Yes, no, maybe
Ed Miliband has urged Scots to say No to independence in order to say Yes to tackling inequality within the union.
Speaking in Edinburgh alongside Johann Lamont and Margaret Curran, Miliband made a positive argument for the union.
He said: “Together we can change our country and go on to improve our world. Not a Scotland outside the UK. But leading the way within it.
“That’s why I ask you to: vote no in the referendum. And say yes to changing Britain.”
In his speech Miliband listed examples of inequality he would aim to tackle if elected in 2015, including low wages, rising energy prices, zero hours contracts and youth unemployment.
It is an interesting take, given that up until now independence has been seen as the route to tackling inequality.
Miliband’s speech was an attempt to turn the issue on its head – reframing it by arguing that No means solidarity and that Yes would mean a race to the bottom between Scotland and the rest of the UK, with both states cutting working conditions to bring in business.
But watching Miliband speak to the press after the event revealed another looming problem for his new ‘vote no to vote yes’ argument.
Asked by the BBC to respond to the news (now confirmed) that Jean-Claude Juncker would be nominated president of the European commission, Miliband said: “If Mr Juncker is appointed today, after weeks of spin and bluster from the Prime Minister, it represents a total failure to deliver and an utter humiliation.
“Instead of building alliances in Europe, David Cameron burns our alliances and it is Britain that loses out. This is the consequence of a long standing failure by David Cameron to build the alliances that we need in Europe.”
“We mustn’t drift towards exit from the European Union. I fear what is happening in the Conservative Party though, because the centre of gravity is moving towards exit from the European Union and David Cameron is being pushed around by his back benches.”
Miliband must have thought he was on a roll – keep Scotland in the union in the morning and then give Cameron a kick in the afternoon. And in normal circumstances Junkcer’s appointment would represent a win for Labour.
But Miliband has already come out and stated that he would hold an EU referendum if Europe was to take any more power away from the UK. This is exactly what Juncker is expected to try and do.
Cameron’s behaviour is admittedly baffling. If he wanted to block Juncker it is hard to understand why he dragged his MEPs out of the European People’s Party – given that Juncker is their candidate.
Cameron has clearly messed up, but it is Miliband’s problem too.
Juncker’s appointment could precipitate calls for the UK to leave the EU from both the Tories and Miliband’s Labour.
In this scenario, any pro-European Scot’s hopes would be riding on the electoral success of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats at the next General Election.
The whole idea of saying no to say yes already sounds like something out of George Orwell, but take Juncker into the equation and things become even more confusing.
Miliband has told Scots to say no to independence, so they can say yes to the UK, for the UK to then (possibly) say no to the EU after 2015, even though Scotland said yes.