David Cameron has pledged the Conservatives will “fight with everything we’ve got” to keep the United Kingdom together, as he launched a broadside against Scotland’s First Minister yesterday telling him to “stop dithering and start delivering” on the independence referendum.
During a passionate defence of the union in his speech to the Scottish Conservative conference in Troon, Ayrshire, the Prime Minister claimed the ties between the countries had made the UK “one of the world’s greatest economic and political success stories”.
Mr Cameron criticised the Scottish National Party administration’s plans for a referendum, claiming that by not wanting to hold the poll for two and a half years they were less like the Scottish nationalist epic Braveheart, and more like the animated film Chicken Run.
But he also insisted to his party that as well as needing to fight for the future of the country, it must also fight to reconnect with Scottish voters.
“Enough of the hand-wringing and trying to be all things to all people,” he said.
“Let’s be clear about what we stand for – and what we won’t put up with.”
On the subject of the referendum, Mr Cameron said Scots should get a clear choice in the ballot: “Yes or No, in or out of the United Kingdom.
“Delay creates uncertainty for businesses, investors, families.
“People need to know one way or the other.
“So my message to the First Minister is this: stop dithering and start delivering.
“Let’s give the Scottish people the chance to make a clear choice about their future.”
He also attacked Joan McAlpine, a Nationalist backbencher at Holyrood who has compared the Union to an abusive relationship.
“What planet are these people on?” He said. “Was it an abusive relationship that stood alone against Nazi Germany? Or that abolished slavery?
“Or that turned these islands into one of the world’s greatest economic and political success stories?”
“It’s not an abusive relationship, it’s a union. It has shone as a beacon of openness and tolerance the world over for generations.
“It’s not just a place on the map but an idea and an ideal. And it’s not just about our history, it’s about our future.”
Meanwhile, the Labour leader of York Council came under fire from opposition politicians last night, for proposing the local authority should lead a campaign for Scottish-style devolution to Yorkshire and the Humber at its next full meeting on March 29.
Councillor James Alexander said: “Devolution in 1997 has led to more powers and success in both Scotland and Wales and Yorkshire and the Humber should have a chance at equal or better success.”
But the announcement was branded by the Tory opposition as a “political gimmick”.