Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Alistair Darling warns of 'no way back'

Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie
Image caption Labour's Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling came together with the Tories' Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, of the Liberal Democrats, for the launch

There is nothing really like the threat of a good crisis to bring auld foes together.

But on a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis, Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have now officially joined forces to launch the campaign to keep Scotland in the Union.

As far as it went, the "Better Together" event could not have been more different from last month's Hollywood star-studded launch of the pro-independence campaign, in a cinema multiplex.

Opening the event at Napier University's Craiglockhart campus - the same venue where the SNP launched its successful bid for government in 2007- Alistair Darling set out his thinking in the quiet-yet-direct style for which he has become known.

He was greeted by warm applause.

"I'm not used to that," said the former UK chancellor, who was in office at the time of the global financial meltdown.

But the funnies ended there, as the Scottish Labour MP, who recently stepped back from frontline politics after some 25 years, began by making it personal.

After his warning - before the Lehman Brothers collapse - that the worst financial crisis in 60 years was on its way, Mr Darling then had to deal with it by spending billions bailing out financial institutions.

Despite deciding it was time for a rest after the last election, and having showed a bit of reluctance to front the "no campaign", as opponents call it, Mr Darling was back.

After 13 years serving in the UK government cabinet, he described leading the campaign to keep Scotland in the Union as, "the most important thing I've ever done in politics".

Ahead of the Scottish government's independence referendum - planned for autumn 2014 - Mr Darling went on to say there were positive reasons why the UK should stay as it is.

Echoing the main theme of the campaign, he argued Scotland could have the "best of both worlds" - a strong, devolved parliament in Edinburgh which was at the same time part of a strong United Kingdom.

He went on to say the SNP had been on the go for 80 years and still didn't know what independence really meant, seeking to paint the party as one which was willing to plunge Scotland into an uncertain future.

And no discerning political campaign is worth its salt without a launch video.

Again, in an effort to distance itself from the likes of Brian Cox and Alan Cumming's contribution to pro-independence argument, the Better Together film featured the voices of people living across Scotland, from all professions and walks of life.

Immediately after its screening at the launch, the participants - described as "the real stars of today" - were then brought on to the platform.

Cue the Tories' Annabel Goldie, who, along with Labour MSP Kez Dugdale, embarked on a chat show-like questioning of some of them.

Image caption Alistair Darling has re-entered frontline politics after stepping back after the last UK election.

One of the more popular contributors was Ceilidh Watson - aka Miss Inverness, 2010.

She went on to compete in - yes you guessed it - Miss Great Britain.

Miss Golide, who lives in Bishopton, revealed: "I never went in for Miss Renfrewshire."

Miss Watson, whose boyfriend is studying at Sandhurst military academy, said she was a proud Scot and a supporter of the Union, revealing that she loves nothing more than "putting on my tartan mini skirt and belting out Flower of Scotland".

After the excitement, it was the turn of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who told the audience that the first thing he wanted people to do when they woke up in the morning was to think of ways to help keep Scotland in the Union.

The Tories and Lib Dems - not massively popular in Scotland right now as the last Scottish and UK elections have shown - had less of a profile in the launch compared with Mr Darling.

But the end of the event brought the shot everyone was waiting for - the joining of bitter enemies as the Scottish Labour, Tory and Lib Dem leadership came together in support of their common cause.

Now that both sides of the independence argument officially have their campaigns under way, voters will be looking for the meaty arguments, both for and against.

Oh well, only two years left until the referendum.