National Security Focus Of Debate

National and social security took centre stage in the referendum debate today.

Unionists argued that Scotland would be safer in a "dangerous and insecure world'' within the UK.

But nationalists say Scotland would be fairer with independence, pledging to protect the NHS from privatisation and offer equal pay for women.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett said SNP plans for a single security and intelligence service will not offer the level of protection currently provided as part of the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, said that the Nato summit in Newport, Wales, is reminder of why Scotland would be safer in the UK.

But one of Scotland's youngest consultant paediatricians said independence is the best way to protect the NHS.

Dr Richard Hansen, 36, backed Alex Salmond's pledge to enshrine a public NHS in Scotland's constitution.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone also said independence could lead to more equal pay, by giving Holyrood the power to force companies to publish the pay gap between men and women.

Mr Scarlett said British intelligence has been built up over decades - "work which cannot be replicated in just a few years''.

But former Scottish police counter-terrorism chief Allan Burnett said Sir John "was a prime mover in drawing up the so-called 'dodgy dossier' which falsely reported Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction''.

The Yes supporter said: "An independent Scotland would face less of a threat from terrorism for a number of reasons.

"We would not add to international tension by taking part in illegal wars and as a nuclear-free state, potential terrorist targets would be removed from our country.''

Speaking at the Nato summit in Newport, the Prime Minister said: "I think there is total confusion about whether a separated Scotland would have a place in the European Union or in Nato, or what currency it would use and all the rest of it.''

He added: "Obviously, at a Nato conference it's a time when you reflect on the dangers in our world and I don't think anybody can be in any doubt that we live in a very dangerous and insecure world.''

Dr Hansen said: "On September 18, I will vote Yes. Why? Three simple words: National Health Service.

"Alex Salmond talked of the opportunity to enshrine 'the right to a free public health service' in a written constitution.

"If we take this step - asserting the right of the Scottish people to an NHS that is publicly-funded, publicly-provided, universal and free at the point of use - and if we do this in written form in our national constitution, then not only do we safeguard it from the current changes taking place in England but we finally move the NHS completely out of party politics and four-year election cycles, and into a protected space at the heart of our nationhood.''

Ms Johnstone said Scotland needs control of employment law to force companies to measure and publish their pay gap between men and women.

"If you measure and publish you would have an awareness,'' she said.

"No company would want to find themselves published in the newspapers with a considerable gap that looked as if they weren't making efforts to address it.''

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond pledged to make fishing a national priority in an independent Scotland.

Speaking at a meeting in Auction Hall at Peterhead Fish Market, Mr Salmond said: "Only with independence will Scotland's fishing industry benefit from greater influence, better representation, a fairer deal in funding and quota protection.''

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont took Labour's campaign for a No vote on September 18 to the heart of Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's Glasgow Southside constituency.

She said: "We know that Labour voters and SNP voters, people across the country, are being asked to take a punt to vote Yes and somehow everything will be okay, despite the fact that there will be a greater challenge on public services.''

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown said he would seek to spearhead efforts to secure rapid implementation of more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote.

Mr Brown said the aim should be the "maximum local decision-making powers that is possible'' while maintaining the union.

He added: "The status quo is not now an option. A No vote does not mean no change.

"A No vote will usher in the further constitutional reforms in social, economic and fiscal affairs, and a No vote will mean the choice you have made is against separation but for further devolution to the Scottish Parliament.''

Former NFU Scotland president George Lyon, Liberal Democrat Advocate General Lord Jim Wallace and MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur today said that Scotland's place in the UK helps ensure that Scottish farmers receive premium prices for their produce.

Mr Lyon, chair of Rural Together and a former president of the NFU Scotland, said: "Independence would not lower the quality of the meat we produce.

"But it would see our farmers competing on price with Irish farmers and others who export into the UK. That could only be bad news for the industry.''

It has also been announced that Scottish singer Amy Macdonald has been added to the line-up for the sell-out A Night for Scotland pro-independence concert.

She will join Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, Frightened Rabbit, McIntosh Ross, Eddi Reader and comedian Elaine C Smith at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, on September 14.

Transport union RMT has confirmed that it will be writing to all of its members advocating a Yes vote, following a narrow vote in favour of backing independence in a ballot.

Meanwhile, bookmaker William Hill has revealed that almost nine-tenths of bets on the independence referendum at its Scottish bookies have been for a Yes vote.

 

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