Labour Big Guns Target Referendum

Dozens of Labour Party heavyweights have arrived in Scotland to join leader Ed Miliband in shoring up support for the union.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former Northern Ireland and Welsh secretary Peter Hain appeared at a rally in the heart of Glasgow's shopping area.

Hundreds of pro-union supporters gathered at the top of Buchanan Street for an event that rapidly attracted significant numbers of Yes campaigners.

Mr Miliband and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont struggled to be heard as they briefly addressed the crowd over chants of Yes and No from both sides.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling also appeared at the event, along with former prime minister Gordon Brown and party peers Lord Foulkes and Lord Winston.

Before their arrival, there were some tussles on the steps of the Royal Concert Hall as Yes supporters sought to display their placards alongside the sea of No posters. A passer-by shouted "traitors" at the group.

Gregg McClymont, Labour MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, said: "Colleagues are coming from all over the United Kingdom, from Wales and across England.

"This is people all across Britain saying to us in Scotland, please stay, we are stronger together.

"Solidarity actually matters. Not just solidarity, but we can achieve more together."

The rally took place in the shadow of a statue of the late Donald Dewar, the Labour politician who played a key role in the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and was the country's inaugural First Minister.

Mr Miliband told the crowd: "I am proud to stand here today with colleagues from the Labour movement from across the United Kingdom.

"There is no better place than by the statue of Donald Dewar, who 17 years ago helped win the devolution referendum."

Mr Miliband said a Yes vote poses risks to jobs, the economy and the NHS, which he described as "one of the proudest achievements of our movement".

He said: "The NHS is stronger if we stay together. Stronger because of the resources of the whole UK. Stronger because we share world-class services.

"Stronger because people travel from Scotland to England and England to Scotland for life-saving treatment.

It is separation that is the risk to our NHS.

"Because of the devolution that Donald Dewar made possible, the NHS in Scotland is run in Scotland.

"So don't believe the lies and scaremongering of the SNP. There is only one person that can privatise the NHS and that's Alex Salmond."

Ms Lamont said: "The Labour family is coming together to protect Scotland from the risks that Alex Salmond wants people to take with our jobs and our NHS.

"We have heard Mark Carney warn that an independent Scotland would need to raise taxes or cut spending by #21 billion to continue using the pound without a currency union. This is also twice Scotland's annual £12 billion NHS budget, and lays bare the price of Alex Salmond's unanswered questions on currency.

"While the Yes campaign is creating uncertainty in our economy and risking deep cuts to our NHS, we are offering a stronger Scottish Parliament and faster, fairer and safer change that the people of Scotland can unite behind.''

Caroline Flint, shadow secretary for energy and climate change, attended the rally.

She said: "With my colleagues from all over the country, we are here to show our solidarity with people in Scotland.

"The United Kingdom needs Scotland and Scotland needs the United Kingdom, and we're better together."

She added: "Colleagues have been coming up throughout the year, I've been up several times. We have been supporting our Labour activists around Scotland. Today, we have come together to show that we love Scotland and we want Scotland to stay.''

Jenny Anderson, an Englishwoman who lives in Glasgow and intends to vote Yes said she was not impressed by Labour's "day trip" to Scotland.

She said: "It sits very badly. Suddenly they've got a day trip to try and persuade people to vote No. They don't have a vote here, they've just bussed people in.

"I think they were very complacent and suddenly woke up and realised they were losing. They decided they should do something, started flying flags and coming up here on a day trip. It's much too little, much too late.

"I still think the momentum is with Yes."

Dr Willie Wilson, co-founder of NHS for Yes, said: "The immediate danger of a No vote to NHS Scotland lies mainly in the £25 billion of additional austerity cuts which are promised from Westminster from next year.

"Since our NHS budget uses 40% of our total block grant, and so many savings have already been made in other spending departments, NHS Scotland would inevitably suffer cuts if there was a No vote.

"Multinational healthcare companies are currently enjoying a feeding frenzy with English NHS contracts already exceeding £10 billion.

"Thus it is absolutely clear that if we reject the opportunity of independence next week, we would see a financially weakened NHS Scotland which the privatisation vultures would rapidly try to pick their way into. That is why it is vital that Scotland votes Yes."

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