On last visit before vote, British PM Cameron appeals to Scots to keep Britain intact


British Prime Minister David Cameron used his last visit to Scotland before a historic independence referendum this week to implore Scots to remain part of the United Kingdom, warning on Monday that a breakaway vote would be irreversible.

With opinion polls suggesting the referendum remains too close to call, Cameron, the leader of the ruling Conservative party, which draws most of its support from England, pleaded with voters not to use the referendum as a protest vote.

[Related: Why Scottish Jews are nervous over referendum]

“There's no going back from this. No re-run. If Scotland votes 'yes' the UK will split and we will go our separate ways forever,” he told an audience packed with Conservative party supporters in Aberdeen, the center of Scotland's oil industry.

“Don't think: I'm frustrated with politics right now, so I'll walk out the door. If you don't like me I won't be here forever. If you don't like this government it won't last forever. But if you leave the UK that will be forever.”

Cameron's trip was a last-ditch effort to try to persuade Scotland's many undecided voters to reject independence. Up to 500,000 people out of more than 4 million registered voters are estimated to be unsure how they will vote.

Campaigning in Scotland is fraught with difficulty for Cameron, whose right-leaning party is unpopular with Scots who have traditionally voted for the left-leaning opposition Labour party and harbor bitter memories of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher's 1979-1990 stint in power.

Cameron's Conservatives have only one of 59 British parliamentary seats in Scotland, and the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has elbowed Labour aside in recent years to emerge as the dominant political force.

Cameron, his voice at times faltering with emotion, spoke after a video was shown extolling British achievements and some of the most prominent figures of British history from Winston Churchill to Alexander Fleming, a Scot who discovered penicillin.

“Independence would not be a trial separation. It would be a painful divorce,” Cameron said, standing in front of a giant Union Jack flag and a poster saying “Lets stick together”.

“Head and heart and soul, we want you to stay.”

Cameron has conceded his public image as a privileged Englishman with aristocratic roots does not make him the best person to advocate against Scottish independence.

Scottish nationalists criticized him for staying away in the early months leading up to the vote as complacent, and now that he is showing his face, they portray him as a condescending Englishman in no position to advise Scots on how to vote.

Details of his visits north of the English border are not revealed until the last minute for security reasons and critics say his advisers try to minimize his contact with the public to avoid nationalist heckling. The visit was expected to last only hours.

CONFIDENT PRO-INDEPENDENCE LEADER

Alex Salmond, the pro-independence SNP leader, was out campaigning too on Monday in Edinburgh where he met business leaders who back the breakaway campaign.

He predicted Scotland would vote for independence and that the next time Cameron visited would be to discuss the details of the 5-million strong population's divorce settlement from the United Kingdom.

“The next time he comes to Scotland it will not be to love-bomb or engage in desperate last-minute scaremongering,” Salmond said in a statement. “It will be to engage in serious post-referendum talks.”

Independence supporters say it is time for Scotland to choose its own leaders and rule itself, free of control from London and politicians they say ignore their views and needs.

Cameron repeated the anti-independence “Better Together” campaign's core message: that by staying in the United Kingdom, Scotland can take advantage of the benefits of belonging to a larger, more influential entity while enjoying an ever-increasing measure of autonomy.

“No” campaigners counter that Scotland is more secure and prosperous as part of the United Kingdom and say the end of the union would destroy three centuries of bonds and shared history as well as bring in economic and financial hardship.

Cameron's visit comes after David Beckham, the retired footballer, added his name to a petition of English celebrities who say they want the Scots to stay. The celebrity group, “Let's Stay Together”, is organizing a public rally on Monday evening in London's Trafalgar Square.

It was the pro-independence camp's turn on Sunday night when a host of Scottish rock stars including the band Franz Ferdinand and Mogwai played a concert in Edinburgh.

Singer Amy McDonald told the audience: “People fight and die for this (independence) and all we have to do is put a little cross in a box. Scotland, you know what to do.”

Opinion polls indicate the vote is hard to call.

Out of four recent polls, three showed those in favor of maintaining the union had a lead of between 2 and 8 percentage points. But an ICM poll conducted over the Internet showed supporters of independence in the lead with 54 percent and unionists on 46 percent. More than 4 million Scots as well as English and foreign residents, from the Highlands and Islands to Glasgow's gritty inner city estates, are eligible to vote.

The question on the ballot paper will ask simply: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Angus MacSwan in Edinburgh and Sarah Young, William James and Kate Holton in London; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Scottish police arrest 6 over anti-Semitic Facebook page


Six people have been arrested in Scotland for creating an anti-Semitic Facebook page.

The five men and a 15-year-old boy from Glasgow and East Renfrewshire were arrested on May 11, according to reports on Wednesday.

They were arrested after complaints from the Jewish community in Giffnock, which was mocked on the Facebook page called: “Welcome to Israel, only kidding you’re in Giffnock.”

The page garnered 1,000 likes before it was removed from Facebook, according to the reports. Many left anti-Semitic comments on the site as well.

The arrested men were charged with breach of the peace with religious and racial aggravations. They were released on bail and are scheduled for court appearances.

Chief Inspector Alan Murray of the Strathclyde Police called the investigation “complex” and “protracted.”

Scottish municipality votes down pro-Palestinian motion


A Scottish municipality voted down a motion comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid.

The Dundee City Council at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday did, however, note with concern the “ongoing situation in Israel/Palestine” and called for “a just and lasting two-state solution which will bring peace to the region.”

Liberal Democrat Councilman Fraser Macpherson had submitted a motion condemning the Israeli government for “its continuing illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the illegal blockade of Gaza.” Macpherson told The Courier newspaper that he had planned to include a call for a boycott of Israeli goods and services but left out that section after receiving legal advice.

The City Council commended efforts made by President Obama and others to promote peace in the region and called on the UK government to show leadership, according to a statement.

“It was accepted that Israelis have the right to live in peace, but the council deeply regrets the disproportionate response of the Israeli military against aid convoys and Palestinian protesters which has led to unnecessary suffering, lasting bitterness and international condemnation,” the statement said.

The council also asserted that “there has never been a ban on buying or lending books by Israeli authors in libraries in Dundee.”

The vote comes less than a month after the West Dunbartonshire Council, consisting of towns and villages west of Glasgow, ordered new books by Israeli authors to be banned from the council’s libraries.

The ban in West Dunbartonshire followed a decision made 2 1/2 years ago following the Gaza war to boycott goods produced in Israel. According to that law, the council and all its public bodies are forbidden to sell goods that originated from Israel.

Scottish municipality bans Israeli books


A Scottish municipality has banned from its libraries books by Israeli authors and that were printed or published in Israel.

The West Dunbartonshire Council, consisting of towns and villages west of Glasgow, ordered new books by Israeli authors to be banned from the council’s libraries, according to reports.

The ban reportedly was ordered after last year’s raid by Israeli commandoes on a ship attempting to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza that led to the death of nine Turkish nationals. The ban followed a decision made 2 1/2 years ago following the Gaza war to boycott goods produced in Israel. According to that law, the council and all its public bodies are forbidden to sell goods that originated from Israel.

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesman told the UK Express over the weekend that the boycott is not retrospective and that no books have been removed from libraries.

The council told the Express that 10 other councils had agreed to join the boycott.

The Scottish city Dundee also issued a recommendation to boycott goods produced in Israel, but it was set aside after city legal advisers said it was likely illegal under European Union law. The city instead will distribute posters throughout the city asking its residents not to buy Israeli goods and place a special sticker on products that are made in Israel.

“A place that boycotts books is not far from a place that burns them,” Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., Ron Prosor, told Ynet Tuesday.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called the banning of Israeli books and the marking of Israeli products in Scotland “eerily reminiscent of darker times and perhaps there is a level of hatred that connects them.”

“While those behind the boycott will claim that this is not anti-Semitic, targeting the only Jewish state, a democracy, while ignoring serial human-rights abusing nations tells us that this is indeed anti-Semitic in intent and in effect,” Kantor said in a statement released Tuesday. “This demonstrates how far ‘respectable anti-Semitism’ has come. Clearly it has become acceptable to boycott and discriminate against Jews, as long as there is a thin veneer of anti-Zionism which purportedly covers the hateful act.”

He called on Britain and Scotland to pronounce the boycott illegal.

Scottish burial society employee makes landmark bias claim


In a landmark case, a Jewish burial society employee in Scotland says he was fired for becoming involved with the Masorti movement.

It marked the first case of a Jewish individual claiming discrimination against a Jewish employer in Scotland, according to the Herald Scotland newspaper.

Warren Bader, 49, said in a preliminary discrimination hearing that he was dismissed by the Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society after he helped set up Masorti Scotland in a Jewish community that is largely Orthodox.

The case now moves to a full employment tribunal, the paper reported.

Bader said he was fired within weeks of helping to set up the Masorti organization, and after the creation of the organization was criticized by the rabbi of Glasgow’s largest Orthodox congregation.

About half of the country’s 9,000 Jews live in Glasgow, according to the Herald.

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