Scottish independence: One month to go in referendum campaign

One month to go until Scotland decides and the campaign to win votes is stepping up a gear as BBC News James Cook reports

Both sides in the Scottish independence debate have held events with one month of the campaign left to go.

First Minister Alex Salmond visited Arbroath, which has historical significance for nationalists.

Better Together launched its "final push" ahead of the vote on 18 September.

Voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Ahead of a meeting in the town, Mr Salmond visited Arbroath Abbey, the birthplace of the Declaration of Arbroath, which affirmed Scottish sovereignty in 1320 following the wars of independence.

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Daily question
Question makrs

As the people of Scotland weigh up how to vote in the independence referendum, they are asking questions on a range of topics from the economy to welfare.

In a series running up to polling day, BBC correspondents are looking at those major questions and by using statistics, analysis and expert views shining a light on some of the possible answers.

So far, they have looked at Trident, Scottish economic growth, broadcasting, population and health.

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The declaration contains the famous lines: "As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.

"It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

Mr Salmond made what he described as a new Declaration of Arbroath - pledging to protect the NHS from privatisation and create a fairer society.

alex salmond bowling Mr Salmond took part in a bowls match ahead of a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Arbroath
Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander and the No campaign are continuing to focus on the currency debate

This "Declaration of Opportunity" would be "based on the vast potential of the talented people of this country that independence can release", he said.

Mr Salmond said the referendum gave voters in Scotland a "precious" opportunity to "take power out of the hands of the Westminster elite and into the hands of the people of Scotland".

Mr Salmond set out what he said were the three key opportunities that independence would provide:

  • "The opportunity to protect our publicly-owned, publicly-run NHS forever from Westminster privatisation and cuts."
  • "The opportunity to create a fairer Scotland, ending the assault on the most vulnerable members of our society, and the unfairness which has seen a huge rise in the use of food banks in a land of plenty."
  • "The opportunity for young people to stay in Scotland, to choose to build their future here because an independent Scotland has a strong economy, a just society and a good quality of life for all."

It is because of these "great opportunities" that people will be better off with "Scotland's future in Scotland's hands," Mr Salmond argued.

Speaking to BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme ahead of the event, Mr Salmond said keeping the pound without the backing of the Bank of England was a viable "transitional option" for an independent Scotland.

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ANALYSIS - BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor

"In Scotland's wider story and the Nationalists' narrative, there is no icon more enduring than Arbroath Abbey. But, if the setting was historic, the accompanying political offer was modern.

"Mr Salmond said his proposal amounted to a Declaration of Opportunity - to preserve the NHS from privatisation, to build a fairer society and to enable young people to stay in Scotland and to work here. In a speech tonight, he argues that the greatest argument for independence is the relatively low population growth in Scotland in the last century: much of it under devolution.

"But his political opponents suggested today that he had an opportunity of another kind: to clarify the situation regarding the currency which might be used in an independent Scotland........"

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He said: "The Fiscal Commission said there were a number of viable alternatives, including as a transitional point exactly that (sterlingisation).

"But the best option for Scotland is keeping the pound in a currency union.

"As a transitional option, the Fiscal Commission said it was viable, but there are a number of other viable options.

"But the key point we're making is arguing for the sterling union, which we think is the best option for Scotland."

Meanwhile, Douglas Alexander, the Labour MP and shadow foreign secretary, launched the latest stage of the Better Together campaign in Glasgow, joining a group of activists bearing "No Thanks" banners and balloons.

'Majority of support'

Some activists joined in an impromptu rendition of Flower Of Scotland sung by a nearby busker while Mr Alexander called for clarity on Scotland's currency.

Mr Alexander said: "What the people want isn't so much a new Declaration of Arbroath but the declaration of some answers on the currency, on Europe, on how they will meet the additional costs and consequences of independence.

"We need some basic, straightforward answers from the first minister. This morning he talked about transitional arrangements on the currency. Transition to what?

"The postal ballots drop in just a week's time and still we don't have the most basic answer on what will Scotland's currency be?"

He added: "We don't know the terms and timescale that it will take for Scotland to re-enter the EU and we don't know how the nationalists will close the additional £6bn funding gap that their policy of independence will create."

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Cold alliance
Faces with painted flags

Nothing unites different nations quite like mutual enemies. But the "Auld Alliance" between Scotland and France - both historic rivals of England - doesn't mean that the French government favours Scottish independence. Far from it, writes the BBC's Hugh Schofield.

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Flag of Cornwall

Cornwall is about as far away from Scotland as it is possible to get by land in the UK and has a vibrant nationalist identity. But does it share more with Scotland than England? And does it have a greater interest in the Scottish referendum? Vanessa Barford writes that the famous challenge - often signposted with a distance of 874 miles (1,407km) by road - is not the only thing that Scotland and Cornwall have in common.

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Mr Alexander had earlier claimed a majority of Scots continued to back the Union as the two-year campaign entered its final stages.

He said: "This has already been the longest campaign in British political history. The remarkable thing over the last two years of campaigning has been how little public opinion has changed.

"We started the campaign speaking for the majority of Scots and now, as we enter the final month, we still speak for that majority.

"Not a single independently commissioned poll has ever shown Yes in the lead.

"The challenge for our campaign is to turn the majority of support into the majority vote on September 18. My message to everyone that supports our campaign is this: 'If you want it, you have to vote for it.'"

Elsewhere, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was making the case for the UK at the Glenshee Ski Centre in Aberdeenshire before embarking on a tour across Scotland, taking in Dundee, the Isle of Lewis, Caithness and Glasgow.

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