IN last week’s Chronicle, former Ayrshire MP Jim Sillars outlined his views on Scottish independence.

Here, Carrick and Cumnock MP SANDRA OSBORNE tells us why she wants to stay with the Union.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 is a date that we in Scotland have been talking about for years, and it will be etched in our memory for generations to come. Because on that day I am voting to stand in solidarity with ordinary people right across the UK. I am voting “no thanks” to Scotland walking away from our friends and neighbours across the United Kingdom.

A working family in Cumnock has more in common with a working family in Crewe or Cardiff than with the Duke of Sutherland or tax exile billionaire, Jim McColl. We are stronger because of our links with people throughout the UK. We are not threatened by them.

Right across the UK, Tory economic policy and welfare cuts make many fearful and force choices between heating and eating for still more. The SNP’s council tax freeze is taking money from the poorest communities while forcing cuts to the public services they need most. While the nationalists would have you believe that everyone south of the Tweed is an austerity loving Tory.

The nationalists say – walk away and all will be well. The clear majority of Scots want change, but independence is not the route to achieve those changes – it’s not a change of passport we need but a change of policies.

I believe that when we see injustice we stand and fight to change it. We don’t turn our back and walk away. Labour has been the party of constitutional, economic and social renewal – the party of Scottish home rule. We established the Scottish Parliament. But for us that parliament, with whatever powers it now has and will have in the future, is a means to an end. And that end is to improve life for ordinary people and ensure no one is left behind. That task is still best achieved working alongside our neighbours in the rest of the UK. As the old trade union slogan has it, “In Unity is Strength”.

The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that an independent Scotland would have to impose £6bn of cuts or tax rises after a yes vote over and above those already planned. That is more than Scotland spends on schools, pensions and equivalent to half the current NHS budget. The truth is that separation means cuts. What Alex Salmond is asking Scotland to vote for is Austerity Plus for decades to come. That is what makes his pitch to Labour voters that there would be fewer cuts and more wealth redistribution in a separate Scotland so cynical. In seven years as First Minister there has been not one policy which redistributes wealth from rich to poor – indeed the opposite is true. This currency chaos would hit the poor harder than anyone. The cuts would have to be across the board – from schools to hospitals, from pensions to welfare payments to some of our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

Rather than admit that separation will lead to cuts, Alex Salmond has been trying to peddle a big lie that changes to the NHS in England will put at risk the health service in Scotland. 'The Scottish Parliament has responsibility for the Scottish Health Service and that means we can protect the NHS budgets’ - not me speaking but Alex Salmond himself. The NHS in Scotland is completely controlled by the Scottish Parliament - both how it is delivered and how much we spend. Because we are part of the UK we also are able to spend £200 a head more on NHS services in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and since spending on health continues to rise year on year in England and Wales the Scottish block grant increases not decreases.

My starting point is that I want Scotland to be fairer, more prosperous and have greater opportunities. That’s best done by working with our neighbours in the United Kingdom. For the nationalists the starting point is the desire to leave the United Kingdom. The question of Scotland being fairer, more prosperous and having more opportunity is secondary to their core belief.

In the closing days of this campaign I am inviting you to choose the best of both worlds: more decisions taken by Scots here in Scotland, but backed up by the strength, stability and security of the UK. On September 18th use your vote to say ’Thanks – but No Thanks’