Scottish independence: Can Alistair Darling at the head of the pro-Union campaign match Alex Salmond?


Alistair Darling is to spearhead a Save the Union campaign of all the pro-union parties in Scotland, according to a Mail on Sunday scoop. The former Chancellor has just confirmed the story on the Marr show, although the BBC website has still to catch up with it.The report says the plan was hatched in true Edinburgh style over tea and sandwiches in his constituency home, one of a several over recent months. It was impressively attended.

No 10 director of political strategy Andrew Cooper and former Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie attended the historic talks to discuss how to defeat Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond in the referendum on independence.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy were also at the meeting, with the Liberal Democrats represented by Euan Roddin, the special adviser to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.

The scoop – or leak – can be seen as a drizzle on Alex Salmond’s parade as he launches his independence campaign this week. In the Telegraph, the mordant prophet of the pro- Union forces Alan Cochrane believes that Cameron and Co are now reconciled  to Alex Salmond’s   referendum date of 2014. If the date is really settled, the big issue then is what will appear on the ballot paper. One question or two? And what would be  the single “fair” question?

Darling foresees the pro-Union counterblast launching “ in a few weeks’ time,” a timetable that gives them all to do.  Divided over devo max and the wider UK economy, how can Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives coalesce? The campaign, says Darling, will be “led from Scotland”. So with Cameron and Miliband (and Brown it seems) wisely staying in the background who will be the counterweight to the canny charisma of Salmond? It’s hard to imagine any of the local leaders being up to it.

Could it be Alistair Darling himself, a quiet man once called “the most boring man in British politics,” but whose bursts of candour about the economy these days come as a breath of fresh air?   The lively fear is bound to be that they’ll settle for a messy collective like the anti- Europe campaign of the early 70s which bit the dust and which Salmond will be able to divide and rule. Much may depend on the sentiment about the economy. So the question asks himself: if the pro-Union parties can come together over the Union steered by Alistair Darling, why can they not not agree over a Plan A+  for Growth?

Adds The whole issue would be horribly complicated if by some strange chance the main Westmisnter parties were to agree on an “In or Out” referendum on EU membership. The Observer says Ed Miliband is coming under party pressure to back a referendum call by the time of the Euro-elections of 2014. What a fine muddle that would land us in alongside a Scottish referendum. The idea is an internal Labour  party wheeze to try to checkmate growing Tory euroscepticism amid the turmoil of the eurozone crisis. As such it has nothing do with  the British national interest and will – probably – die the death.


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  • Bugger the Panda

    Alistair Darling to lead the Unionist anti Independence gang!

    Who was it who sat behind Gordon Brown when he dismantled the UK economy, raised the UK’s debt enormously and failed to oversee the banking system leading to London being the World centre for all the crooks and barrowboy money spivs?

    Is this the best the Unionist can come up with?

    I bet the SNP are smacking their lips in anticipation?

    What a sitting duck for the SNP.

    Please let it be.

  • Brian Walker‘s addition to the above doesn’t make sense. One sentence in particular needs clarification:

    The Observer says Ed Miliband is coming under party pressure to back a referendum call by the time of the Euro-elections of 2014.

    A casual scan might suggest Miliband would be urging a vote before 2014. On the contrary: were it to happen, it would be a 2015 Manifesto item.

    The push for an in/out EU referendum has been growing in Labour circles for years — and not out of bare-faced opportunism. The issue has to be confronted, sooner or later.

    I’d suggest that Jon Cruddas has it sensibly in supporting The People’s Pledge:

    This is about democracy. At certain stages, the political classes should invite the people into the discussion that affects their everyday lives; none more important than Europe.
    I think we should use every opportunity to push the case for a referendum, simply on the basis of the democratic principles involved.
    Irrespective of where you stand on the issue, it is a question of your rights as a citizen of this country to be able to participate in discussions that affect your material everyday life and our culture.

    If nothing else comes out of the Great €-crisis, one lesson to be learned is that the (long ignored) “democratic-deficit” cannot be forgotten.

    Similarly with the lesser-spotted Scottish referendum. Did anyone not suppose that there are “noises off”? Or that Alistair Darling wasn’t a “big beast”, especially so in Scottish Labour? Or that he would not be involved? Have a look at Watt and Carrell’s piece in The Guardian, 11th January 2012, and you’ll see there’s not much revelatory in today’s interview.

  • ChasP

    Well the unionist media ,there is no other,none of them actually just report things everything has a slant,has it now came back to haunt you all? First you all hound out Brown and Darling,calling them all the names (not nice ones though) under the sun,and now expect them to be of a help to save your skins? So what it is your really saying is the people will accept the government that the popular press decide for us,half wits is the nicest I can say about your attitude,the press has been power abusive and without the responsibility of government.Hope I have said that properly.

  • Siôn Jones

    Alistair Darling the most boring man in British Politics? ? ?

    I thought the current champion was Ian Duncan Smith. I would love to see the decider between them for the title! At the Albert Hall! They have to bore each other, in the ring. The first to fall asleep loses.

  • DougtheDug

    Divided over devo max and the wider UK economy, how can Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives coalesce?

    As far as I know neither Labour, the Lib-Dems nor the Conservatives want devo-max so I can’t see it causing any problems with a LibLabCon coalition which is what the unionist campaign will be. Though I take it they want to save the Union while not mentioning the word union or unionist in their campaign.

    What sources make you think one of these three actually want devo max?