The Lib Dems have just launched the final leg of their campaign against Scottish independence, which is a poster van with Charles Kennedy’s head emblazoned across it and three of the United Kingdom’s greatest achievements: the NHS, the pound and the BBC.
It’s part of their ‘sunshine strategy’ to talk up the benefits of the Union in the final few days, and the four Lib Dems who launched this van – Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy, Jo Swinson and Willie Rennie – argued that they had been saying all sorts of lovely sunshiny things about the United Kingdom all along, but they just weren’t as well-reported as all the warnings.
It’s interesting that they’ve chosen those three iconic British achievements, because each of them is also in one way or another rather controversial in this campaign. Today the NHS, which the SNP has been using as part of its narrative on Scotland breaking away from Tory England where everything is being privatised and benefits are cut, has become very topical indeed, with a leak to the BBC that the NHS in Scotland is facing a £400 million funding gap – something Salmond has vehemently denied and something Danny Alexander was keen to point out when I interviewed him this morning:
The pound is the most uncertain and unclear bit of the ‘Yes’ campaign’s vision for an independent Scotland, and while the Lib Dems say it is there as an achievement, it’s also something wavering voters need to see over the next couple of days to remind them of the uncertainty for Scotland’s currency. And the BBC is an achievement, but it’s also at the centre of a row about bias that Salmond and his supporters believe will help their cause, but ‘No’ campaigners clearly also think they can benefit from. Willie Rennie was keen when I interviewed him to link this to allegations of intimidation and bullying from the ‘Yes’ campaign. He said:
‘I think that’s why we need to stand up for impartial, independent broadcasters who are not going to be bullied by the government, who are not going to be intimidated by Alex Salmond and his mob who turn up outside the BBC. That’s the sinister side of the nationalist campaign and I think exactly at those times we need to stand up and say, yeah, the BBC is valuable, we respect them.’
Jo Swinson also said she had seen instances of intimidation, including one man rolling up a leaflet and throwing it back at her mother when she was out campaigning. But all the Lib Dems seemed pleasantly surprised by the level of interest in the leaflets they were delivering. The ‘doorstep-to-bin test’ clearly doesn’t apply here in Scotland, where everyone’s excited about democracy.