PRIME Minister David Cameron has launched a defence of the United Kingdom as his government prepares to put the “facts” about Scottish independence to the public.
While people in Scotland will make the decision in autumn next year, the implications will have obvious impacts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Conservative leader said.
“Britain is admired around the world as a source of prosperity, power and security,” he said.
“Those glorious Olympics last summer reminded us just what we were capable of when we pull together: Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish, all in the same boat – sometimes literally.
“If you told many people watching those Olympics around the world that we were going to erect barriers between our people, they’d probably be baffled. Put simply: Britain works. Britain works well. Why break it?”
Addressing matters of the “heart and head”, Mr Cameron spoke out yesterday, one day before the Government publishes the first in a series of analysis papers about Scotland’s role in the union.
It comes one week after the Scottish government published a “road map” from the referendum next year to full statehood in early 2016.
Mr Cameron said Britain has built up “world-renowned” institutions such as the NHS and BBC, and “fought for freedom” in two world wars, leaving “unbreakable bonds”.
He said: “But the case for the UK is about head as well as heart – our future as well as our past.
“I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.
“The real question is whether it should – whether Scotland is stronger, safer, richer and fairer within our United Kingdom or outside it. And here, I believe, the answer is clear.”
Scotland has its own government and parliament in Edinburgh as part of the UK, allowing decisions to be taken that affect daily lives.
Devolved powers include health and education, while Scotland has maintained an independent legal system.
“Scots can take all of these decisions and more to meet the specific needs of Scotland – and they can do so without losing the benefits of being part of the UK and having a full say in its future –economic strength and opportunity, international influence and national security,” he said.
“Scotland within the UK has a system of government that offers the best of both worlds. Why swap Scottish MPs, Scottish cabinet ministers and Scots throughout UK institutions, for one Scottish ambassador in London?”
He criticised the Scottish National Party (SNP) for discussing the final transition to independence before all the facts have been aired.
In the “road-map” publication last week, it was suggested that negotiations between Scottish ministers and the UK Government, European Union and international organisations could be concluded by March 2016, assuming a ‘yes’ vote in autumn 2014.
It also set out plans for a written constitution, to be devised by the first parliament and the public, which could outlaw “weapons of mass destruction” in Scotland.
Mr Cameron said: “I know those arguing for independence are already preparing their separation transition plan, as though they’ve got this in the bag, but to me that is wrong. It’s like fast-forwarding to the closing credits before you’ve been allowed to see the movie.
“This big question is for Scotland to decide. But the answer matters to all of our United Kingdom. Scotland is better off in Britain. We’re all better off together and poorer apart.”