People may be surprised that I agree with a lot of the statements which underpinned my predecessor John Barrett’s declaration last week in favour of independence. I agree that we need to build a fairer society; I, too, want to move towards a world without nuclear weapons; and I know that the NHS is a bedrock of the United Kingdom.
On these fundamentals, and I dare say many more, there is more common ground than division and neither side in this debate should try to claim a monopoly of wisdom or care. Like families across Scotland, John and I have listened to all of the same arguments, read the same information, listened to the same debates and then decided to vote in opposite ways.
For me, Scotland is better as a strong part of the UK family of nations. I believe that we are far stronger together than the sum of our parts and I will not be persuaded otherwise. I am proud that around the world the UK is seen overwhelmingly as a force for good. We have the second highest aid budget globally, our brave armed forces are engaged in life-saving humanitarian missions in the mountains of Iraq, our highly-skilled medics are putting themselves in danger to help countries battling Ebola, and we are using our tremendous soft power to tackle gender-based violence around the world.
At home, we have made mistakes, but we have also forged successes which have endured for decades and which will forever be part of our UK. From penicillin to the latest advances in medical science, from the welfare state to the BBC. I cherish these joint achievements and I do not like seeing them undermined to make the case for independence.
Not only do I believe in our family of nations, but I also have real concerns about the lack of detail in the Nationalists’ plans. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that Scotland would face tax increases and spending cuts to the tune of £6 billion. In spite of this, SNP MSPs and ministers have continually promised to protect public spending across the board whilst cutting taxes. What they fail to answer is how they would do it. Nationalists have also promised to reverse any welfare cuts made by the UK Government, but there is no sign of the £2.5bn needed to do this in the White Paper.
The Nationalists’ passion for independence is blinding them and that would cost Scotland dear. Alex Salmond doesn’t even have a clear plan B on currency. That uncertainty would not just hit families with higher interest rates and anxiety around pensions and savings, but it would also affect businesses across Scotland.
So until polls close on September 18, I will remain on the opposite side of this argument to my predecessor. But the fact that there is more common ground in the fundamentals of what we want to achieve for Scotland than there is difference is important. Because on September 19, no matter the outcome, Scotland will have to come together again to work towards building the fairer society which I believe those on both sides of the argument want to see.
For me, looking to the future does not mean erasing our past, and being part of something bigger does not make Scotland weak. A No vote is not a vote for no change, but a vote for a strong Scotland proud to stand with our neighbours in our United Kingdom.
Mike Crockart is Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West.