Jeremy Corbyn has been heckled and accused of lying by his own MPs and told he was “defending the countries’ enemies” as he announced he would vote against renewing Trident.
MPs on Monday night overwhelmingly backed renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent by 472 to 117 – a majority of 355 votes – which means it is secure for a generation.
Mr Corbyn suffered the biggest rebellion of his leadership as 140 Labour MPs supported renewal despite his opposition while just 47 voted against.
The SNP boosted its claim to be the “real opposition” in Westminster as all 54 of the party’s MPs voted against keeping Trident, seven more than Labour. That came despite Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, attacking the SNP during his closing speech in the Commons by saying the party is “happy to cower under an American nuclear umbrella”.
Former chancellor Alistair Darling said the Better Together movement gives a voice to the “quiet majority” in the two years before the planned referendum on Scottish independence.
At the launch in Edinburgh, he said voters are being given a historic choice and that he welcomes the referendum.
“Chairing this campaign is one of the most important things I have ever done in politics,” he said.
“The decision we make is the most important we will make in our lifetime. Those of us who believe that it is best for Scotland to be part of the UK, from whatever political views, have a duty now to work in harmony to argue for the better, stronger choice.
“This is a campaign that will make sure that the patriotism of the quiet majority to be heard alongside the voices of the committed view. We share a common platform on this single issue because, along with so many of our fellow Scots, we believe that a better future for ourselves and our children is as a partner in the United Kingdom.”
It is easy to think, when events in Edinburgh are viewed from south of the border, that Alex Salmond is winning. His boisterous appearances in the Westminster media suggest that conditions could not be better for the Scottish National Party’s cheeky-chappie leader, or for his long-held ambition to break up the Union.
However, in Scottish politics something interesting is happening (which technically isn’t a first, but is certainly a rarity). Mr Salmond is finally being put on the back foot. True, the opposition that the First Minister faces from the other parties in the Scottish Parliament, and from their inexperienced leaders, is still not strong enough. But the Prime Minister’s decision to make his voice heard is having a positive impact.
David Cameron’s speech in Edinburgh yesterday was precisely the kind of serious intervention that Unionists on both side of the border have long wanted. It emphasised the emotional case for the Union. And with a dash of humility and good humour, Mr Cameron made clear that while he will work to persuade the Scots to stay, he thinks it quite reasonable that we all need a clear answer either way.
The Tory leader made the offer in a speech in Edinburgh, where he set out his defence of more than 300 years of political union between Scotland and England.
“This doesn’t have to be the end of the road,” he said.
“When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further.
“And, yes, that does mean considering what further powers could be devolved.
“But that must be a question for after the referendum, when Scotland has made its choice about the fundamental question of independence or for the United Kingdom.
Speaking of imminent downgrades (S&P are about to pull the plug on various eurozone countries apparently), what about Scotland? George Osborne put a fundamental question yesterday about the currency of an independent Scotland. Alex Salmond wants Scotland to join the European Union in its own right and that means joining the euro – and leaving the pound. Yet he has also talked in the past about remaining in a currency union of some sort with the rump UK. There is then, at the very least, a question mark over the First Minister’s intentions, which is why the Chancellor tried to put him on the spot about his plans.
Danny Alexander and George Osborne have raised what is perhaps the key issue from an economic perspective facing Scottish independence – what on earth would Scotland do about its currency?
Initially, Alex Salmond had favoured the euro for an independent Scotland, but unsurprisingly, support for this idea has plummeted as a result of the finacial crisis. Not many Scots would now welcome the euro, so Mr Salmond has been forced to shift his position and now advocates continued currency union with the rest of Britain, at least initially.
Yet if there is one thing that the single currency crisis has demonstrated beyond debate it is that you cannot have crisis free monetary union without matching fiscal union. Mr Salmond appears to have no convincing answer to this farely obvious flaw in his strategy. Nor has he even remotely begun to articulate how monetary union between two states operating independent fiscal policies would work. To have one country pursuing fiscal austerity while the other engages in the sort of fiscal expansionism favoured by the SNP would plainly be completely unsustainable.