(London) David Cameron has invoked the memory of former Labour leader John Smith as he campaigns to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.
The Tory Prime Minister hailed Mr Smith – who died 20 years ago – as a “proud Scot” who wanted what was best for his country.
Crucially, he said the former Labour leader understood that “wanting to be part of something bigger does not make you any less Scottish”.
Mr Cameron is embarking on a two-day campaign trip to Scotland four months ahead of September’s independence referendum, when voters north of the border will be asked whether they want Scotland to remain in the UK.
The Conservative leader will use the visit to make the positive case for the union, meeting and speaking to people in Glasgow today.
He insisted his message for voters in the referendum is simple: “We want Scotland to stay.”
But Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the trip north is part of a “wholesale Tory takeover” of the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, warning this could prove “disastrous” for those opposed to independence.
While the No campaign is still ahead in the polls, some surveys have suggested the gap is narrowing.
Despite that, Mr Cameron insisted people from “all walks of life and all parts of the UK know, as I know, that we are all better together”.
The Prime Minister added: ” Twenty years ago this week, the Labour leader John Smith died. Whatever people thought of his policies, nobody could argue that he was a proud Scot who wanted the best for his country.
“And why not? Like millions of other people, he knew that loving your country and at the same time wanting to be part of something bigger does not make you any less Scottish.
“That truth is shared by millions of others. So my message is simple. We want Scotland to stay. We are all enriched by being together. Scotland puts the great into Great Britain. Together we are a United Kingdom with a united future.”
But Ms Sturgeon said: ” David Cameron’s visit is part of a wholesale Tory takeover of the No campaign, which will prove disastrous for them.”
She said former chancellor Alistair Darling had been “sidelined” as the leader of Better Together – the cross-party pro-UK campaign – at the same time as it had emerged that “i ndependence polling costing almost £50,000 of public cash has been hushed up” by the UK Government.
She added: ” The Tory-led Government is doing the No campaign’s polling for them, and they clearly don’t like the results.
“But if they think shoving Alistair Darling aside and sending David Cameron and battalions of Tory MPs north instead is the answer, they are gravely mistaken.
“Scotland is a hugely prosperous country, and as an independent nation we will be wealthier per head than the UK, Italy, France and Japan.
“We will be better off if all decisions on our future are made here in Scotland rather than by an out-of-touch Tory elite at Westminster.
“David Cameron is coming to Scotland but still hasn’t the courage to debate with the First Minister on Scotland’s future.
“That position has become utterly untenable now that Alistair Darling has been sidelined – the No campaign can hardly expect the person they themselves have demoted to be a substitute for the Prime Minister in key debates on the nation’s future.”