By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 20 August 2013
Increasingly Right-wing policies from the UK coalition government and relentless scaremongering by the pro-union BetterTogether campaign could drive Scots to vote for independence in next year’s referendum, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has warned.
In an article for the Scotsman newspaper, he said there was ‘a perfect storm’ gathering that could convince Scottish voters the only way to create the sort of Scotland they want is through independence. Scots, he said, feel they have less and less in common with the coalition’s United Kingdom.
‘The advance of the Right poses a real threat to the union and Scotland’s role in it,’ McLeish writes. ‘This scenario will probably embrace a lurch towards a form of English nationalism, combined with the fear, hate and scapegoat mentality being targeted at welfare benefit claimants, immigrants and foreigners.
‘Scottish electors may see a softer, more intelligent, politics, where identity, nationality, humanity, fairness, equality, virtue, compassion, tolerance and diversity matter, and may feel that that one-nation politics might only be achieved in Scotland as the Union fails to deliver.’
His comments come a week after US polling guru Nate Silver suggested that only a major crisis hitting England would persuade Scots to vote to leave the UK. McLeish cast his warning as an alternative route to that destination, based on growing Scottish alienation from London’s austerity agenda. He also predicted that Scots will want nothing to do with ‘the reckless adventure’ of a referendum on European Union membership.
McLeish condemned the refusal of the unionist parties, Labour included, to sanction a second referendum question on enhanced devolution. ‘Scots want to know what happens on the day after the ballot,’ he argued.
He was scathing of the pro-union campaign led by ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling. ‘BetterTogether continues to use the fear factor as its major weapon, with a campaign so thoroughly negative as to be in danger of alienating many Scots who want to vote for the union but [who] feel increasingly insulted by endless threats of famine, pestilence, plague and aliens if they dared to vote for independence.’
He observed that the Scottish National Party is the dominant force in Scottish politics and faces little opposition. ‘Unionist politics in Scotland is in crisis.’