If Scotland walks away from the UK, it will break up the Labour family. Photo: Getty
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One month to go: what voting No in the Scottish referendum can offer Labour voters

With one month of campaigning left until the Scottish independence referendum, why would Scotland remaining in the Union benefit Labour supporters?

18 September 2014. It is a date that we in Scotland have been talking about for years, and it will be etched in our nation’s memory for generations to come. I look forward to telling my grandchildren about it, with pride and passion for everything that Scotland has achieved.

Because one month today I am voting to stand in solidarity with working people right across these islands. I am voting "no thanks" to Scotland walking away from our friends and neighbours across the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is a country shaped by shared values – not least tolerance, fairness and internationalism – to which all nations and communities can contribute and from which all learn.

It is grounded in values of cooperation and solidarity between countries and nations that make us all stronger.

What we gain economically from working together rather than walking away is underpinned by something far more powerful - the gains from the interaction and cross fertilisation of ideas and experiences – out of which comes shared values and the desirability of shared decision making.

It is not simply that a working family in Paisley has more in common with a working family in Preston or Ebbur Vale than with the Duke of Sutherland. It is that in their shared endeavour and common experience we all gain.

What the UK teaches us – not least through the intermarriage, intermingling and immigration with Britain over the centuries – is to see the world though someone else’s eyes.

The UK embodies a quintessentially modern idea I hold very dearly. We are enlarged by people who are different from us. We are not threatened by them.

I believe deeply that change is needed on both sides of the border – and beyond our borders. 

Right across the UK, Tory economic policy and welfare cuts make many fearful and force choices between heating and eating for still more. The SNP's council tax freeze is taking money from the poorest communities while forcing cuts to the public services they need most.

The nationalists rely on rekindling an outdated sense of victimhood. Wales, Northern Ireland and great cities like Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester find no place amidst a cultural conceit that holds that everyone south of the Tweed is an austerity-loving Tory.

The nationalists say – walk away and all will be well. Yet while the clear majority of Scots want change, we do not judge independence as the route to achieve those changes.

As Labour campaigners, our belief is that when we see injustice we stand and fight to change it, and so we must be the voice for the change that most Scots want.

The ideal and the practice of solidarity is what most challenges the nationalist notion that somehow Scotland needs independence because Scots are better at being fairer than the English, or at least, would be without the English around.

At a deeper moral level, walking away is not and never can be an act of, or the basis for, solidarity.

At our best, Labour has been the party of constitutional, economic and social renewal – the party of Scottish home rule. We established the Scottish Parliament. But for us that parliament, with whatever powers it now has and will have in the future, is a means to an end. And that end is to improve the lot of working people and ensuring no one is left behind.

That task is still best achieved working alongside our comrades in the rest of the UK. As the old trade union slogan has it, “In Unity is Strength”.

The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that an independent Scotland would have to impose £6bn of cuts or tax rises after a yes vote over and above those already planned. That is more than Scotland spends on schools, more than the entire budget for pensions and equivalent to half the current NHS budget.

The truth is that separation means cuts. What Alex Salmond is asking Scotland to vote for is Austerity Plus for decades to come.

That is what makes his pitch to Labour voters that there would be fewer cuts and more wealth redistribution in a separate Scotland so cynical.

If you take a moment to look beneath Alex Salmond’s rhetoric at his actual record, there isn’t much to back up his claim to want redistribution. In seven years as First Minister there has been not one policy which redistributes wealth from rich to poor – indeed the opposite is true.

But the certainty is that the financial chaos that would be inflicted by the nationalists' confusion over the currency of a separate Scotland would lead to more cuts and greater poverty.

This currency chaos would hit the poor harder than anyone. The cuts would have to be across the board – from schools to hospitals, from pensions to welfare payments to some of our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

My starting point is that I want Scotland to be fairer, more prosperous and have greater opportunities.

That’s why I have come to the conclusion that we are more likely to have the strength to become fairer, more prosperous and have greater opportunities by working with our neighbours in the United Kingdom.

For the nationalists the starting point is the desire to leave the United Kingdom. The question of Scotland being fairer, more prosperous and having more opportunity is secondary to their core belief.

In the closing weeks of this campaign we are offering Labour voters what most Scots see as the best of both worlds: more decisions taken by Scots here in Scotland, backed up by the strength, stability and security of the UK.

When I campaign in towns and cities across the country, I speak to people facing the same challenges as my own constituents in Renfrewshire.  And I meet dedicated Labour campaigners focused on fighting to improve their communities.

I believe that if Scotland walks away from the UK, breaking up our Labour family, it would be a blow to the cause of social justice across the United Kingdom.

When my grandchildren ask what I did in the referendum, I want to be able to say that I worked and campaigned for a principled and pragmatic solidarity that shares risks, rewards and resources across these islands.

In this final month before polling day, my call to Labour supporters - wherever you live in the UK - is come and work with us in these closing weeks of the campaign.

Join us in upholding the ideal and the practice of solidarity in these islands. We'll give you a warm welcome because we understand ' unity is strength' as we campaign  for victory  on September 18th.

While the referendum is a decision for us in Scotland to make, the debate about solidarity and social justice is one for across the UK. 

Let’s stand together in solidarity on September 18th, both as a Labour movement as a the family of nations that is the United Kingdom.

Douglas Alexander is Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South and shadow foreign secretary

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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