Spurn a breakaway because PM Cameron is on way out: Ed Miliband to Scots

Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain`s opposition Labour party, will tell Scots on Thursday to reject independence in a referendum later this month, promising he will win a national election next year and give them the change they crave.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 04, 2014, 06:26 AM IST

London: Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain`s opposition Labour party, will tell Scots on Thursday to reject independence in a referendum later this month, promising he will win a national election next year and give them the change they crave.

Seeking to tap into a dislike of Prime Minister David Cameron`s right-leaning Conservative party in Scotland, where it has just one of 59 UK parliamentary seats, Miliband will say Cameron is set to lose a May 2015 election and that his own left-leaning party will give Scotland new powers and policies.

"With that election in just eight months time the change Scotland needs is on its way," Miliband will say on a visit there, according to advance extracts of his speech. 

"Electing a Labour government is the way to change Scotland. The choice for social justice is `No` not `Yes`."

Miliband`s intervention reflects his party`s anxiety that it stands to lose around a sixth of its seats in the British parliament if Scotland breaks away from the United Kingdom in a Sept. 18 referendum.

That would be a serious blow to its future electoral prospects and make it harder for Labour, which currently has 40 of Scotland`s 59 parliamentary seats, to win elections in what would be left of Britain.

Opinion polls in recent days have given Labour a lead over Cameron`s Conservatives of 3 percentage points. 

But its performance in Scotland in recent years has faltered with the pro-independence Scottish National Party breaking its stranglehold over Scottish politics and winning its first overall majority in Scotland`s devolved parliament in 2011.

A survey on Tuesday is likely to have made grim reading for Miliband. It showed Labour supporters in Scotland had become more supportive of independence, helping narrow the anti-independence campaign`s lead.

The same poll put the anti-independence campaign on 48 percent and the pro-independence side on 42 percent with around 8 percent still undecided on how to cast their vote. If undecided voter are excluded, the unionists` lead shrank to 6 percentage points, down from 14 points in mid-August.

ELECTIONEERING

Miliband will promise Scots, who already have control of certain policy areas such as education and health, that he would hand them greater oversight of tax, welfare and employment policy.

"I want to be very clear about the change I offer you in just eight months as Prime Minister: It is a changed Labour Party that is ready to change Britain," he will say.

His electioneering signals a change in tactics for Labour which has until now largely steered away from party politics on the referendum and focused on backing the cross-party anti-independence "Better Together" campaign.

The tightening of the poll lead has alarmed financial markets and prompted concerns in parliament. On Wednesday, some lawmakers urged leaders of Britain`s political parties to keep a united front and fight harder against a split.

Miliband will cast such ideas of unity aside, however, and say that the Conservatives are "defecting, divided and downhearted", referring to the decision of one Conservative lawmaker to switch his allegiance from Cameron`s party to the rival right-leaning UK Independence party.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Britain`s two-party coalition government, have also promised to give more powers to Scotland if re-elected. 

The Conservatives declined to comment on Miliband`s speech.