Cameron urges Scots not to break up ‘family of nations’

A Yes vote in independence poll would be a ‘once and for all’ decision to leave the UK

British Prime Minister David Cameron has implored Scots to vote 'No' to independence in Thursday's referendum saying that a 'Yes' vote would tear the country apart forever. Video: Reuters

 

British prime minister David Cameron has issued a visibly emotional plea to Scots not to vote Yes in Thursday’s independence referendum, saying that the United Kingdom is a family that should not be broken up.

Mr Cameron travelled to Aberdeen for his final intervention in the two-year campaign, as he faces increasing criticism from Conservative MPs for his handling of the referendum.

Saying that a Yes would be a “once and for all” decision to quit the UK, he warned that the divorce that would have to take place over the next 18 months could be painful.

“The future of our country is at stake,” Mr Cameron declared. “On Friday, people could be living in a different country, with a different place in the world and a different future ahead of it.”

The language used is questionable since there is evidence that it is an attempt to counter the desire of Scots living in working-class communities to use the vote as an opportunity to punish the Tories.

The prime minister said he would like “millions of people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and many in Scotland, too” would be “utterly heartbroken by the break-up of the United Kingdom”.

Mr Cameron likened the UK to a family and pleaded with Scots not to break that family apart.

Individual identities

He said: “The United Kingdom is not one nation. We are four nations in a single country. That can be difficult, but it is wonderful. Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, different nations, with individual identities competing with each other even at times enraging each other while still being so much stronger together. We are a family of nations.”

He added: “A family is not a compromise, or a second best, it is a magical identity, that makes us more together than we can ever be apart, so please – do not break this family apart.”

Meanwhile, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond met leading Yes business-people to counter the argument that Scotland faces economic troubles if it votes Yes.

On Sunday, he said that the vote would be “a once in a generation” opportunity – a direct message to waverers that it is now or ever.

Having achieved his objective on Sunday to pose the question in a do, or don’t way yesterday, Mr Salmond was able to soften it yesterday, saying that it was “my view” and “my opinion”.

He defended the decision of thousands of Yes supporters to picket the BBC headquarters in Glasgow on Sunday – an action that led to charges the campaign is trying to intimidate the media.

However, Mr Salmond said the protest had been peaceful and legitimate given the belief of large numbers of Scots that the BBC has been partisan in the campaign – a charge the BBC denies.

Rejecting again the warnings from some business leaders, Mr Salmond said: “It was always a nonsense to argue that the land of Adam Smith is incapable of running its own finances and the demonstration today from these Scottish job creators [proves] that there are plenty of people with confidence in Scotland’s prospects.”

He rejected, too, demands by some Yes supporters that the companies – John Lewis, Marks & Spencers and others – should be boycotted, saying that “the actions of a few idiots on either side” should not be taken to represent either campaign.

Constitutional guarantees

Former prime minister Gordon Brown said the Scottish people will have three constitutional guarantees that lock in change before Thursday’s vote.

The Scottish Parliament’s future existence will be legally guaranteed, as will be extra powers, including freedom to spend more money on the National Health Service.

Mr Brown said he had spoken to pensioners, military veterans, nuns and “Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish communities in Glasgow”.

“People want change. Whether it is because global economic forces are making their jobs less secure, of inferior status, lower paid and restricting the opportunities for their children,” he said.

Meanwhile, the White House said Washington would respect the outcome of the vote but would prefer the UK to remain “strong, robust and united.”

A variety of experts say Washington would rather avoid the disruption to Nato defences that forming a separate Scottish military would bring. Scottish membership is not a foregone conclusion because other members, particularly states such as Spain with separatist worries, could block it.

President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, Josh Earnest, chose his words with care when asked to comment on prospects of Scottish independence.

“This is a decision for the people of Scotland to make,” he said. “We certainly respect the right of individual Scots to make a decision . . . along these lines. But, you know, as the president himself said, we have an interest in seeing the United Kingdom remain strong, robust, united and an effective partner.”

– (Additional reporting: PA/Reuters)