Scottish independence: The choices in a nutshell

By DAVID WOODING

MUCH has been said and written about the break up of the United Kingdom and what it would mean for the people of Scotland and the rest of these islands.

Some have claimed that a fully independent Scotland would be landed with a debt-ridden economy and others have argued over the timing of a referendum and what the question on the ballot paper should be.

Michael Gove (left) with David Wooding

But nobody has brought the key issues into sharper focus than Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In a few off-the-cuff words, he summed up the choices facing voters north of the border. He accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of ducking the big question about independence – and lacking the nerve to call a referendum on full independence.

Scots-born Mr Gove’s unrehearsed words on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning get straight to the point and are worth reading in full.

He said: “We need to have a decisive yes or no question on whether or not the people of Scotland want to be independent or not.

“Alex Salmond has been trying to play a tactical game here in order to strengthen the political position of his party. By doing so, he has avoided and dodged so far some fundamental questions.

“Do the people of Scotland want to have the same level of welfare benefits as the rest of the United Kingdom? Do they want to be part of the same nation that has the British Broadcasting Corporation and a National Health Service?

“Do they want the Royal Navy and the British Army to remain institutions that embody patriotic feeling and sentiment or do they want to sunder and separate them?

“Do they want you and I to be forced to choose between being British and Scottish, to have a narrow, exclusive, ethnic nationalist identity as our only choice or do they believe that we should be plural, multi-cultural, modern and 21st century?

“These are big questions that Alex Salmond has dodged. He shouldn’t have to dodge them for ever.”

Ed: I don’t give a damn if people think I’m weird

By DAVID WOODING

ED Miliband insisted he’s a “pretty normal guy” today as he scoffed as suggestions he is “weird”.

The Labour leader said he “doesn’t give a damn” about what people think of him – it’s what he does as a politician that counts.

Mr Miliband spent the morning doing a round of TV and radio studios after criticism of his speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool.

On Radio 4’s Today programme, he was asked bluntly if he feared his chances of winning power were doomed because many voters think he is “weird”.

He hit back: “Other people make their own judgments. I think I’m a pretty normal guy. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

“I don’t give a damn about that. The times are too serious and the issues are too grave for us to say it is not about substance.

“It is about substance. It is absolutely about substance. The problems our country faces are so serious that substance matters, and I have got an old-fashioned view – substance wins out.”

In his speech yesterday, Mr Miliband pledged to break up the system “take what you can” system that has dominated British politics for a generation.

He stood by the message of his address, declaring: “The words I said yesterday were the words I came to say.”

He told Eamonn Holmes on Sky News he wanted to set out the “big argument” about how Britain must change.

He also claimed to be on the side of ordinary families facing a squeeze in living standards.

Asked if he wanted to move Britain into a post-Thatcher-Blair era, he answered:  “Definitely. Definitely. Tony Blair was elected leader 17 years ago. He was dealing with different challenges. It is a new era, it has got to be a new era.

“The Prime Minister is the last gasp of an old era, because he doesn’t want to face up to these big changes.”

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