Final push for the union

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined Scottish Labour Leader Johan Lamont at Loanhead Miners Club on the Scottish Independence Referendum Campaign
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined Scottish Labour Leader Johan Lamont at Loanhead Miners Club on the Scottish Independence Referendum Campaign

It’s the battle for hearts and minds as well as votes - and the clocks is ticking.

With just five days to go before Scotland votes in its referendum, Kirkcaldy returned to the spotlight with a meeting lead by Gordon Brown MP.

There was a large national media presence as he returned to Templehall Community Centre - where he kicked off his ‘Fife Talks’ series of debates - to hear the former Prime Minister deliver his case for a no vote and staying in the union.

He was joined on the platform by Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Councillor David Ross, leader of Fife Council, and Lindsey Roy, MP for Glenrothes.

Mr Brown argued the Better Together message for staying part of the UK was ‘‘fairer, better, safer and faster than the irreversible separation of the SNP’’

- and he warned voters that a Yes vote simply meant the end of the union.

‘‘This is no trial separation - once the union has gone, it’s gone,’’ he said.

Mr Brown’s speech covered everything from concerns over the future of Rosyth Dockyard to the NHS as well as the BBC, National Lottery, pensions and the future of our armed forces.

He said he ‘‘could not see’’ Rosyth surviving in an independent Scotland as the issue of defence work was raised during questions when one woman said her husband’s job was at risk and she was ‘‘terrified’’ what might happen if the country voted yes.

The health service was again a major issue with Mr Brown delivering some scathing criticism of First Minister Alex Salmond.

‘‘We created the NHS not as a Scottish funded health service, but for the whole of the UK. It is universal and free at the point of need, regardless of nationality,’’ he said.

‘‘Alex Salmond says he is powerless to stop a UK government privatising the NHS or cuttings its budgets.

‘‘Understand this - that is a deception.

‘’The 1998 Scotland Act gives the Scottish Parliament powers to raise revenue for services it wants to provide. If Alex Salmond cannot guarantee this, or is powerless to stop it, then he should stand aside and let Labour sort it out.’’

Mr Brown pledged: ‘‘As long as Scots want it, the NHS will remain in public hands.’’

The issue of a currency union and the SNP’s threat not to pay its share of the debt if it doesn’t get an agreement was described by Mr Brown as the biggest threat, and the greatest damage which we cannot ignore.’’

He hit out: ‘’To refuse to pay your debts or liabilities will put Scotland - and all Scots - as outcasts of the international community.’’

He, and Mrs Curran, also touched on the theme of patriotism, criticising the First Minister’s adoption of the phrase ‘Team Scotland’ in recent days.

‘‘No-one should allow it to be said that anyone who votes no is any less patriotic or proud of their country,’’ said.

In his opening remarks, Mr Roy also gave a ‘‘warm welcome to Team Scotland’’

Margaret Curran also picked up the theme: ‘’We all have great pride in Scotland and what we have achieved. We reach out and break down barriers, we look to see what we have in common with others rather than what sets us apart.’’

The question and answer session with the audience - a large number of them wearing No Thanks badges and t-shirts - covered everything from the future of lottery funding to defence, passports, Trident and Faslane, and an assurance no ballot boxes would be tampered with on Thursday, underlining perhaps how increasingly tense the issue has become as the polls narrow in the countdown to the crucial vote.

Cllr Ross - whose local authority will oversee the Fife count at Michael Woods Sports Centre in Glenrothes - gave his assurance the vote would be run properly.

‘‘There will be no interference, and absolutely no intimidation at any polling stations,’’ he said.

As the meeting ended there were small groups of Yes and No supporters waiting outside to greet Mr Brown on his departure. In contrast to the egg-chucking chaos which met Jim Murphy MP on his Kirkcaldy visit, it was a much more relaxed and calm scene with the media taking time to speak to supporters from both camps, all trying to work out if Kirkcaldy is going Yes or No.

The answer won’t be known for five more days.

The battle for hearts, minds and votes will go on until the polls close at 10.00 p.m. on Thursday.