Pro-union campaigners say they are playing the “long game” ahead of September’s referendum on Scottish independence.
Representatives from the local Better Together group insist they will become more vocal as time ticks by towards this year’s vote on the country’s constitutional future.
Member Maurice Mullay has dismissed claims the group are acting in a reactive – rather than pro-active – manner as debate rages on whether or not Scotland should remain within the UK.
His comments follow calls this week by isles MP Alistair Carmichael for people to engage in the constitutional debate.
Mr Mullay insisted there was merit in biding time. He referred to the recent public Yes Shetland meeting in Hamnavoe which attracted around a dozen people.
Mr Mullay said Better Together would hold events highlighting perceived benefits of staying in the union as the referendum draws closer. Those, he said, would present a positive argument to staying part of the UK.
“We’re not exactly trying to rush at things. We’ve still got some time to go. Frankly we’re trying to maintain a steady pace and we’ll build up to it later on rather than try and overdo it initially.
“There are plans – I won’t say we can give you a detailed programme at the moment, but there are various things being looked at.
“We will have a higher profile as the months go by. We will be building up to September. There’s still an awful lot of discussion to be had about what the proposals for an independent Scotland might be.
“We don’t want people to get sick and fed up with it and put them off voting altogether. The view we’re getting from the public is that we are playing it sensibly and at a reasonably logical pace.”
Mr Mullay admitted he had heard arguments the Better Together campaign had been too reactive.
“But our noses haven’t been put out of joint by the fact that a Yes campaign meeting only attracted 12 people. Is there such huge merit in these things at this stage?”
Mr Mullay said “facts” missing from the SNP’s white paper on independence needed to be established. He dismissed the “project fear” description of the pro-union campaign group, insisting voters only sought clear information of what separation would mean.
“It’s the details and the information that’s critical – as well as whether we’re going to be in the union, what currency we’re going to be using and all these questions. There are a huge number of unanswered questions at the present time.”
One thing which may play into the hands of Yes campaigners is the increasing gap between rich and poor, the growing propensity for food banks to appear in communities and a Westminster government accused of being top-heavy with elite, privately educated MPs who are out of touch with the real world.
Mr Mullay said: “Certainly, as far as the percentage of rich and poor are concerned, there are going to be a whole lot more poorer people if independence were to come our way.
“It’s not fear, it’s uncertainty over what’s coming out from the SNP and the Yes campaign at the moment. It’s a wish list rather than a realistic assessment of how Scotland is going to be run – what currency are we going to use? how are our pensions going to be affected? what’s going to happen to mortgages?
“There are fundamental issues that are completely unknown at the moment.”
Yes Shetland spokesman Brian Nugent said the pro-independence campaign group were attempting to answer calls for more information.
“Obviously there is lots of stuff on the internet, but we are going out to meet people. We have been at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre and we are going to hold meetings in local areas. We think we are answering a need.”
Asked whether there was a lack of information he said a lot of details “can’t really be firmed up” until there are negotiations between the governments in Edinburgh and London.
“Better Together keep pointing out there’s vague stuff, but a lot of it is down to the fact that Westminster will not negotiate.”
Referring to the project fear label he insisted: “Project fear is not a name that we gave Better Together. Better Together gave themselves that name. That’s what they called themselves internally in their Glasgow offices, and it was let slip and became public.
“If you want to compare the information I would suggest they go and have a look at the two columns on the currency and the economy that were in The Shetland Times (21st February).
“They can see which one is trying to give information, and which one is just trying to instil worries.”
Better Together may have been bolstered this week by a MORI poll report which showed only 32 per cent of respondents believed Scotland should be independent.
Fifty-seven per cent disagreed with the SNP’s flagship policy, while 11 per cent were undecided. Mr Nugent said it may have been a “rogue” poll.
“The polls have been tending to increase the percentage for Yes. In the end, the only poll that will matter is the one on 18th September.”