Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond are making their final pitches before the referendum. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling give their final pitches before the Scottish referendum

Tomorrow is the Scottish independence referendum. The Better Together leader and Scotland’s First Minister are making their last pleas.

Scotland will take to the polling stations tomorrow. As the independence referendum approaches, the leaders of the campaigns on both sides are having their final say.

Polls continue to be extremely close, only just giving a No vote the edge. Three new polls were published last night: one by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail. They all came out with 52 per cent for No and 48 per cent for Yes. However, they exclude undecided voters.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written an open letter to Scottish voters, urging them to “wake up on the first day of a better country”.

Here is his message, as reported by the Scotsman:

In these final hours of this historic campaign I want to speak directly to every person in this country who is weighing up the arguments they have heard.

I have no doubt people in Scotland will look past the increasingly desperate and absurd scare stories being generated daily from Downing Street.

Those have no place in a sensible debate.

So in these last days of the greatest campaign Scotland has ever seen, I want to ask you to take a step back from the arguments of politicians and the blizzard of statistics.

For every expert on one side, there is an expert on the other.

For every scare tactic, there is a message of hope, opportunity and possibility.

The opportunity for our Parliament to gain real job creating powers, the ability to protect our treasured National Health Service and the building of a renewed relationship of respect and equality with our friends and neighbours in the rest of these Islands.

But for all that, the talking is nearly done.

The campaigns will have had their say.

What’s left is just us - the people who live and work here.

The only people with a vote. The people who matter.

The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands.

It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have.

Scotland’s future - our country in our hands.

What to do? Only each of us knows that.

For my part, I ask only this.

Make this decision with a clear head and a clear conscience.

Know that by voting ‘Yes’, what we take into our hands is a responsibility like no other- the responsibility to work together to make Scotland the nation it can be.

That will require maturity, wisdom, engagement and energy- and it will come not from the usual sources of parties and politicians but from you -the people who have transformed this moment from another political debate into a wonderful celebration of people power.

Does every Country make mistakes? Yes.

Are there challenges for Scotland to overcome? Undoubtedly.

But my question is this - who better to meet those challenges on behalf of our nation than us?

We must trust ourselves.

Trust each other.

In Scotland we’ve always had the wealth, the resources and the talent.

We know that with independence we would immediately be in the top twenty of the richest countries in the world.

But what has emerged in this campaign is something very new.

It has changed Scotland forever. I have met it in every community I have been in the last weeks.

Confidence.

Belief.

Empowerment.

An understanding that if we work hard Scotland can be a global success story.

A beacon of economic growth and a champion of social justice.

That’s who we are as a nation.

We are the land of Adam Smith who said that no society can flourish and be happy if too many of its people do not benefit from its wealth.

We are the land of Robert Burns who loved Scotland dearly and also celebrated humanity the world o’er.

It’s what we can be.

Its why this opportunity is truly historic.

Women and men all over Scotland looking in the mirror and knowing the moment has come.

Our choice, our opportunity, our time.

Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country.

Wake up knowing you did this - you made it happen.

This vote isn’t about me, it isn’t about the SNP, the Labour Party or the Tories.

It’s about you. Your family. Your hopes. Your ambitions.

It’s about taking your country’s future into your hands.

Don’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

Don’t let them tell us we can’t.

Let’s do this.

It’s a clear pitch to undecided voters.

The First Minister was also on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, giving his final pitch. He spoke passionately about the debate, calling it “the most amazing thing”. He observed:

I never thought in my political life that I would see people queuing up patiently to register to vote. . . Some people who’d not been on the political register since the poll tax probably. People who couldn’t give a stuff about politicians, including me probably, the BBC, metropolitan leaders. . . [We should] capture some of that enthusiasm, some of that positivity.

However, it was what he lacked in precision that he made up for in enthusiasm. Asked yet again about his plan for Scotland’s currency, still unclear on the eve of the poll, Salmond insisted, fairly vaguely, that, “our proposal is a common sense agreement on our current currency”. He didn't confront the scenario in which Scotland would not receive central bank backing.

Yet he confirmed that, in the event of a Yes vote, “I will say the No and the Yes campaigns are over, we have Team Scotland”. His idea of Team Scotland is to invite figures from across the political spectrum, and both sides of the independence campaign to negotiate in “comradely friendship” for a “best possible settlement for Scotland”.

However, the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, talking on the same programme this morning, called the idea of Team Scotland “deeply offensive”. He was condemning the idea that it was “unpatriotic” not to support the Yes campaign. "He is not Team Scotland".

Darling also criticised the tone in which some of the Yes campaign has been carried out, saying, “unfortunately there are some who have stepped over the mark,” and some had found independence activists “quite frightening”. He gave the example of Yes activists demonstrating outside the BBC.

On devolving further powers to Scotland, Darling said the new powers were announced “months ago”. He said what has been decided in the last stages of the campaign is that there will be a “timetable” for the main parties to sort out their “minor differences” over the details of devolution. On the idea of a “neverendum” following a slim No win, Darling insisted, “no, I think both sides are actually agreed – because I said it and Alex Salmond said it – that this is to settle the matter for a generation.”

He added: “We have all built the UK together and we have benefited from that strength. . . I think it would be a tragedy if that relationship was broken.”

Now both campaigns can do little but watch how their final pitches will affect the undecided 8 per cent (approximately) of voters when they come to make up their minds tomorrow.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

BBC screengrab
Show Hide image

Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.