vote, but we take nothing for granted.
“It’s really important that the Yes campaign continues to do what we have been doing for months now, that is patiently persuade people of the positive case for independence, it’s about putting control of Scotland into the hands of people who live and work here, and we will continue with that job in every single minute of the campaign that remains.”
Published: Sunday 7th September 2014 by The News Editor