Scott critical of Labour’s referendum softness

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.”


Add Your Comment
  • Craig Ellioott

    • April 1st, 2014 14:23

    Surely if the argument and positives for maintaining the Union is so strong and clear., it shouldn’t matter who says it?

  • Harry Dent

    • April 1st, 2014 16:01

    Faintly ironic that “Better Together” can’t work together for more than a couple of weeks without falling out, and blaming each other.

  • Alex Buchan

    • April 1st, 2014 16:23

    “But there was absolutely no possibility that LibDem voters would not be rock solid against independence in September’s referendum.

    If this is the case then why have 2 LibDems recently joined the YES campaign?

    “[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.”

    The only reason they think they’re ahead is because the unionist press tells them so.
    Is it good that in a democratic country Tavish Scott and the other unionists’ rely on unionist press to put out their propaganda for them?

    Sorry folks, but the Shetland/Orkney Isles deserve better tha someone like Tavish Scott who is clearly looking for an opportunity to get an ermine robe.
    Mr Munro of Barrhead travel, who is a Tory, made many factual errors in his scaremongering lies to his employees, who he tried to intimidate into voting no.
    This type of intimidation is only seen in former soviet union states, but Tavish thinks it’s acceptable. Democracy the better together way.

  • Bill Adams

    • April 1st, 2014 16:32

    What Tavish Scott fails to understand is that the Referendum is not a party political contest like a General Election . Just because the leaderships of the main UK parties
    are united (at least superficially !) in the No campaign , does not mean that all their
    usual rank and file voters are sheepishly following the leadership line on this.
    So it is not a case of the Labour vote being “soft”
    On the contrary, hard-headed traditional Labour supporters are making up their own
    minds that a Yes vote on September 18 is the way forward for Scotland.
    Furthermore I think Tavish is in for a nasty shock if he thinks the Lib-Dem vote is
    And by the way Tavish, its “Mr Salmond” to you. Toujours la politesse.

  • Danus Skene

    • April 2nd, 2014 12:25

    I struggle to believe that Tavish Scott’s contribution is not an April Fool.

    He is factually very wobbly. And I write as a paid up Lib Dem for 28 years from 1979 to 2007. I left because in 2007 I was told by the then leadership that I was a member of a Unionist party. News to me. I would have described myself as a Grimond Liberal, with Scotland-in-Europe federalist views. No YES Liberals indeed. (If you want another reasonably prominent Scottish Yes Liberal, try Graeme Pagan. Rock of the Argyllshire Liberals, and Ray Michie MP’s agent).

    Politically reactionary. We still await in this campaign any argument for continuation of the UK. What is the British state actually FOR? What can Nanny do that we cannot do for ourselves?

    Philosophically bizarre. Jo Grimond’s commitment to ‘Home Rule’, in a tradition going back to Gladstone and beyond, was based on recognition of the sovereignty of the Scottish people. Any recognition of the validity of the Union can only be with consent of Scotland. This is enshrined in the pre-devolution Claim of Right, signed up to by Scottish Liberals. Does this now mean opposing a referendum (as Tavish did)? Denying the principle of Scottish sovereignty? Accepting that the British imperial state, with all it’s lack of accountability to Scotland, poses less risk to out well being than looking after ourselves?

    Since Jo died, his principles of committing to Europe, finding a post-imperial role for Britain, and relying on Scottish consent to the Union have all been betrayed beyond retrieval. Vote YES for a Liberal Scotland.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 2nd, 2014 13:35

      @Danus Skene,

      You have called for ‘Aland-style status’ within a Scottish context for Shetland. In the interests of democracy and the ‘right to self-determination of peoples’, any such deals would need to be ratified by holding a local referendum.

      Do you and/or will you support the call for local referenda in the islands?

      Will you, yourself, be signing the “Referenda on the Islands (ROTI) petition?

      Will you urge ‘Yes’ Campaign supporters to sign it as well?

      • Danus Skene

        • April 2nd, 2014 17:08

        My personal objective is for greatly enhanced autonomy for Shetland in relation to an independent Scotland.

        I am happy to endorse a referendum with that and complete sovereign independence of Shetland from Scotland as options. I would vote for the former. I am not prepared to have anything to do with a referendum that considers removing Shetland to be part of England as an option. That is not just counter to Shetland’s interest, but makes a nonsense of Shetland’s historic status in relation to Norway. Denmark and Scotland, and it’s present status as a Scottish local authority.

        I have not signed the current petition on a Shetland referendum because of the irrationality of that “option”, which at this point I understand to be part of the proponents’ thinking.

      • Robert Sim

        • April 3rd, 2014 8:35

        So are you advocating a Yes vote in September’s national referendum, John? Is that the best way to secure the referendums on the islands?

      • John Tulloch

        • April 3rd, 2014 9:26

        Thank you for your reply, Danus, much of which is perfectly reasonable.

        The part which isn’t reasonable is where you say you wish to deny Shetland residents the democratic option of remaining with the rUK in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

        To my way of thinking, if Shetland had the option of a Faroe/Aland-style self-governing status, protected within the Scottish constitution, there would have to be something mighty attractive for Shetlanders to vote to stay with the rUK.

        Of course, that’s far from impossible and islanders should have the right to determine their own future, as opposed to having valid options denied them.

        So I find your position of denying Shetlanders the rUK option inexplicable?

      • John Tulloch

        • April 3rd, 2014 9:43

        No, Robert, I’m not advocating a ‘Yes’ vote as the ‘best way to secure referendums on the islands’.

        Surely, it’s obvious from the resistance to the idea among ‘Yes’ campaigners that that would not be the best way to achieve self-determination for islanders. Even Danus Skene wants to deny islanders the option of remaining with rUK.

        Neither am I advocating a ‘No’ vote, when the time comes I intend to support the best outcome for Shetland.

        I am simply insisting that islanders should win their democratic right to determine where their own future lies.

  • Iantinkler

    • April 2nd, 2014 13:36

    “Since Jo died, his principles of committing to Europe, finding a post-imperial role for Britain, and relying on Scottish consent to the Union have all been betrayed beyond retrieval. Vote YES for a Liberal Scotland.” Now that must be about the most foolish advice ever. Vote YES and you get Alex Salmond. Really Danus since when have Alex and Jo had anything in common a YES vote is for nationalism, nothing more, Jo will be turning in his grave at you distorted prattle.

    • Carl Pickard

      • April 3rd, 2014 15:38

      With rUK lurching ever-further to the right with each passing day I cannot fathom how any non-Tory could possibly consider voting No in September.

      • John Tulloch

        • April 3rd, 2014 19:29

        Because they may have compassion in their hearts for their poor English ‘brothers’ who will be saddled with a Tory government in perpetuity, perhaps?

        Or are they not as important as Scottish ‘brothers’?

  • iantinkler

    • April 3rd, 2014 18:00

    Wow, Karl, the NO vote has about 50% support across Scotland if most of the Independence polls, are to be believed. I somehow think the Tories do not have that degree of support. You state you “cannot fathom how any non-Tory could possibly consider voting No in September”. Perhaps you should “fathom it out” with a bit of thought. Your reasoning here, is perhaps, outside reality.

  • Robert Sim

    • April 3rd, 2014 23:44

    John, you say that you don’t want to consider the question of which side in the national referendum debate will best deliver on the ROTI aspirations. The problem with that approach (including dismissing the Our Islands Our Future project) is that it fails to engage with the uncomfortable truth that change is delivered through practical politics. Unless the ROTI campaign receives effective political support, it will remain simply a wish-list. I would have thought that this is an ideal time for those supporting the referendums project to obtain support from one side or another or at least to find out who is sympathetic to their view.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 5th, 2014 8:23


      It would be a positive development if people from ROTI were in contact with both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps, although, I hope that democratically-minded people on both sides – and presumably, some exist – will see fit to sign and support the petition, publicly.

      Without local referenda all protestations of ‘Nordic’ democracy, from whatever quarter, will be seen as the humbug they are.

      I’m unsure how you arrive at the conclusion that my position ‘dismisses ‘Our Islands, Our Future’? Both London And Edinburgh are in discussions with our councillors, I am simply reserving my right to support the best deal for Shetland and therefore, backing the ‘Our Islands, Our Future negotiators. My vote is unlikely to go to any side opposing a local referendum.

      In the absence of local referenda, I fear an overall ‘Yes’ vote by Shetlanders in the Scottish Independence referendum will be misconstrued as confirming Scottish legal sovereignty over the isles – ‘misconstrued’ because the other options of independence and return to Scandinavia will not be included.

      This will make it difficult for many people to vote ‘Yes’ and will distort the voting. We need the local referenda and while about a thousand have signed the petition already, I have discovered that a considerable number of Shetlanders have no knowledge of the petition’s existence and little or no knowledge, even, of the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ campaign itself.

      Many people are ‘sleep-walking’ into the forthcoming constitutional change and when they’re rudely awakened in 2016, who will they blame for not warning them – ‘da bloddy Cooncil’!

  • Robert Duncan

    • April 4th, 2014 16:36

    John Tulloch, you seem a keen advocate of the ROTI petition, so I will direct this question at you: other than offering a bargaining chip, how would the referendum in its proposed form help secure the Aland/Faroe/Crown Dependency style setup that many people, myself included, would like to see? My concern is that the choices do not cover that eventually, we would have a referendum essentially on our own independence, to remain within whatever form Scotland took post-September 18, or to “join” the “rUK”.

    Now, what happens if the referendum is granted, and the option “to become an independent country” is roundly beaten (as I expect it would be)? I worry that would be seen as tacit approval of some form of status quo.

    I think it is admirable that people are beginning to speak up for increased autonomy for the isles, but the ROTI petition seems hastily put together and I do not feel comfortable with the options it suggests.

    (I would also add that, despite your name dropping on another comment thread, I am convinced Stuart Hill would disapprove it, given his previous comments on the Our Islands, Our Future campaign.)

  • Robert Duncan

    • April 9th, 2014 19:28

    I originally posted this comment on another article, but it seems to have been buried away unseen, so I will again direct my question to John Tulloch, Ali Inskter and any other supporters of the ROTI petition:

    Other than offering a bargaining chip, how would the referendum in its proposed form help secure the Aland/Faroe/Crown Dependency style setup that many people, myself included, would like to see? My concern is that the choices do not cover that eventually, we would have a referendum essentially on our own independence, to remain within whatever form Scotland took post-September 18, or to “join” the “rUK”.

    Now, what happens if the referendum is granted, and the option “to become an independent country” is roundly beaten (as I expect it would be)? I worry that would be seen as tacit approval of some form of status quo.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 10th, 2014 0:27

      Good point, Robert. Sorry, I didn’t see your question until now.

      I understand the outcomes of the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ (OIOF) separate negotiations with the two governments are expected to be published in May (Westminster) and June (Holyrood).

      It’s actually becoming clear, from an economic standpoint, that full independence might well provide the greatest and most productive area of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) i.e. sea and sea bed area which might accrue to Shetland/Orkney in the event of constitutional change.

      Like you, I started out thinking full independence was a very long shot but in view of this emerging picture of scale of associated EEZ, independence might well turn out to be, by far, the best option.

      I also agree that many people are not yet ready to consider that, especially, those who are barely aware, if at all, of the OIOF negotiations.

      Taking your point about apparently ratifying the status quo, the alternatives to full independence should be known and, I hope, fully debated ahead of the local referenda, whose timing ROTI have said is moveable, provided it is far enough ahead of ‘Independence Day’ to be implemented simultaneouly with any Scottish/UK constitutional changes.

      Given that the alternatives to independence will be known, any government that puts up an unsatisfactory offering risks, not only, losing their prized strategic, economic asset, they also run the risk of fuelling the momentum of a runaway independence campaign.

      I believe a successful independence campaign would open a can of very squiggly, international worms. The Scottish/UK governments will be aghast at the prospect and see it in their interest to avoid that. Why?

      It sounds speculative at present, however, given full independence and accelerating ties with the ‘Old Country’, common fishing and mineral interests, not to mention the ‘wall-to-wall’ vikingry we see around us, might lead us to places our present governments would prefer we didn’t go.

      We would, after all, wish to maintain close ties with a larger power whom we can trust and, given our fishing interests, may not be in the EU.

      Remember, the Norwegian prime minister saw fit to visit Shetland to open the Scalloway Museum on Norway’s National Day, preferring that to a meeting with Alex Salmond in Oslo.

      The way for Scotland/UK to finally secure the Northern Isles, legally, is by gaining the assent of the people who live there, which will become available if government recognises their history, culture and aspirations and delivers an acceptable constitutional package, commensurate with the economic and strategic returns of acquiring legal sovereignty.

      • Robert Sim

        • April 11th, 2014 0:39

        I hate to be negative, John, but there appears to me to be very little sign locally of interest in the petition. For example, how many of the signatories live in Shetland? The practical way forward is Our Islands, Our Future. The rest appears to me to be just wishful thinking.

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 11th, 2014 11:51

        There is more interest in the petition than the council would like to admit the problem is that most folk don’t read these pages or those of the Shetland News. If say the Times put it on the front page of the paper and let folk know where and how to sign it, it would gather a lot more signatures. I have a paper version in the local shop and over 90% of folk have signed it when they have been shown it and it has been explained what it is about. Some don’t agree with the way I would vote in any referendum but all would still like the chance to have their say. I would say the council are wrong not to get behind the petition because it would give them a lot more leverage in the negotiations in the our islands our future but more importantly they are wrong not to get behind it because they are supposed to represent the people and the people seem to want it.

      • John Tulloch

        • April 11th, 2014 12:13

        Robert, I’ve said many times, lack of interest in an important subject isn’t a reason to stop speaking out.

        From the experience of my recent visit to Shetland, I don’t disagree that many Shetlanders are ‘sleep-walking’ through a procession of Up Helly Aas, music festivals and other foys of every description, in between working hard and training hard in their sporting or other interests, community and personal.

        I have a letter in this week’s ST on that very subject and I admit, when I was training for sport and involved in lots of other things, I didn’t pay much attention to local politics, either.

        Modern psychology describes this a being ‘on auto-pilot’, rushing around trying to do everything at full speed, often unaware of what is going on around us.

        Professor Stephen Covey, author of many books on successful lifestyles refers to ‘making sure your ladder is on the correct wall before you climb it’. What he means by this is we need to switch off our ‘auto-pilots’ and make ‘conscious choices’ about how we use our time – “Nobody, on their death bed, ever wished they had spent more time at the office”, he says.

        Another metaphor he uses to describe this wasting of our lives is “straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic” when plotting an alternative course would be a wiser, ‘conscious choice’ of action.

        SIC is currently embarked upon a course of ‘straightening their financial deck chairs’ while Shetland contributes going on £90 million more in tax than is received back.

        They have seen a financial iceberg and are reducing steam while also attempting a modest change of course via OIOF.

        Sitting here in Arrochar, like a look-out on the mast-head, it appears to me that SIC’s change of course may avoid the first collision but that there is a field of financial icebergs beyond.

        We need a more radical change of course, one which does not fall “far short of outright independence” but one which re-captures the £90 million a year AND secures the sea and sea bed resources under local control.

        We have this one golden opportunity to shape the future for “our grandchildren” and we must seize it – people need to wake up and “smell the coffee”.

    • Ali Inkster

      • April 10th, 2014 1:06

      The petition is to get the parliament to ask the government for a referendum the date and questions would be up for debate as everything is with politicians. As for crown dependency who gets our resources and what happens when they run out? Full independence allows us to choose what future we want not let Edinburgh or London hold the purse strings and at the end of the day call the shots.

  • Vernony Yaker

    • April 10th, 2014 9:33

    Well to a large extent the background to the independence campaign in Scotland seems to be focused upon the oil in the Shetland basin. Effectively, they are using independence as a means for an asset grab. The Shetland’s are wise, therefore, to set out its stall before a referendum. After it, the voting power of the Shetlands would be negligible , overwhelmed by the more populous Scotland. Rather the same, in a sense, as the SNP claims that Westminister is England focused . Because there are more English MPs in Parliament, than there are Scottish MPs

  • David Spence

    • April 10th, 2014 21:49

    If there was even the slightest opportunity that Shetland could have some weight and say in regards to independence and this of using Shetland’s position, geographically, and the economic importance in oil and gas exploration, I am sure there would have been some form of negotiating by now………and the never answered question as to which direction Shetland would be best going…….Scotland/UK or Norway/Denmark.

    No doubt as the campaign for Shetland to, try, throw its weight about in terms of a bargaining chip, this will quickly be annihilated by the greater powers……….lets just say Shetland is the Poodle and Scotland/UK is the Master……and the usual status quo will prevail.

    If Shetland really wanted to put a spanner in the works, so to speak, why does Shetland not question Scotland illegal claim to the islands? (We are talking of a proper documented prove and not just a gentleman’s agreement)

    It seems rather ironic that it takes an english man to bring to the fore Shetland’s possible independence or for Scotland to prove its claim, if any.

    I only wish Shetlander’s had the same courage and tenacity as Mr Stuart Hill……..despite his methods… standing up for the islands of Shetland (whether 10% or more).

    Mind you, as said previously, Shetlander’s (no matter how beneficial it may become) will do nothing, say nothing (it’s not the Shetland way to rock the boat, create waves) and let the status quo prevail and lose out of an opportunity of a life time for the islands to be under greater control by the people of Shetland.


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