Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander described Dumfries and Galloway as being on the “frontline of the referendum debate” during a key note speech in Dumfries last week.
The MP, who represents Paisley and Renfrewshire South in parliament, was speaking before a packed Minerva Hall at Dumfries Academy on Thursday night (21 August).
Earlier in the day the MP laid a stone at the Friendship Cairn at Gretna with Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray and Labour’s candidate for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, and local councillor, Archie Dryburgh.
Speaking from Dumfries immediately after the event, Douglas Alexander said: “It was great to see a packed Minerva Hall, with more than 150 people turning out to hear more about the referendum and ask questions.
“It’s clear there is a frustration about the lack of answers from the Nationalists on key questions. As postal votes start dropping through people’s doors, it is ridiculous that the Nationalists still can’t tell us about their plans for Scot’s pensions or currency in a separate Scotland.
“There is real passion on both sides of the debate, which is why I was really pleased to lay a stone at the Friendship Cairn near Gretna. It shows how friends and colleagues in Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria are coming together to send a clear message ahead of the referendum: that working together is better than walking away.”
During his speech Douglas Alexander said that Dumfries and Galloway is on the “frontline of the referendum debate”, adding: “Three thousand Scots cross the border to Cumbria to get to work every day and local businesses depend on selling goods and services to England.
“Whether it is commuters going south for work, students heading to college or patients attending the Cumberland County General, traveling across the border is second nature to people in this region.
“A ‘Yes’ vote on 18th September means crossing that border becomes much more complicated, with people working for foreign companies in a different country. Local businesses, so many of whom rely upon selling goods and services to the north of England, would have the extra expense of dealing with different tax and pension arrangements. And no one can tell us what the currency of a separate Scotland would be following the vote.
“The local economy here in Dumfries and Galloway depends on trade with the Cumbria, so it makes no sense to me to make life harder for local businesses.
“Despite how much the SNP try to claim nothing will change following separation, make no mistake: a ‘Yes’ vote next month is an irreversible decision with huge consequences especially for this region.
“The Nationalists’ vision is for two countries – Scotland and England – competing against each other with lower taxes, lower terms and conditions and lower wages. A race to the bottom that those living near the border will bear the brunt of. Ask yourself this question: would that give families in Dumfries and Galloway a better quality of life and a brighter future?
“Here in Dumfries and Galloway, more than anywhere else in Scotland, you live and breathe the cultural, familial cross-border collaboration that gave birth to modern day Scotland.
“On many issues, Dumfries and Galloway has more in common with just across the border than it does with the central belt. To people in this area, the idea that people south of the Solway Firth are so different just doesn’t ring true.”