We are now entering the final days of what has been a long campaign for the referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.
There is a huge amount at stake and the latest polls show that this will be a fascinating contest right up to September 18. While this is a crucial vote for the whole of Scotland, I believe it is particularly important for the North-east that Scotland remains in the United Kingdom, and that is why I am one of those saying No Thanks to separation.
It simply does not make sense for an area like the North-east with our strong oil and gas economy and our international outlook to erect borders with our nearest neighbours. Sir Ian Wood has recently made clear that the future of our vital oil and gas industry is best served by Scotland remaining in the UK and that is an important consideration for anyone in this area still making their mind up over the vote.
Being within the UK is best for jobs with one in five Scots employed by UK-wide companies. Being within the United Kingdom is best for schools and hospitals with more to spend on these services to the tune of £1200 compared to the rest of the UK. It means the pensions of Scotland being supported by taxpayers right across the UK, backed up by over 60 million people rather than only 6 million, a point which has been made so powerfully by Gordon Brown.
It is clear that the SNP want to use our strong local economy to fund independence but they have provided no detail on how they would balance the books in a separate Scotland.
My fear is that with so many local services being centralised and with our local councils and health board already the worst funded in Scotland, the SNP would expect the North-east to foot the bill for separation but still leave this area behind when it comes to government support.
But of course a vote against separation is not a vote for no change with all three main UK political parties pledging to deliver further devolution, with a consensus already emerging on more powers for the parliament on taxation and welfare policy.
The change needed here is a Scottish Government which listens to the needs of the North-east, not breaking up the UK where Scotland benefits from the risks and sharing the rewards across our four nations.
It is because I want the best for Scotland and the best for the North East that I will be casting my vote for No.