Jim Wallace insists anti-independence message remains strong
Greater focus needs to be placed on the benefits behind Scotland remaining part of the UK, according to a former deputy first minister visiting the isles this week.
Jim Wallace, who served over the years as both MP and MSP for the Liberal Democrats, insists there remains “no appetite” for Scottish independence.
Mr Wallace has been campaigning on behalf of Beatrice Wishart, who is standing as Liberal Democrat candidate in this month’s by-election.
He told The Shetland Times Ms Wishart had “every possibility” of winning, although he stressed party members were allowing no room for complacency.
Mr Wallace described the by-election contest as essentially a two-horse race between the Liberal Democrats and SNP.
Asked about the SNP’s policy of Scottish independence, he said: “We were promised it was once in a generation. I think we should take them at their word for that.
“We’re seeing what the problems are, even if you’re neutral, in trying to unscramble a union we’ve been part of for 45 years,” he said, in a clear reference to the EU withdrawal.
He added withdrawing from a union Scotland had been part of for over 300 years would be even more fraught with difficulty.
“People will very readily see that, even with a following wind, this would be very messy and also very damaging.”
He added that it would be wrong to take for granted the achievements made by the UK, which he described as “probably the best union historically”.
“We have a common trading area, a common currency, we’ve also retained a distinctive culture but have cultural things in common.
“We’ve got social bonds – a number of Scots who live in England and people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who live in Scotland, families which are inter-married.
“The fact we take it for granted is indicative of the strength of that union.”
He conceded those points should have been put forward more strongly during the Scottish independence campaign of five years ago.
“I don’t think we made as much of that in 2014 as we might have done – there is something very valuable in what we’ve achieved. There is something more than economic that would be lost if Scotland was to become independent.”
Mr Wallace said he believed the Liberal Democrats were running a “really good, hard fought” campaign.
He said there was no shortage of issues which needed dealing with, and listed transport as one of the key areas people wanted to see addressed.
“Tavish when he was the transport minister introduced the air passenger discount scheme. It’s actually been removed for businesses. I learned of one business that estimated they spent £12,000 a year on flights. If they had the discount that we introduced that would have been a significant saving for a small business.”
He also voiced opposition to the controversial parking charges at Sumburgh Airport.
“That was brought in without consultation and I think, probably, is indicative of an attitude from central government – they just don’t get it. Beatrice will be a strong voice in challenging that.”