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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

What both sides are saying in Scotland’s great debate

There are 200 days to go.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond walking in front of a Saltire.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond walking in front of a Saltire.
Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

IT IS EXACTLY 200 days until Scotland votes on whether to break from the United Kingdom and become an independent nation.

What began as a relatively polite and constructive campaign when the referendum was formally created late last year has recently become more fractious, with both sides accusing each other of  misinformation.

The referendum issues are both broad and contentious and  in large part have focused on what form an independent Scotland would take, what institutions the new Scotland would keep and what others they would create themselves. Scotland’s Government outlined their plans in a blueprint ‘Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland‘ but’s it’s implementation has been much debated.

Not least the proposal to keep using the British pound and to maintain an economic link with the Bank of England, something the bank itself have questioned.

But what exactly are both sides saying and indeed who is saying it?

First things first: The question

Before the referendum was even finalised, there was much argument and politiciking between Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron over what exactly should be asked and when the vote should take place. On those issues it was somewhat of a draw between the two party leaders.

Cameron wanted the vote to be held in mid-2013 but Salmond always had his eye on the autumn of 2014 for a number of reasons. Not only did he want more time to raise funds for the campaign and lay legal ground work, this year has a number of events that may help stoke Scottish nationalism.

The Commonwealth Games are to be held in Glasgow this year while the Ryder Cup returns to the country of it’s sports birth shortly after the referendum takes place.

This year also marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Bruce led Scotland to a significant victory against their southern neighbours in what is considered Scotland’s First War of Independence.

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The two rivals look on as Scotland’s Andy Murray’s prevails at last year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament.  (Pic: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

But the referendum  needed backing from Westminster before it could go ahead and Cameron gained perhaps crucial win in making it a simple ‘Yes/No’ vote.

The question to be put to the Scottish people will be, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’.

The black and white wording was favoured by the UK Prime Minster who didn’t want a second question to be added to the ballot paper, allowing for a watered-down independence in the case of a ‘No’ vote.

What the ‘Yes’ side are saying

The Scottish National Party are to a very large degree the dominant voice in favour of the referendum, perhaps not surprising given that the vote in many ways represents the pinnacle of their ambition as a party to date. They are not alone, however, the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign is also made up politicians from other parties and some notable public figures. They also have a lead in terms of fundraising, even if they have consistently trailed in the polls.

Here’s what they have said recently:

A shared currency will mean an independent Scotland having control of tax policy, employment policy, social security policy, oil and gas revenues, immigration policy and a range of other levers to suit our own circumstances, helping to grow our economy, create jobs and secure a more prosperous and fairer society. – Scottish finance secretary John Swinney on a currency union.
“The UK cabinet has come to Aberdeen but they’re not going to have any public discussion or access. It does seem a wasted opportunity, not just for the first minister and the prime minister to debate, but to have people from this area question the UK cabinet over its range of responsibilities.” – Alex Salmond on a sitting of the UK cabinet which took place in Scotland last week.
It was Scotland that proposed an increase in the number of qualifying places [for the European Championships], seconded by the Republic of Ireland. “This change was unashamedly in our interests, but it was also in the interests of small and medium sized countries across Europe which make up the majority of the members of UEFA. – Former general secretary of UEFA and chief executive of the Scottish Football Association David Taylor nails his colours to the mast.

“On the whole I’ve considered independence to be something of a no-brainer: if ever there was a small, potentially socialistic state that could do with being detached from its deluded imperialist neighbour, it’s Scotland.”  - Journalist Will Self in a column in the New Statesman magazine.

But as a Scot with a lifelong love of Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss. Simply put there is no more creative an act than creating a new nation. – Actor Sean Connery has been pro-independence since the start of the campaign.
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David Cameron (centre) dons some high-vis gear to look around a BP oil rig 100 miles off the Aberdeen coast. (Pic: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire)

What the ‘No’ side are saying

The Scottish wings of the three main political parties in Westminster are all urging a ‘No vote. The formal ‘Better Together’ campaign is being led by Labour MP and former chancellor Alasdair Darling, with the UK Government also perhaps the most vocal side of actor in the ‘No’ side. Much of their recent campaigning has focused on pointing out what they see as gaps in Salmond’s plans.

Here’s what they have said recently:

If there’s one brand that people know when I go round the world, it’s the BBC. I sometimes think we don’t realise how important the BBC is in people’s perceptions of our country. – UK culture secretary Maria Miller.
“There are also a host of great British institutions, from the BBC and the National Lottery to the Met Office and our Olympic teams, who would have to be broken up in the event of independence.” – Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary of the UK Government.
A vote in favour of Scottish independence would be likely to significantly impact the Group’s credit ratings and could also impact the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which the Group is subject. – The Royal Bank of Scotland outlines it’s concerns, echoing other financial institutions.
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Celebrity backing for the ‘No’ side in the form of David Bowie. (Pic: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)
“For the past 300 years, Britain has led the way in finding new sources of energy. It is the strength of the UK’s broad based economy which can make the difference and ensure we can invest in our energy for the long-term future. I promise we will continue to use the UK’s broad shoulders to invest in this vital industry.” Prime Minister David Cameron doubts Scotland’s ability to make the most of its oil rescources by without UK support.
“Scotland, please stay with us.” –  Apart from some strong support from Alex Ferguson, the ‘Yes’ side has had been lacking on some high-profile celebrity backing, so these five words from David Bowie at the Brit Awards went down well.

Read: ‘European friends came to the help of Ireland’: TDs brief Scots on EU membership >

Read: Alex Salmond has come out fighting after EU warning about Scottish independence >

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