"We stand here in Glasgow tonight, some 300 years after the commissioners of Scotland and England gathered, to forge the Union which we now call home. As history has taught us, it was a marriage not of love perhaps, but as our Union has gained wrinkles and generations, our people prospering and weathering hard times together, that love has grown. We have become a family. We may not always agree - few families do - but we stand by one another, through thick and thin.Ours is a complex history, marked by its glories and its disgraces, its black days and its quiet successes. Much has changed since Britain painted the map red, much for the better. The past shrinks from us, but all around us, we see its inheritances. Together, we built the National Health Service, devoted to the principle that nobody - nobody - should be abandoned alone to the scourge of ill-health. I will defend that principle to my last breath. If we turn our eyes upwards, in the great cities of this country, we see the wages of Empire in bricks and mortar, often unjustly gained, but a permanent, standing reminder of our past. We should not try - we cannot - avoid or ignore our shared history. But we can always do better. Tomorrow, and the day after, we must always strive to do better.I understand, many of us are not happy with the status quo. I am not happy with the status quo. But we can do better, not just for Scotland, but for all of the people in these islands. Many Scots want more self-government within the Union, want to take more of the big choices about their lives. I share that conviction, and will strive with every sinew of my being to ensure that the parliament of this country has the powers it needs to transform this country for the better. To foster work - good jobs - for our struggling children, who have suffered more than anyone in these hard times. To end the scourge of poverty. To clear the shelves and slam shut the foodbank door, and ensure that every family, every child in this country, can sleep soundly, bellies full, in dignity.The SNP say that Britain's ability to re-invent itself is spent. I can't share that pessimism. Devolution, human rights, democracy: our history shows us that united, we can change the world -- if there are people to fight for it. Scots: stand and fight with me. Fight for a better, more just, fairer Union. The project we begin together on the 18th of September can sweep this country, from coast to coast, transforming lives, blasting open the doors of opportunity, reshaping and remoulding this country into a more perfect union. As he speaks tonight, there is much in Alex Salmond's vision of independence which I agree with. Many are values that, as a Labour politician, I share. But what I cannot share is his pessimism, his lack of ambition for this country. I haven't given up on our friends and neighbours in England and Wales and Northern Ireland - and neither should you.Many of you will look at Britain as you see it today and think, we are on the wrong path. I share your passions. Let us strive together, here. Let us win the greater victory, not only for people in Glasgow, but for ordinary people across this country, in Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast. We are a rich nation, our people industrious, trying to live well, making the best future possible for their children, and ensuring dignity in old age for all those who have worked hard for what they've got. Don't be pessimistic about that strength. This Union, this family of nations, this historic achievement: it is not lightly to be given away. I ask you to vote No, not for our past, but for our future. I ask you to vote No, not out of fear of independence, but out of ambition for what we can do together. Together, we can make this country better. It's time to link hands, not to say farewell. It's time to show faith in all of our citizens. Don't squander this opportunity. Vote No for a bolder future. Vote No for a Better Union."
This, give or take, was the sort of thing I was expecting Alistair Darling to say a week ago. Britain is a great country, a historic achievement - and it should be put away with a little dignity. I sat, waiting for Darling to find his lyricism, to remember a few verses of the auld sang that made the whole enterprise worthwhile. Answer came there none. Given a privileged platform before the nation, afforded an opportunity for the final word on why Scots should vote No on September the 18th, Darling fluffed it. He had no music in his soul for the Union, just a jabby array of gripes and unstrategically over-detailed indictments. Since the meltdown, however, a curious turn has taken over the No campaign: they seem to have given up on arguments.
Jim Murphy is doing his darnedest to promote the idea that no reasoned argument is possible in Scotland - a laughable and transparent proposition, but again, one that says "there's no point debating this question." Today's thoughtful and detailed demotion of the Yes campaign took the form of a new poster campaign, transforming the case for the Union into sub-motherhood-and-apple-pie banalities, with the message: "we love our kids, we're saying no thanks" and "I love my family, I'm saying no thanks." Quite what affection for your weans has to do with how you vote, I haven't the foggiest, but this kind of brainless candyfloss campaigning says, "dinna fash about the detail, facts or arguments: if you love love, vote No." It is about as subtle as being brained by a Care Bear.
And under the cereal bowls and the dodgy gender politics, their #PatronisingBTLady ad is essentially a hymn to disengaged politics. Johann Lamont said that the advertisement is grand, because she's met folk like #PatronisingBTLady. I don't doubt it. So have I. But that's hardly the point. For all of their faults, and for all of my lack of native affection for the Better Together crew, they are clearly folk who believe in the process and meaningfulness of politics. They are interested in political ideas, interested in evidence, interested in argument. They believe - in a way I can't share - that there is a conclusive and reasoned argument to be made for voting No. But in their efforts to shore up their leaky campaign, they resort to none of these powerful tools. They don't even try to persuade you that you are Better Together in the Union, don't even try to persuade you that a Yes vote is risky.
Instead, we get the political advertising equivalent of pill popping. Undecided? Wavering? Why not just check out intellectually? Isn't it all awfully boring, complicated and disagreeable? Vote No to end your grief, without guilt. You love your weans don't you? I love my children too. Vote No. Your frontal lobes tenderised yet? Give that haverer another lick of the teddy. Get those braincells good and idle. For folk engaged in politics to produce such an advertisement, and to try to exploit them for a cause they believe in, is monstrous, dismal, and beyond cynical. If you can't win the argument? Just give up. Cry "Oh look, a squirrel."
This is the way Britannia (might) end: not with the bang it deserved, but a whimper.