Alistair Darling: Scars of first referendum are still felt in Scotland

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Alistair Darling: Scars of first referendum are still felt in Scotland
Alistair Darling: Scars of first referendum are still felt in Scotland

FORMER Better Together chief, Alistair Darling, has cautioned against a second independence referendum, saying "the scars in Scotland are still there eight years later."

During the 2014 race, Lord Darling was the public face of the No campaign, leading the alliance between Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

Speaking to LBC on Tuesday, the Labour peer said the vote was "divisive".

He also suggested that the First Minister did not want a new poll but was trying to “keep her own troops going” and distract from domestic problems.

Responding to his comments, the SNP said the ex-chancellor needed to "apologise to the people of Scotland for the multiple disasters his No campaign has delivered."

In the interview with Andrew Marr, Lord Darling said that “despite Brexit, despite Boris Johnson” the majority of Scots still backed staying in the union.

“If you look at the polling, the No vote has remained consistently ahead of the Yes vote. Not by much more, but it has, which shows that the people that you would need to win a referendum from the nationalist's point of view are not shifting.”

However, he said there was “no doubt that Boris Johnson is a recruiting sergeant for Scottish nationalists.”

The ex-chancellor said the Tory leader was not fit to be Prime Minister.

“I think he's dragging us down internationally. I think the fact you've got somebody you cannot rely on what he's saying, and he's been doing this for years, that to me, renders him unfit to be Prime Minister. “

Asked about Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum campaign launch last week, Lord Darling said:  "I don't think she wants a referendum any more than I do.

"I think if you had it today she'd lose.

"It's interesting that she recognised the border problem and said that it's a challenge.

"You've seen in Northern Ireland what happens when you stick a border in the UK, it is more than a challenge.

"It's a complete disaster. And equally, I used to go on and on and on about the currency question in 2014. They don't have an answer to it yet. What currency would we have?

“She has to keep her own troops going and that's why we're going through all of this."

He added: "If you look at what's going on in Scotland at the moment.

"She's given up on trying to reduce the gap between rich and poor at schools.

"The transport policy an absolute disaster, the ferries to the islands not being built, years late. The health service, she keeps going on about how we dealt with Covid and we have problems as much as the rest of the UK has.

"What better from her point of view, than to start talking about Nirvana.

"She would not want to lead an independence campaign that ended up in failure, to lose two would be a disaster."

He said the majority of people in Scotland had "indicated time and time again" that they did not want a vote.

“Referendums, as you've seen in the UK with Brexit, they are extremely divisive, and the scars in Scotland are still there eight years later.”

The SNP’s Westminster independence campaign coordinator, Stewart Hosie,  said Lord Darling should "apologise to the people of Scotland for the multiple disasters his No campaign has delivered."

The MP added: "He should answer for a litany of broken promises, with Scotland now suffering the catastrophic consequences of the Brexit the No campaign said would never happen, the Prime Minister they said would never be in Downing Street and a cost of living crisis which the broken Westminster system is fuelling.

“While Lord Darling rakes in £300 a day for simply turning up in the House of Lords, millions of people across Scotland are struggling to pay for their weekly shopping, terrified to open their energy bills and subject to state pensions which lag far behind those of many of our neighbours.

“He needs to explain why a country as resource rich as Scotland is, under Westminster rule, lagging so far behind almost all of our European neighbours on a range of economic league tables.

"Opponents of independence are running scared because they have no answer to that question and are not even trying to address it.

“Many of our European neighbours are wealthier, fairer and happier than the UK, and they show what Scotland can achieve with the powers of independence.

“The people of Scotland have secured a cast-iron democratic mandate to decide their own future when they elected the biggest pro-independence majority of MSPs ever returned to Holyrood – and the Trump-like efforts of Boris Johnson, Alistair Darling and others to deny that democratic reality sound increasingly absurd.”

Ms Sturgeon is due to set out her 'routemap' to a second independence referendum next week.

The First Minister will explain to MSPs how she can deliver on an SNP manifesto commitment to stage Indyref2 despite the UK Government withholding the necessary powers.

Ms Sturgeon is due to make a statement and answer questions at Holyrood next Tuesday for an hour starting at 2.20pm.

SNP Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson has said the aim is to hold the vote in October 2023.

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