Tommy McAvoy on why Scotland's future success lies within Britain
We now know for definite the terms and timings of the referendum on independence in Scotland. There are concerns over the franchise and how 16-17 years olds can be sure of actually voting, about the question and the costs. However, we need to get past the process and get on to the real issues.
This is the biggest constitutional issue facing Scotland since the Union Agreement in 1707. It is indeed an historic moment. It was a Labour government which delivered the Scottish Parliament, and we will continue to develop devolution in a sensible way. But make no mistake the Labour Party in Scotland will lead the campaign for a ‘No’ vote to the independence question.
Labour is the party of devolution through a process which the SNP boycotted. We now need to marshall the hard facts on the economy and trade, industry, defence issues and every aspect of Scottish life which demonstrate clearly that we are more successful as a part of the United Kingdom.
If the Scottish people decide to separate, then that decision should be respected. We have always believed that the right of the Scottish people to determine whether they stay in the Union or not is a matter for them. But ultimately, we do not believe the Scottish people will be convinced by the argument to leave the most successful Union the world has ever seen, and from which Scots have benefited from and contributed to over many centuries.
Nearly all of us have family or friends in Wales, Northern Ireland or England, so why on earth would we want to arrive at a situation where they exist in a foreign country? Throughout history, we have looked out towards the wider world and have played a part on the international stage, both as a country and as individuals. Scots have pioneered the way in all fields of science and arts, charities and religious bodies in many developing countries, particularly Africa. All of these things have been done whilst we have lived as part of the UK, so why should there be hostility towards that relationship?
We are proud to be Scottish and British, and see no conflict between the two. We need to appeal to all generations, from people of my age who grew up in the years after the Second World War and remember the incredible feeling of unity in my working class community at contributing to victory. But we also need to stress to our younger generations the relevance of our partnership in the UK, and that it is of benefit to them as they make their way in life.
I know some Labour people will have instinctive feelings about co-operating with other parties but this single issue is too important not to co-operate with everyone who, like us, sees Scotland’s future in being a secure member of that UK. The referendum is two years away. But let us get to work now.
Lord Tommy McAvoy is Labour’s shadow spokesman for Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Lords
Published 17th October 2012