Sunday, 15 September 2013

Wednesday September 18 leaves us a year until the Scottish Referendum

I am a passionate unionist both because I believe we are better together, based on history, shared triumphs and so much more, but also because I believe my constituents in Northumberland would suffer economically if Scotland were to go independent. This impact on the rural economy was highlighted in Saturdays Journal front page and the exchange of questions I had with Scottish Minister Michael Moore last Wednesday in the House of Commons.

Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
"What would be the impact on the rural economy of my neighbours in southern Scotland if Scotland went independent and we had a border with Scotland?"

Michael Moore (Secretary of State, Scotland; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, Liberal Democrat)
"As one of my hon. Friend’s neighbouring MPs, I recognise the importance of Hexham and north Northumberland. As he knows, in a farming context and in so many other ways, any kind of legal border between Scotland and England would be an absolute disaster—not just for our constituents, but for all the United Kingdom."

I am heading north next weekend to help the Scottish Conservatives in a number of seats but also to make the case to the Scots I meet that England wants Scotland to remain part of the Union. I am going at the start of one of the most crucial years in Scottish electoral history. I am speaking at events in Aberdeen on Monday 23rd September, North Perthshire on Tuesday 24th, then near Loch Lomond on Wednesday, and then finishing in southern Scotland in David Mundell's patch for a dinner on Thursday 26th, before driving south to Hexham later that night. Along the way I will be going to many events, meeting all sorts of people, campaigning with Young Conservatives and local councillors and campaigners, knocking on doors and listening to what voters have got to say on a multitude of issues. Most importantly I will be listening to what the Scots have to say, and giving the view of an MP whose constituency borders Scotland at Carter Bar, and whose voters are concerned by Scotlands possibility of independence.

This is with a background of the key by election next month in Dunfermline following the resignation of Bill Walker, who won it for the SNP by 630 votes from Labour in 2011. This will be a good yardstick of where the debate is at. It is a seat that Labour should win. The consequences for the Labour leadership and, by extension, the No campaign are significant if they can't take a seat occupied for two years by a man standing down afer a conviction for over 20 criminal counts. It will also impact not only on the Scottish referendum, but also Ed Milibands prospects in 2015.