The Prime Minister is joining in the efforts of the campaign for a No vote. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron: “We do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart”

The Prime Minister’s last-minute plea to Scotland.

David Cameron has written an emotional piece in the Daily Mail calling for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. Its headline is: “Our Union is precious. Don't tear it apart”.

Here are some extracts:

It’s difficult to put into words what our United Kingdom represents. This is the group of small islands in the North Atlantic that have punched above our weight for centuries – and we’ve done so together.

When the world wanted representation, we gave them democracy. When they wanted progress, we had the Scottish enlightenment and the industrial revolution.

When slavery bound innocent people, we abolished it; when fascism threatened freedom, we defeated it. A hundred years ago, our boys went off to war together – and they did so as comrades, united by purpose and hope for a better world.

As individuals and as nations, we have done extraordinary things. This is the special alchemy of the UK – you mix together Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and together we smash expectations.

. . .

This week, the No campaign set out more detail on this. Power for Scotland over how much money it borrows, what taxes it raises, how it spends that money – all agreed by November, all put into draft legislation by January. This is the package that Gordon Brown outlined on Monday. It is one I wholeheartedly support. Because we know that brighter future for Scotland rests not only on staying in the UK, but also on having significant new powers.

. . .

The United Kingdom is a precious and special country. That is what is at stake. So let no one in Scotland be in any doubt: we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart. Across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, our fear over what we stand to lose is matched only by our passion for what can be achieved if we stay together.

It is a clear, impassioned article – qualities the Better Together campaign had been missing until the former PM Gordon Brown embarked on his tour to save the Union this week.

It comes as Westminster’s three main party leaders are abandoning their parliamentary duties today, in order to prioritise the fight against Scottish independence. Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are all going on a No vote trip to Scotland, in a last-minute attempt to persuade Scotland to stay. So far, all three leaders have kept a relatively low profile in the campaign, which is why I wrote yesterday that this show of their nerves today is a bad idea.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

All photos: India Bourke
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“They cut, we bleed”: activists Sisters Uncut protest closures of women's services

 “Our blood should not pay for our rape.”

Over 500 domestic violence survivors and support workers processed through central London this weekend. The protest, staged by the feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut, mourned the women’s services that are losing out as a result of the government's austerity drive.

Since November 2014 the group has occupied streets, burned copies of the Daily Mail, and hijacked the Suffragette film premiere. But on Saturday the mood was somber. In Soho Square the group staged a symbolic funeral service. Attendees stood in a protective circle, fists raised, while members took turns to read out the names of the scores of women who’ve been killed by men in the past year:  “Anne Dunkley, 67; Nadia Khan, 24; Lisa Anthony, 47…”. The youngest was just 14 years old.

The service culminated in a promise “to never forget” the dead, and also to protect the living: “We must love and support one another; we have nothing to lose but our chains".

As the protestors passed St Martins in the Fields Church, dressed in black veils and funeral attire, the crowd of passers-by broke into spontaneous applause. “It gave me goosebumps”, Caroline, an activist and former victim of abuse told me. “You expect people on the march to be supportive but not the people on the street. I’ve been on other marches and people normally complain about you being selfish and blocking up the streets but this response makes you feel like people do  care.”

The show of public support is especially welcome in the aftermath of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Cuts to local authority budgets have already led to the closure of over 30 domestic violence services since 2010, including Eaves, a charity that provided services for single, low-income and vulnerable women.

Further erosions to local council budgets will only put more services and lives at risk, activists say. Also of concern is Osborne’s decision to devolve responsibility for raising a social care tax (of up to 2 per cent on council tax) to local authorities. This tips hostility to tax increases away from central government to local authorities, and could place greater pressure on women’s services to compete for funding.

The Chancellor offered a supposed silver lining to the cuts with the promise that VAT money raised from the EU’s compulsory tax on sanitary products will be ringfenced for women’s charities, such as the Eve Appeal and Women’s Aid.

The implication, however, that only women are to pay for helping the victims of domestic violence was met with derision from Sisters Uncut. As the marchers approached their final destination in Trafalgar Square, red dye turned the square’s famous fountains the colour of blood. “This blood won’t wash the blood from Osborne’s hands,” read one tampon-draped banner; “Our blood should not pay for our rape”, read another.

For those on the march, the cuts are an affront on many levels. All those I spoke to worked in some form of public service; everything from housing to foster care. But some have had to move out of the women’s services sector for the lack of funding.

Louisa used to work for a domestic violence service in London until it was forced to close last month. “I’m here because I’ve witnessed first hand what the cuts are doing to women and how much the organisations are having to squeeze what they can provide.”

All public services have legitimate claims to support - from the 14-strong police team that escorted the marchers, to the sweepers who were left to dredge the protesters’ roses out of the fountains and brush away the tampons that had fallen from their banners.

The danger, however, according to Caroline, is that the needs of domestic violence victims are all too easy to sideline: “This is by its nature something that goes on behind closed doors,” she says. As funding tightens, these voices musn’t be squeezed out.

Sisters Uncut is an intersectional group open to all who identify as women. The national domestic violence helpline offers help and support on 0808 2000 247. Members of the LGBT communities can also access tailored support from Broken Rainbow on 0800 9995428.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.