In a week where I’ve despaired a bit of the pro-UK campaign, it’s good to see Alistair Carmichael come out brimming with pride at what we have and what we’ve built together in the UK. In a speech at Edinburgh University last night. Yes, it’s a wee bit listy, but we actually need to look at and appreciate what we’ve got rather than just assume that the grass on the other side is going to be greener. Frankly, when people are wooed by the thrill of something new and exciting, the results can often not be the bliss they anticipate.
I can’t believe he got through a list of the benefits of the UK without mentioning Ant and Dec once, but never mind. He also could have paused to reflect on the web of social protection that we have built – human rights, employment rights, health and safety legislation, a health service which actually gets it right most of the time and which has the flexibility to meet the different needs north and south of the border.
We’ve made so much progress by partnership, working together across the UK.
I’m liking the language in this – it’s not quite there yet, but we need more, please. The UK side has to put some effort into this relationship, so that nobody takes each other for granted.
I hear whispers of more of this sort of thing at our Conference in Aberdeen this weekend.
This is what Alistair said:
Those of us who want Scotland to stay part of the UK need to be less shy when it comes to talking up the benefits the UK brings us. There are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to talk the UK down or blame it for every conceivable ill.
If we pause to reflect on what we get from being part of the UK family then we should be proud of what we are achieving, not thinking about leaving.
The UK works well for Scotland. We are benefitting because we are part of the UK, not despite being part of the UK. Just think about some of those benefits that we don’t shout about nearly enough and our opponents try to pinch or airbrush.
A UK economy with the strongest growth in the G7.
Record low interest rates.
Inflation down this week to just 1.7%
A strong and stable currency that has the respect of the international markets.
Scottish economic performance, as part of the UK, is second only to London and the South East of England.
Our unemployment rate is lower than the UK average.
Our employment rate is higher than the UK average.
As part of a larger UK, we are predicted to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030.
We have a truly single UK jobs market with no barriers to movement (national insurance, tax, pensions) which provides opportunities for thousands of Scots.
We have a single tax and regulatory system that allows the financial services sector and a host of other businesses to base themselves in Scotland without concern about the location of their customer base.
Being part of a larger UK economy we know we have a lender of last resort big enough to protect or banks and our savings.
As part of a larger UK our government can afford to invest in the North Sea’s future and absorb the impact of a 40% drop in production this year and the on-going decline of those resources that we know is coming the years ahead.
Scotland’s big employers are queuing up to say the UK provides strength, stability and jobs for Scotland . BP, Shell, Aggreko, Babcock, Standard Life, Black Rock are just some of the recent examples.
Being part of a big, successful UK economy with a stable currency, and low interest rates and a single tax and regulatory system also keeps our mortgage costs low.
It keeps our insurance costs low.
It keeps our energy bills down.
The UK’s size means Scotland has more influence in the EU, where we have a louder voice in the Council of Ministers, speaking up for Scotland’s fishing interests, our oil & gas sector, our financial services.
We have influence at the G7, G20 and NATO
We have an overseas aid budget that is now the second highest in the world and that allows Scotland to contribute more to humanitarian causes than we ever could as a smaller country.
And it is also worth saying that the UK has led the world with inspirational projects like Band Aid, Comic Relief and Sport relief that have raised hundreds of millions of pounds through UK generosity and creativity. Scotland played our full part in last week’s Sport Relief effort that has already raised more than £53 million for people in the UK and around the world.
We have a strong Scotland with a strong Scottish Parliament in a United Kingdom.
We can take the decisions with regard to our health, education, justice, transport and the environment at Holyrood. But we can do so while retaining our proud place at the heart of the UK family.
A family that we have built and which continues to provide opportunity and security on an unprecedented size and scale. We should keep building that family, not break it apart.