News Column

Independent Scotland would be disadvantaged, says Miliband

July 4, 2014

MICHAEL SETTLE; MICHAEL SETTLE UK POLITICAL EDITOR

SCOTTISH independence would hinder the drive to create a more prosperous country, Ed Miliband has claimed as he launched a charm offensive to woo the business community with his "mission for Britain".

Speaking at an Inclusive Prosperity Conference in central London, the Labour leader promised a National Infrastructure Commission to improve decision-making on major projects, "gold standard" vocational qualifications to provide business with well-trained staff, secure funding for science and innovation as well as reform of the banking and energy markets to help small companies.

He also signalled that a Labour government would devolve pound(s)30bn of Whitehall funding to regions of the UK in a bid to decentralise power away from London.

Mr Miliband's pitch came amid continued reports of behind-the- scenes wrangling over Labour's programme for next year's General Election with policy chief Jon Cruddas reported to have said the leader had not "reconciled" different camps within the party.

There are also concerns that, in seeking to re-engage with Labour's traditional support base, the party leader has alienated business leaders.

Two former senior Labour policy advisers, Lord Liddle and Patrick Diamond, recently warned Mr Miliband that he would lose next year's election if the party were seen as anti-business.

Asked if he thought the biggest threat to inclusive prosperity was Scottish independence, the Labour leader replied: "We would be deeply disadvantaged as a country if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom."

He explained that there were a whole raft of reasons, economic, cultural and emotional, why it was "so necessary" for Scotland to remain within the UK.

Mr Miliband noted: "There is also an important argument about a race to the bottom because in an inter-dependent, globalised world, it's harder to build increasing prosperity for a whole range of reasons if you ended up with Scotland leaving the UK."

He added to applause: "So, it is certainly the case we are far better off and would be far more prosperous with Scotland in the United Kingdom and that is a referendum we intend to win."

On the matter of an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership, the Labour leader won further applause from his business audience by rejecting a call from Unite the trade union, the party's biggest financial backer, to match the Conservative promise after the 2015 poll.

"I am absolutely convinced that our future lies in the EU," declared Mr Miliband, adding: "I am not going to follow others in saying that we should commit to spending the next three years focusing on an EU referendum in 2017; it is not the priority for the country."


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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