The train journey from Liverpool to Glasgow is the most beautiful there is. After Lancaster, the peaks of the Lake District rise up around the tracks. And then between Carlisle and Motherwell, the mountains in the south of Scotland diminish all before them.
Making this journey today to see my friends in Scottish Labour, and to help with the campaign supporting those voting for Scotland to remain with the UK, reminds me of the many times I’ve made this journey to see good friends. Unfortunately, this time, I’m more likely to be greeted by a leaflet round, than the usual ‘welcome to Scotland’ drink, but I suppose that’s only fair, given the wonderful times I’ve experienced in Scotland before.
Glasgow and Liverpool are two cities, both alike in dignity. When Liverpool exceeded all expectations in winning and creating the European city of culture bid in 2008, we took inspiration from our friends in Glasgow, who made that journey some years before. Our reputation – run into the ground by Tory governments – as a city worth coming to, has been revived. And this summer we were reminded again of the brilliance of Glasgow as a sporting destination, demonstrating beyond doubt what a cracking place it is. Two cities, on the west coast of the UK, facing the sea, that have – in good times and bad – always stood together.
Growing up in Merseyside, the biggest figures of my childhood: Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen, were both Scots following a well-worn path down the road to play for Liverpool FC. These two giants are revered, not just for footballing achievements, but for their decency and kindness, way beyond duty, to the people of their adopted home.
This friendship between Scotland and the North West is the reason I’m coming to show my love for Scotland and desire for us to stick together. Not because everything in the UK is great – far from it. But rather, that we have more chance of achieving great things with the people of Merseyside and Scotland working as one, than apart.
Just as it was Labour leaders on both sides of the border who joined together to build a health service, and social security system to address the inequalities of the past, it will be Labour MPs from Merseyside and Scotland together who’ll end the bedroom tax. It will be Labour city leaders who build the economies of Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow together. Our industries – manufacturing, maritime, logistics, science-based – are alike. We stand or fall together.
A few months ago, Alex Salmond came to Liverpool to make his case for separation. Unfortunately for him, by doing so, he gave the game away. How could he pretend that my city has anything – anything at all – to gain from barriers to co-operation with Scottish cities?
Separation from each other would break the hundreds year old settlement that we pool our resources. It would be bad for economic growth in Merseyside, our friends in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and right across Scotland and the north of England.
Let me be clear: this is a decision for Scots to make, and the love and friendship I have for Scotland and it’s people will be there, no question, come what may. But Scots have made so much of what I love about the UK. That’s why I want to do my bit to say: let’s stick together.