16 Feb 2012

Cameron: A unified Britain ‘matters head, heart and soul’

Political Editor

David Cameron makes a robust case against Scottish independence, but was a meeting with Alex Salmond dismissed as ‘frustrating’ by Mr Cameron’s aides really that bad? Mr Salmond begged to differ.

In a passionate plea for unification, Mr Cameron called the United Kingdom “our shared home” and said it is under threat, following the pledge by Scotland’s first minister to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.

“I am 100 per cent clear that I will fight with everything I have to keep our United Kingdom together,” said Mr Cameron. “To me, this is not some issue of policy or strategy or calculation – it matters head, heart and soul,” said Mr Cameron.

Alex Salmond has argued that independence from the rest of the UK would boost the Scottish economy.

But the two men had differing accounts of a forty minute meeting this afternoon. Mr Salmond said things “had moved on substantially” because more devolution is now on offer from the Coalition. But Mr Cameron’s aides described the encounter as “frustrating” and producing “no progress”.

Read Gary Gibbon's blog: Cameron meets Salmon - frustration or forward progress?

Speaking at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Wednesday, Mr Salmond said: “The critical measures that need to be taken to boost the economy, create jobs and build a fairer society can only be taken when we have full financial control resting in Edinburgh rather than at Westminster.”

But Mr Cameron on Thursday denied that Scotland would be stronger if separated.

“Of course, there are arguments that can be made about the volatility of dependence on oil, or the problems of debt and a big banking system,” he said. “But that’s not the point. The best case for the United Kingdom is entirely positive. We are better off together.”

Read more: Exclusive Channel 4 News poll finds that Scots want more powers, not independence

He said the UK is stronger, safer and richer as a union, citing the UK’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council and the economy of the UK as a whole, which is seventh-richest in the world.

The UK’s defence budget – the fourth-largest in the world – and anti-terrorist and security expertise is another factor in the case for the Union, he added.

“We’re richer,” Mr Cameron said, “because inside the United Kingdom, Scotland’s five million people are part of an economy of 60m.

“Today, Scotland has a currency which takes into account the needs of Scottish economy as well as the rest of the United Kingdom when setting interest rates and it can borrow at rates that are among the lowest in Europe.”