Danny Alexander, 42, is chief secretary to the Treasury, and has been the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey since 2005. He’s leading the government’s campaign to keep the union intact. For more information on the benefits of staying in the UK, log on to www.youdecide2014.uk
Over the last few months, I’ve been responsible for leading the government’s referendum campaign and I think the more people reflect on it, the more they see that actually, we do have the best of both worlds at the moment. We’ve got the strength and depth and the deep pockets of the United Kingdom and we’ve got a Scottish parliament that can take decisions on a whole range of public services for Scotland. I really believe that we need to have a more powerful Scottish parliament, but the devolution shouldn’t stop at Edinburgh.
One of the things I am passionate about as a Highlander, is over the last few years, we have seen power increasingly taken away from places like the Highlands and Islands and given to Edinburgh, and we need them to reverse that. I want to see more power held here in the Highlands or in the Borders, or Fife or Glasgow. That’s what I’m trying to do with the city deal for Glasgow, for example. And I think that’s part of what needs to happen after the referendum, assuming we get a no vote, though I don’t want to assume that yet, there’s a lot more campaigning to go! –
I think we all have to try and rise above the vitriol that has been evident in the campaign. This is a massively important issue, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be a divided country afterwards. The referendum is an amazing opportunity; it doesn’t come often to countries, to debate on your own future, and I think what’s important is that both sides need to respect the result.
I think this idea peddled by some nationalists, that there should be other referendums – that needs to be set to one side. I think the other thing is that we have to make sure that the promises of more powers are kept. We have already legislated for big, new powers for the Scottish parliament, they are going to come through the system in the next 18 months or so, but the further promises, those promises have to be kept, that’s really important, and they will be kept. There are commitments from all parties to do it.
I have always thought 16 to 17-year-olds should be able to vote in this referendum and I think what has most encouraged me actually is that this group are more pro-UK than almost anybody else.
This isn’t about ‘No’ meaning no change – no means strengthening Scotland within the UK. And on the other side, we are seeing an increasingly shambolic nationalist campaign. It’s quite interesting, their currency argument has just disappeared. They have got no plan, they’ve barely got a plan A, let alone a plan B. So there’s no plan B on the currency and I think a lot of people see that and say, “For goodness’ sake – you folks have wanted this for 80 years. Surely you could have done your homework a bit better?”
The whole nationalist argument is based on two things. One is you can keep the pound – that has disappeared – and the other is we’ll be richer because of the oil – well, that’s disappeared too! Actually the oil is in decline, and Scotland would have much worse financial issues if we were independent, and that would be tax rises, big cuts… so Sir Ian Wood has effectively demolished their argument.
I have never wanted to personalise the campaign, though I do think that what people are seeing is that this may be Alex Salmond’s dream, but it would be a nightmare for five million Scots.
This last stretch of the campaign has just got to be about relentlessly hammering away about the benefits of being in the UK and the huge risks, uncertainties and dangers of independence. And I think that the quiet majority that has always been there will come out in force.
We’ve now all got one job, and that’s to get to the polling station on September 18 and say no to independence, and I think people will do that in huge numbers.