British Prime Minister David Cameron was to make an emotional appeal yesterday for Scotland to remain part of the UK, warning Scots a vote for independence would undermine Britain’s image and standing in the world.
Speaking in London, Cameron, an Englishman whose Conservative Party has only one of 59 UK-wide seats in Scotland, is set to make one of his most passionate defenses yet of the UK, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We would be deeply diminished without Scotland,” Cameron was to say, according to a note released by his office.
“If we lost Scotland, if the UK changed, we would rip the rug from under our own reputation. The plain fact is we matter more in the world together,” the note said ahead of Cameron’s planned address to an audience at the park used to host London’s 2012 Olympic Games.
Scots will decide in a referendum on Sept. 18 whether their nation, which has a population of just more than 5 million and is a source of North Sea oil, should end its 307-year-old union with England and leave the UK.
A “yes” vote would place the future of Britain’s Scotland-based nuclear submarine fleet in doubt and could weaken London’s claim to a permanent seat on the UN and its influence in the EU.
EU people familiar with the matter say Cameron does not want to go down in history as the prime minister who lost Scotland. However, he has conceded that his privileged background and center-right politics mean he is not the best person to win over Scots, who are usually more left-wing than the English.
Polls show Scots would vote to reject independence if a vote were held today, with only about a third keen to break away from the UK. However, there are still many undecided voters and the outcome is “up in the air,” the note said.
“There can be no complacency about the result,” the note added.
He will evoke the spirit of the 2012 London Olympics as an example of how the UK’s four nations work well together and say that Scotland already has a large measure of independence when it comes to health, education and policing matters, according to the note.
Tapping into an opinion poll earlier this month which showed people in England and Wales want Scotland to stay in the UK, Cameron will urge the English, Welsh and Northern Irish to tell Scots: “We want you to stay,” the note said.
Rory Stewart, a half-English half-Scottish lawmaker in Cameron’s Conservatives, on Thursday launched a campaign to turn those words into something tangible, saying he aimed to get 100,000 people to form a human chain of light from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast of England on July 19.
The idea, he said, would be to try to get people from all over the UK to show Scots — in dramatic fashion — that they wanted them to stay.
“The symbolism behind this would be to show the English, Welsh and Northern Irish love for Scotland. If we can’t do that then Britain is in a sorry state,” he said.