CHARLES Kennedy has broken cover on the constitutional battle facing Scotland and made clear his intention of playing a leading role in the campaign to save the United Kingdom.

Writing exclusively in The Herald, the former Liberal Democrat leader urges Unionists across different parties not to become tribal in their fight against the campaign for Scottish independence, but to find "common cause" in defeating it.

And he insists those who decry the lack of a single figure to lead the pro-Unionist campaign – Labour's John Reid and Alistair Darling, as well as Mr Kennedy himself, have been touted for such a role – are missing the point.

"First, the more broadly based our campaign, the more likely its appeal," Mr Kennedy says.

"Second, in Alex Salmond, the pro-independence campaign has an inestimable leader, who allows little else to grow in his shade. His relentless need for self-promotion – just consider that tantrum over his non-appearance on the BBC TV rugby coverage – is liable to prove counter-productive the longer this saga runs.

"We counter the cult of personality with political patience, perseverance and most of all persuasiveness."

Just 24 hours after the First Minister accused the pro-Unionist parties of being "mired in negativity" in their opposition to independence, Mr Kennedy writes to decry the SNP for its "it wisnae us" mantra of blaming Westminster, and accuses it of trying to trick voters with its independence-lite talk of sharing a monarch and preserving a social union with England.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber – whose lack of a frontline Coalition role is likely to free him up to become one of the leading voices against independence – also stresses that the pro-Union camp must be "positive and upbeat as to Scotland's prospects within the continually evolving union of nation states".

Following the row about Nationalist politicians branding their opponents "anti-Scottish", the Highland MP declares: "We have to dispel the disreputable notion that political Nationalists somehow enjoy a monopoly of ownership of patriotism and wisdom. They most certainly do not. Indeed, such an implication offends the vast majority of Scots, home and abroad."

Mr Kennedy denounces the SNP's negativity, which he describes as the "near-exclusive keepers of the 'wisnae us' territory", in which "feel-good news essentially is down to them, less good or bad news has to be the product of Westminster or Brussels".

He explains that part of the Unionist task, therefore, will be to expose the "sheer grind of this habitual girn".

And he appeals to Johann Lamont and her colleagues to take a more inclusive approach, saying: "I do hope Scottish Labour and their STUC allies will overcome natural apprehensions and see the broader need to share platforms and make common cause with the Scottish Conservatives. A tribal campaign is likely to become a fraught exercise for all of us involved."

Referring to support for "devo-max" and "devo-plus", Mr Kennedy warns about splintering the pro-Unionist cause. He also addresses the approach adopted by some Nationalists whereby independence is promoted as an act of sharing – sharing a monarch and a currency with England.

He says: "We cannot allow them to get away with such chicanery; the approach, which seems willing to define political independence as whatever the First Minister – in an increasingly Gaullist fashion – chooses to define it, depending on the day of the week."

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg repeated David Cameron's pledge that if the Scots voted no to independence, they would be rewarded with more devolution.

He told the Scottish Liberal Democrat annual conference in Inverness that the Scotland Bill, while the biggest single transfer of power from the UK to Scotland since the Act of Union, was not the end of the story.

He said: "We need to settle the independence question first, but if the Scottish people decide they want to remain in the United Kingdom, then we can get on with the business of giving Scotland more power."

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