Since becoming Labour leader, Ed Miliband has said little about Scottish politics, despite the reality that his party has the most to lose from an independent Scotland. But in the Q&A session following his speech to London Citizens, he was finally forced to address the subject.
Miliband said that he supported David Cameron’s decision to call for an early referendum on independence and called for “greater clarity about the legal position, what is actually going to happen and when it’s going to happen.” He also made an impressive and extensive defence of the Union, referring to the “sense of solidarity that exists across the border” and to shared institutions such as the NHS and the BBC.
It now seems likely that Alex Salmond will simply ignore the two party leaders and proceed with his original plan to hold an advisory referendum (the Scottish Parliament has no legal right to hold a binding one) in 2014 in the hope of securing a clear mandate to negotiate for independence. But Cameron’s intervention has at least succeeded in focusing attention on an issue that has often seemed too distant from our MPs’ minds. Miliband promised that “lots of prominent people” from Labour, “including me”, would join the fight to save the Union. Given that Labour would lose 41 seats from independence, while the Tories would lose one, he had better live up to his word.