Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said that Scottish Labour needs to wheel out some of its big guns to shore up a “soft” west of Scotland vote that is bleeding support to the independence campaign.
Mr Scott today denied reports that he had said the leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling was failing to connect with the public. It had been reported that he made the comments at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Aberdeen on Friday.
But he said: “The Labour Party need to work out why their vote is so soft: they need to use well respected figures like John Reid, Brian Wilson and George Robertson – that’s a crucial element.”
Mr Scott added that the LibDem vote had failed to turn out in force at the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011 following the Liberal/Conservative coalition at Westminster. But there was absolutely no possibility that LibDem voters would not be rock solid against independence in September’s referendum.
He said that the message from the “no” campaign was not failing, but the gap between the two sides was not as big as some Labour politicians seemed to believe and there was no room for complacency.
He added: “[Alex] Salmond says that the campaign to keep Scotland part of the UK is shambolic, but we [Better Together] are still ahead. I would love to be part of a shambles that is winning.”
Mr Scott rejected “yes” campaign claims that Better Together was about fear and negativity and said that the campaign was “overwhelmingly positive.”
He said that he had dealt with “Salmond” all his political life and he was the most negative politician he knew, who “always plays the man, not the ball” and whose constant attacks on London government were “implicitly anti-English”.
The SNP and UKIP, Mr Scott claimed, were remarkably similar in ideology and had both adopted a tactic of accusing opponents of negativity whenever legitimate questions were asked.
Nationalism, he said, was always a negative concept and he said that attacks by “cybernats” on the Barrhead Travel founder Bill Munro were totally unacceptable. In February, Mr Munro had sent emails to his 600-odd employees saying that independence would be a “complete disaster”, allegedly in response to staff queries as to how he would vote.
Mr Scott claimed that anyone arguing for preserving the UK “got a mouthful of abuse”. He added: “I despise that form of campaigning, but we never see it criticised by Salmond or Sturgeon.”
Yes Shetland activist Brian Nugent meanwhile welcomed the endorsement of two former senior Liberal Democrat officials for a Yes vote. Former chief executive Andy Myles and former treasurer Dennis Sullivan have both decided to back the independence campaign.
Mr Nugent said: “There is an ever growing cross section of the community wanting to vote “yes”. Support is coming from across the political spectrum; Lib Dem, Labour, Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialists, SNP and even some Conservatives and non-party political folk.”
Mr Myles, who played a key part in drawing up proposals for devolution, said he had become convinced that independence was the best way forward for Scotland. He said: “After spending much of my adult life trying, genuinely, to improve government in the UK, I have come to the conclusion that there is a much better chance of bringing power closer to the people in an independent Scotland.”
Mr Sullivan said: “I want us to stand on our feet and be answerable to ourselves. But I also want to see a rebalancing of the economy across all of these islands and a Yes vote in September is the best way to achieve both these goals.”