Tomorrow (18 September) the people of Scotland face the most important choice they will ever make – a decision to remain part of the family of nations which is the United Kingdom or to go it alone and, in so doing, bring to an end the very idea of Britain.
To the very last hour of polling many of us from across the political spectrum in Wales will be working side-by-side to encourage our Scottish cousins to say ‘No thanks’ to a future based on separation and division. Welsh people, by an overwhelming margin, want Scotland to stick with the family and continue to make the UK a success.
But ultimately it will be a choice for the people of Scotland.
They must make a choice between the opportunity and security of staying in the UK or leaving forever. A vote for independence isn’t an experiment or something to be tried on for size. It is final and irreversible.
Devolution enables each nation of the UK to have its own law-making powers while ensuring they have a strong voice inside UK government too. It strengthens each nation’s identity, institutions and culture while preserving the most successful political and economic union the world has known. Independence isn’t just a step beyond current devolution; it is a rejection of it.
Decisions on constitutional change should be based on fact not fantasy, on informed opinion. It is a fact that working together, as part of a United Kingdom, creates better opportunities and more secure jobs - especially in defence, energy and financial services. It is a fact that together we are a United Kingdom of 63 million people and 4.5 million businesses meaning taxes, mortgage repayments, bills and the weekly shop are lower.
Together we have a larger, stronger and more stable economy, protecting our interest rates, the price of goods and services, and each other. I passionately want Scotland to stay part of our family of nations. We are undoubtedly better together.
There is no question that this is a moment of constitutional trauma for the United Kingdom. Britain has faced an unprecedented challenge to its very existence, from which it will take time to heal and recover. One thing is certain: after this week there can be no return to the status quo. There is a powerful wind of change blowing across our constitutional landscape.
By saying ‘no thanks’ to independence on Thursday, we recognise that the people of Scotland are not saying ‘no change.’ A ‘no’ vote will lead to Scotland having more powers together with the stability and security that comes with remaining part of the UK family.
But the appetite for constitutional change is growing elsewhere, including here in Wales. The coming constitutional debate will be far broader than many would have anticipated at the start of the referendum campaign.
I believe it is essential for the constitution of the United Kingdom to be looked at as a coherent whole for the first time. There are important constitutional issues for Wales, Northern Ireland and England which will need to be looked at following the referendum in Scotland.
I am determined that Wales should not play second fiddle when it comes to constitutional renewal. Wales will be front and centre as we look again at our constitutional framework.
On every occasion the people of Wales have had an opportunity to vote for more or less devolution, they have chosen more. That is the clear direction of travel and I am proud to be part of a Government that has a strong track record on devolution and decentralisation.
Since 2010 we have already delivered one successful referendum in Wales which oversaw the move to full law-making powers for Welsh Government and we’re currently passing a law to transfer major taxation powers to the Assembly.
I have made clear that I am committed to working with the grain of public opinion in a realistic, open-minded and pragmatic way to deliver a devolution settlement that works for Wales. There is an overwhelming consensus in Wales for a future based on devolution within the UK not independence. That unity gives us a strong starting point in the debate that is now commencing. I believe in devolution with a purpose.
The Scottish Referendum has led many people to truly appreciate for the first time what it means to be a United Kingdom, and the benefits that come from being part of a family of nations. We must not lose sight of that. The piecemeal approach to devolution that typified the past must give way to a more comprehensive way forward that responds to the needs and desires of individual nations within a UK framework.
Tomorrow the people of Scotland will decide not only their fate, but the future of Britain, the future of all the people on these isles as we know it. We are about to mark the start of a new chapter in our constitutional history and I hope the people of Scotland will elect to stay and join the people of Wales in shaping the future landscape of our United Kingdom.