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Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout
14 Sep 2014 09:39
A campaign poster on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides on September 13. (Cathal McNaughton, Reuters)
The fate of the United Kingdom remained unclear five days before a historic referendum on Scottish independence as three new polls on Saturday showed a
slight lead for supporters of the union, but one saying the separatist campaign
was pulling ahead.
On the final weekend of campaigning, tens of thousands of supporters of both
sides took to the streets of the capital Edinburgh and Scotland’s largest city,
Glasgow. Rival leaders worked across the country to convince undecided voters.
At stake is not just the future of Scotland, but that of the United Kingdom,
forged by the union with England 307 years ago.
The battle also took a bitter turn on Saturday when a senior nationalist
warned businesses such as oil major BP that they could face punishment for
voicing concern over the impact of a secession.
The economic future of Scotland has become one the most fiercely discussed issues in the final weeks of impassioned debate.
Nationalists accuse British Prime Minister David Cameron of coordinating a
scare campaign by business leaders aimed at spooking voters, while unionists
say separation is fraught with financial and economic uncertainty.
But former Scottish Nationalist Party deputy leader Jim Sillars went much
further than separatist leader Alex Salmond, warning that BP’s operations in Scotland
might face nationalisation if Scots voted for secession on Thursday.
“This referendum is about power, and when we get a ‘Yes’ majority we
will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks,”
Sillars, a nationalist rival of Salmond’s, was quoted by Scottish media as
“BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of
nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not
been as soft as we have been forced to be,” Sillars said.
Banks such as Standard Life would face tougher employment laws after a vote
for independence, he added.
When asked about the comments in a BBC interview, Sillars confirmed he had
raised the prospect of nationalisation, but said he had used the term to get
Nationalisation was not on the table, he said.
A BP spokesperson declined to comment but BP chief Bob Dudley has said that
independence could cause “uncertainties”, and he did not want to see
oil-rich Scotland drift away.
Major banks, oil companies and supermarkets have said that a vote for
secession would create concern.
Salmond struck a softer tone on Saturday.
“Mr Cameron and his Tory friends in Downing Street and the Labour
front men in Scotland are going to get their comeuppance next Thursday because Scotland
is going to vote yes in very substantial proportions,” Salmond said.
“It’s unfortunate that a number of businesses have allowed themselves
to be recruited by David Cameron and Downing Street, but let me say, after a
‘Yes’ vote, and we are going to get one, it is incumbent on us to reach out
everyone and build that atmosphere of ‘Team Scotland’.”
From the windswept islands of the Atlantic to the inner city estates of Glasgow,
Scots are debating whether to vote “Yes” or “No” to the ballot paper question
they will be asked on Thursday: “Should Scotland be an independent
Independence supporters say it is time for Scotland to rule itself, free of
politicians in London. “No” campaigners say that Scotland is more
secure and prosperous as part of the United Kingdom, and the end of the union
would destroy three centuries of bonds and shared history, as well as be an
Until September, all polls but one in 2013 had shown the unionists with a
comfortable lead. Several surveys this month, however, show the nationalists
have won over hundreds of thousands of Scotland’s four million voters.
Out of four opinion polls released on Sunday, three showed the unionists
with a lead of between two and eight percentage points while an ICM poll
conducted over the internet showed supporters of independence in the lead with
54% and unionists on 46%.
The ICM poll is the second this year to show independence supporters in the
lead though a small sample size of 705 people means its margin of error is
higher than most other polls. Polling expert John Curtice said the survey came
with “a substantial health warning”.
In other developments, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch visited Scotland on
Saturday and praised the country for being alive with debate ahead of the vote.
“No politicians, just street and pub talks,” Murdoch (83) said on
his Twitter feed. “Everywhere alive with debate. Democracy truly at work.
Both sides predicting victory.”
About 12 000 Protestant unionists, including contingents from Northern
Ireland, marched through Edinburgh’s Old Town on Saturday in an emotional show
of support for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.
With fife and drum bands, bowler hats and orange sashes, the marchers said
the referendum on Scottish independence, which takes place this Thursday,
threatened their culture and history.
“It’s your own history being taken away from you. What will you tell
your grandchildren?” said Jim Prentice, a gardener, wearing a Rangers
soccer club shirt, who had travelled from south of Glasgow to watch the march.
Organised by the Orange Order of Scotland, the march demonstrated that the
anti-independence campaign could count on a solid, substantial, bloc of votes
in Glasgow, the main battleground of the campaign.
But it also injected a sectarian element with a bitter and sometimes violent
history into the campaign. The Order is linked to the Northern Ireland
Protestant “loyalist” organisations and many lodges had crossed over
the Irish Sea for the event.
Rivalry between Catholics and Protestants - famously manifested by
supporters of Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers soccer clubs - has often been a
blight on Scottish society.
The pro-independence campaign was also pulling out all the stops across the
“I think it’s probably the biggest day of campaigning Scotland’s ever
seen. It’s enormous,” Calum Cashley, a “Yes” campaigner and SNP
activist, told Reuters.
“I’m running Edinburgh Eastern constituency today, and we leafletted
the entire constituency, we’ve had sweet stalls, people putting posters up in
their windows, it’s just been enormous. We’re seeing cars go by bedecked with
‘Yes’ posters and stickers. It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling and buzz.”
Deutsche Bank warning
Deutsche Bank said a vote for independence would be a mistake akin to Winston
Churchill’s decision to return the pound to the Gold Standard or the failure of
the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banks, decisions
that helped bring on the Great Depression.
“Foreign investors come to Scotland because they rely on a predictable
investment environment. All of this comes from a united Great Britain,” David
Folkerts-Landau, Deutsche’s chief economist, said in a note to clients.
Such is the gravity of the situation that finance minister George Osborne
cancelled a trip to the G20 meeting in Australia to be held the weekend after
the vote. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will leave the G20 meeting
Prime Minister David Cameron will warn Scots on Monday that if they break
the United Kingdom by voting for independence on Thursday then the union will
never be put together again.
“There will be no going back,” Cameron will say, the Sunday
Telegraph reported without citing a source. “We will go our separate ways
Former prime minister Tony Blair said he hoped Scotland voted to stay part
of the United Kingdom.
“To rip up the alliance between our countries would not be sensible,
politically, economically or even emotionally,” Blair, who was born in Scotland,
said at a security conference in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
Investors pulled $27-billion out of British financial assets last month -
the biggest capital outflow since the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2008 - as
concern mounted over the fate of the United Kingdom, a report by London-based
consultancy CrossBorder Capital showed. - Reuters
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