Referendum countdown: Alistair Darling argues case for keeping the union

Alistair Darling: 'Scotland will be safer and more secure as part of the UK'

Alistair Darling: 'Scotland will be safer and more secure as part of the UK'

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In five days time we will make the most important decision of our political lives. The stakes are very high.

I passionately believe Scotland will be a safer and more secure country as part of the UK. The NHS will be safer, our pensions will be more secure, our schools, further education colleges and universities will be protected, and there will be greater employment opportunities for our children and our grandchildren. These are the issues I care about, and believe the majority of Scots do too.

The responsibility for the NHS in Scotland is devolved entirely to the Scottish Parliament. Its future will be decided in Scotland. When the nationalists say it will be privatised it is not true. Only the Scottish Parliament could decide to do that. No-one outside Scotland could force them. To say otherwise is at best misleading.

The biggest risk to our NHS and pension is the £6 billion extra cuts the impartial experts at the Institute of Fiscal Studies have said would be needed.

There are so many unanswered questions. I will continue to ask questions about currency because we need to know who would set the interest rates for our mortgages, the cost of our rents, loans and credit cards, and how we will pay our pensions.

If Scotland votes to break away from the UK next week all of us who live in Scotland will face a more uncertain future. The polls are close, every vote counts, and if we vote to leave the UK there is no going back. It is that stark, and our futures depend on the outcome of the referendum vote.

Most serious businessmen in Scotland want to stay in the UK. That is simply because they know what is best for business. They want to continue to trade effortlessly with the rest of the UK. Our shipbuilders want to stay within the UK because they know the UK government will not commission ships in a foreign land. Our farmers want to stay within the UK because they know their biggest market is in England. Our manufacturers want to stay in the UK because anything getting in the way of trade, like borders, and different tax regimes, is bad for them.

Voting No in the referendum is not voting for No change. Already health, education and policing are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. By next year the Scottish Parliament will have the power to decide the level of stamp duty, and borrow money to invest in rail or road projects.

By 2016 Holyrood will have responsibility for fixing the Scottish rate of income tax if they want to raise extra money. This week the three non-nationalists parties unveiled the timetable to deliver additional powers over taxation and welfare.

The nationalists have targeted the Labour vote. Let me say that all my political life the nationalists have opposed Labour policies, whether the minimum wage and devolution at Westminster, the living wage and zero contracts in the Scottish Parliament.

There are some in Scotland who will be tempted to vote Yes but don’t take a leap in the dark. The future of our children and grandchildren is at stake.