Danny Alexander: Why should we run away from successes of the UK?


In a speech to the Working for Scotland rally in Glasgow, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has urged people in Scotland not to run away from the great economic and social successes of the United Kingdom.

Danny said that staying in the UK has opened more opportunities to build a stronger economy and a fairer society for Scotland instead of the risks and uncertainties of independence. 

Danny's speech was as follows:

"I’ve been a Liberal for 42 years, since I was 6 months old on the island of Colonsay, and my mum caught my Grandad saying ‘repeat after me, I am a member of the Liberal Party.’

"But I only really became engaged in politics as a teenager in the Highlands, with the great Liberal Russell Johnston as my MP.

"His liberalism, as is mine, was based on the understanding and the belief that people do better when they work together, when barriers between them are taken down.

"That is the fundamental difference: nationalism is about building up barriers between peoples, we are about taking barriers down.

"That has been the direction of human history over the course of the last 100 years. Barriers of prejudice that prevented people fulfilling their potential – because of their race, colour or gender – have been gradually removed. Just this year that progress made another breakthrough, so that two men or two women can lawfully be married in any part of the United Kingdom. We should be proud of that.

"Barriers between countries have been removed or reduced too. In Europe, bloodshed has been replaced by co-operation.

"And where does this co-operative spirit find its greatest example? Here, on these islands. Our United Kingdom is the greatest alliance of nations – economic, monetary, political, social – ever in the history of this planet. We should never break it up.

"Of course there is a vast amount more to do to achieve the progress we need.

"And we will be less able to achieve that progress – so that every person has the opportunity that George, Brian, Adam and Ronald and I have had - because one of the consequences of independence will be to severely weaken our economy. Weaken our ability to create jobs, weaken our ability to fund public services, weaken our national health service.

"Just look at what has been said over the last 5 days.

"Last Wednesday, Sir Ian Wood, the pre-eminent figure in the Scottish Oil and Gas Sector, comprehensively demolished the SNP’s hyper-inflated claims about how much oil is left.

"We all want to get the most we can out of the North Sea, but what remains is difficult and expensive to get to. And that also means it will bring much less tax revenue in future – much less than we get now, and much, much less that the nationalists pretend.

"Last year, we received £3bn less revenue that the Scottish Government had predicted. They accuse the OBR of being pessimistic – but in fact, since 2010 we have received 20 per cent less revenue than they have forecast too.

"This matters to all of us – because that gap is the money the SNP pretend will pay for public services in a separate Scotland. The money they pretend will pay for the NHS.

"So an independent Scotland will face:

  • A deficit double the UK’s
  • Much higher interest rates
  • Declining oil revenues, so the black hole gets bigger and bigger and bigger every year

"The IFS says an extra £6bn cuts in year one alone. That’s half the NHS budget.

'As that’s before you add in the costs of setting up the new state, the costs of the unfunded promises to cut corporation tax, and the oil fund that would be the first ever savings account paid for by credit card.

"As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I’ve been involved in working to balance a nation’s books after the deepest financial crisis in half a century. It’s not easy, and it affects everyone. But the end is in sight. Well whoever had my job in a separate Scotland would say my job had been a tea party by comparison.

"In an independent Scotland, the cuts would have to come year after year after year, with no end in sight.

"I don’t want that for Scotland. You shouldn’t want that for Scotland. And we don’t have to have that for Scotland if we vote ‘no thanks’ on Thursday.

"In the UK by contrast, we are part of a stable, secure system, where resources are shared so we help each other during the ups and downs. Why should we run away from that?

"That financial crisis, was a huge ‘down’. But throughout that period, no bank felt it had to leave Scotland.

"That changes on Thursday if we vote ‘yes.’

"Great Scottish institutions, some located here for two centuries or more, have said that they would have to move south of the border.

"You’d think such momentous news would give any responsible leader pause for thoughts. Yet all Alex Salmond could do was bleat on about ‘brass plates’. The only brass plate doing the rounds last week was that being nailed to the coffin of the economic case for independence.

"This matters, it really matters, because it is about jobs that would be lost in growing numbers as time passed. And it is about control. Just ask those European countries that only had foreign banks how much influence they had when the chips were down.

"Yet in the UK right now, we have the strongest rate of economic growth amongst major advanced economies. The strongest job creation rate of any major economy. We have worked so hard for that – yet Alex Salmond says we should run away from it now. No, thanks.

"Then we heard from the retailers. Asda, B&Q, and others. They made the obvious point that in a smaller separate country, with higher costs, those costs get passed on to customers in Scotland rather than being shared across the UK as they are now. Prices will go up.

"Jim Sillars promised them a ‘day of reckoning.’ Pretty outrageous, though I doubt John Lewis will be quaking in their boots at the thought of losing Mr Sillars custom.

"So your shopping will be more expensive if we give up on the ‘four for one’ offer of the UK. Pooling costs across the UK keeps prices down for every Scot. Why should we run away from that?

"A little over a week ago, the stock market valuation of Scotland’s biggest companies fell by £2.6billion, off the back of one opinion poll. That’s just the merest hint of what will happen if we vote Yes on Thursday. That matters to all of us, not just the companies concerned, because their success creates jobs for people and value for our pensions. Why should we run away from that?

"And of course if our economy is weaker, and interest rates higher, house prices will be bound to fall too.

"Why should we run away, when staying in the UK offers us the opportunity to build a stronger Scotland.

"We’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of one of the strongest, most secure, most trusted units of exchange in the world. The pound sterling. On no issue is the weakness of the nationalist economic case for clearly demonstrated than in their failure to set out any credible plan for what our currency would be in future.

"I have in my hand a model of the new pound coin. The plan is to introduce a new coin in early 2017, following a public consultation.. I do not want to be the only Scot ever to have held this coin in my hand as the currency of my country. I want all of you to as well, but that requires us to say ‘no thanks’ on Thursday.

"Staying together, we will build a stronger economy. We stay part of a strong UK economic recovery, which means more jobs for our young people.

"I would expect to see an economic bounce for Scotland if we say ‘no’. After all, so much investment has been paused while people wait for the referendum result. With the nationalist uncertainty lifted, our economy will lift off.

"And we will have a stronger Parliament too. More powers are guaranteed – quickly and safely within the UK, when we say ‘no’ on Thursday.

"For over 100 years, my party has campaigned for a vision of a home rule Parliament with a federal relationship in the UK. That is now on the table – in fact, it’s just one vote away.

"The prize is a Parliament that has control over our domestic affairs, is financially self-sustaining with extra powers to raise revenue as well as more control over aspects of welfare and employment support, but within the safety and security of one United Kingdom. Surely, that is a prize worth voting for on Thursday?

"We all want to change for Scotland. And things will change whichever way we vote. But I believe the stronger Scotland within the UK is the change most people want – it is change that can be delivered more quickly than separation, more safely than separation, and leaves us stronger than separation. Why would we run away from the UK, when that is the alternative?

"But of course, this debate is not just about economics, or political structures. It’s about who we are.

"I am a proud Highlander, a patriotic Scot, a Brit and a European too. All of those identities sit comfortably together. I think many of us resent being forced to put one above all the others. I love Scotland – that’s why I want to keep the UK together.

"We’ve achieved so much together, produced so much together, sacrificed so much together.

"As a boy, I travelled back and forward from Invergarry to Fort William every day to go to Lochaber High School. So twice every day, the school bus passed something that for me symbolises better than anything what the UK means.

"It is the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. Some of you will have seen it.

"It commemorates the commitment and sacrifice of young men from Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland who came to our Glens to train for their role in the liberation of Europe. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom that we will exercise on Friday.

"The epitaph reads ‘United we Conquer.’

"If we stay United, then I believe that working together we can conquer the many challenges and problems that we still face, and so build a stronger economy, in a fairer society, in which everyone has the best chance to get on in life. And if some good comes of this great battle to save our country from nationalism, I hope it is the realisation that there is so much more that unites than divides those of us who believe in an open, optimistic, progressive future for Scotland in the United Kingdom.

"So on Thursday let’s say, politely but firmly, ‘no thanks.’"

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