Westminister Comment - Essence of the choice before us

The Referendum, where we decide whether Scotland should separate from the rest of the UK, is only three weeks away. That may not be the official wording on the ballot paper, but it is the essence of the choice before us.

By voting Yes we end a 300- year union that has evolved over those years while maintaining a distinctive Scottish identity. We still have our separate legal and education system as well as our own cultural and sporting loyalties.

In that evolving Union we have established a separate Scottish Government answerable to a directly elected Parliament. That Government has responsibility for policy on the many services that effect our daily life here.

Our hospitals and health care, our schools and education, our roads and railways, our police and fire, our courts and legal system, our local councils are all governed by Scottish ministers and the decisions of our own Parliament here in Scotland.

That Parliament is about to receive more powers to set taxes in Scotland so that it is even more directly responsible for the decisions it makes on funding the services it is responsible for.

We are not a conquered nation needing to throw off oppression. We are free to leave the Union. We are equally free to make a decision to stay and continue to evolve that relationship.

Those “No Thanks” posters that have not been vandalised are urging us to make a positive choice to build on the benefits of being part of the UK.

One of those benefits is we get a say in how the currency is managed and the security of a central bank that can give confidence to financial markets. This is crucial to ensuring businesses can trade and the government can borrow to sustain public services.

Three weeks out and the First Minister is starting to define a Yes vote as a vote for a common currency with the rest of the UK. He does not want an independent currency. He claims a Yes vote would be a mandate for such a policy. Yet there are Yes voters who see this as denying Scotland independence. By voting No we are guaranteed to keep the pound and a say in how it is managed.

By saying No Thanks we get the benefit of being part of a more diversified and larger economy without any internal borders. We are more able to weather banking crisis and oil shocks in such a diversified economy.

No Thanks gives us access to a global network of embassies and trade missions.

So many organisations provide services across the border such as the BBC and research councils where we punch above our weight.

I am currently knocking on doors, attending meetings and street stalls where I am finding people are recognising this is a very important decision they have to make.

A Yes vote is not just an experiment. There is no turning back.

A No vote is a positive vote to maintain the benefits of being part of a larger unit where that makes sense whilst we have a Scottish Parliament that makes decisions on many essential services that impact on our life here in Scotland.

Life goes on beyond the referendum. I would like to thank all those that have helped me with the summer surgery tour.

I had an enjoyable weekend in the better weather visiting the Lonach on Saturday where there was a great atmosphere.

On Sunday I attended the opening of the refurbished tower at Drum Castle before going on to enjoy the fun at the Stonehaven Harbour Festival. All three events are examples of the great volunteer spirit that makes such a difference to our local communities.