By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have accused Prime Minister David Cameron of "running scared" and of using former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, head of the Better Together campaign, as a "human shield". 

The accusation came after Downing Street ruled out any prospect of the heads of the UK and Scottish governments participating in a head-to-head debate on Scottish independence.

Although Mr Cameron promised to "campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre that I have" after the SNP's 2011 election landslide, senior Conservatives have reportedly dismissed the proposed debate between Mr Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond as an "SNP wheeze".

Plans for a debate were revived last week after Mr Darling challenged Mr Salmond to a debate when the Scottish Government publishes its White Paper on independence in November.  As head of the Scottish government, Mr Salmond has made no secret of his desire to take on the head of the UK government in a head-to-head debate, but the man who wishes to remain the Prime Minister of Scotland, and whose government directs the No campaign, is proving reluctant to get involved in defending the Union.

The SNP also accused the Conservative-led UK government of being happy to publish anti-independence reports which later prove to be without substance or which are based upon dubious statistics, but that the head of that government is remarkably reticent to make a positive and substantive case for retaining the Union to the Scottish electorate.  

Downing Street sources insist that the head of the Scottish government ought to debate backbench Labour MP Alistair Darling, who chairs the official No campaign. 

Speaking to the Herald newspaper, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "Mr Darling is the leader of the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK and is making that case forcefully.  Mr Darling is setting out the case and it's this case opponents will have to give answers to."

The SNP have retorted that Mr Cameron is using Mr Darling as a "human shield", and point out that in 2010 Mr Darling accused Mr Cameron of hiding behind the Liberal Democrats and using them as "human shields" to further the Westminster government's cuts and austerity agenda.

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing – who sits on the Referendum Bill Committee - said:

“The reality is that the case against independence is being led by the Tory-led government at Westminster - they are publishing the reports which are supposed to amount to the case for a No vote, but the person who leads that government is running scared of debating with the head of the Scottish Government.

"David Cameron said that he would oppose independence 'with every single fibre' he has - but that apparently doesn't extend to debating on TV with Alex Salmond!

"David Cameron is running scared of a head-to-head debate in Scotland because he knows that – as a Tory Prime Minister the people of Scotland didn't vote for – he is the No campaign’s biggest liability.

"The fact that Alistair Darling is willing to act as David Cameron's human shield – which he used to criticise the Lib Dems for – leaves us all wondering exactly what the positive case for Westminster control actually is.

“Alex Salmond has made clear that he will debate with Mr Cameron at any time ahead of the referendum – we have nothing to fear in a debate about the future of Scotland, and the people of Scotland deserve to hear from the First Minister and Prime Minister in such a direct exchange of views.

“Mr Cameron’s refusal to debate Scottish independence speaks volumes about the UK Government’s attitude to Scotland - they are happy to publish anti-independence reports which fail to stand up to scrutiny, but the head of that government isn't even prepared to debate the issues in Scotland."


# Alibi8 2013-03-13 07:39
Surely alastair Darling's opposite number in the yes campaign would be Blair Jenkins? the no campaign are making the (no doubt deliberate) error that the Yes campaign and teh SNP are one and the same thing. they aren't. Salmond and Cameron are opposite numbers as they are the FMs of their respective governments. Clearly cameron is terrified of a gubbing.
# Blanco 2013-03-13 08:18
Yes, Blair Jenkins is the oppo to Darling, though if Darling is to debate anyone I would rather it wa someone with a bit more passion than Jenkins. Canavan would be a good one, especially as he and Darling use to be colleagues...
# RTP 2013-03-13 08:48
O/T but it is about Cameron.

Syria: Cameron hints UK could militarily intervene

Here we go is he going to do a Blair and Maggie and have his own war soon we will have another Tory saying they will have to bomb Scotland,as for Salmond V Cameron,no contest AS would wipe the floor with him.
# Breeks 2013-03-13 09:36
It isn't David Cameron who is the No campaign's biggest liability, it's the complete absence of positive arguments to commend the Union itself.

Unionism is a hard sell these days because of articles like the McCrone Report, GERS figures, people like John Jappy speaking out...

Notwithstanding the battery of reasons to support an Independent Scotland, the mechanism of disinformation, obfuscation and misrepresentati on which Westminster Government has used to suppress our aspirations for decades is being laid bare for all to see. They DO lie to us. They DO cheat us. They DO see us as second class citizens in a one sided union.

Even the BBC, for all the power it still has, has lost it's teflon cloak of saintly invulnerability . The fight isn't won, (yet), but even the slick and polished BBC would struggle to turn our heads as easily as it has done in the past.

Scotland, at last, is waking up to the truth and is hungry for more.
# From The Suburbs 2013-03-13 09:50
Other than being leader of the Tory funded NO campaign Alistair Darling has no official position other than a failed Chancellor of Exchequer whom it should be remembered was in charge of the UK regulatory authorities that had the powers to investigate the RBS / AMBRO take over but ignored fact that no due diligence was done by RBS on a deal worth £49 billion before they gave its approval for world’s biggest bank take over deal that brought about the collapse of the Royal Bank.
# amfraeembro 2013-03-13 10:04
Blair Jenkins is not Darling's opposite number. Dennis Canavan is. I'm sure Dennis would by happy to take up Alistair's challenge.
# Macart 2013-03-13 10:05
Blair McGougall is head of campaign for 'Better no' I think, Darling being the Chair. I think if it were direct opposites it would be Jenkins V McDougall, Canavan v Darling and Salmond v Cameron. Cameron avoiding the debate scenario also removes the FM from a like v like debate. I still think our team clearly outclasses the opposition, but the FM is a top class debater and we may miss that advantage in a YES V NO debate arena. His biggest chance of making an impact is in an open independence debate of the political leaders within Scotland. Salmond, Harvie and for independents Margo V Lamont, Davidson, Rennie. No contest. :)
# X_Sticks 2013-03-13 11:09
There is no danger of our Prime Minister having a debate with Alex Salmond.

Our PM is a very busy man, and to "waste" time on such a debate with someone the PM considers to be a troublesome nobody (who might just show the PM up for the shallow waste of space that he is!) just isn't going to happen.

Darling has said HE won't appear with Blair Jenkins - probably for similar reasons that the PM won't appear with the FM.
# NkosiEcosse 2013-03-13 15:41
Don't you just love it, all these "Big Hitters" supposedly telling us how good the Union is, but not one of them with the goedspa to actually stand up and try and prove it.

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