Return to Transcripts main page


Will Scotland Split from the U.K.?; Uncertain Future for Hong Kong Democracy; Imagine a World

Aired September 8, 2014 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: 10 days to save the United Kingdom, where politicians and markets are rattled after one poll

puts the vote for Scottish independents in the lead for the very first time. What would a breakup mean? And as Scotland gets ready to exercise

its democratic freedom, Hong Kong, a former British colony, says China is trying to rig its next big vote.


CLAUDIA MO, JOURNALIST AND POLITICIAN: We're not demanding anything out of the ordinary. We're asking for basic political rights only.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, is it Union Crack? Prime Minister David Cameron and the better together camp have just 10 days to keep the United Kingdom together before

voters in Scotland go to the polls to vote yes or no in a referendum on independence.

A yes vote on September 18th would mean a bitter divorce after a marriage of 307 years. And up until now, the No campaign has kept a comfortable

lead in the polls. Political and business titans warning of grave consequences for the economy, for public services and for national


But this weekend for the very first time, a poll gives the pro-independence yes camp a narrow 2 percentage point lead. Alex Salmond, Scotland's first

minister and leader of the independence movement signed the referendum agreement with Prime Minister Cameron almost two years ago. And now he's

deployed his considerable political skills to pry away the undecided and promise that Scotland can have its cake and eat it, too.

For instance, leave the union and keep the currency; no way, says London. And by the way, the pound fell to a 10-month low this morning on news of

the shifting polls. In Westminster, the government is scrambling, now offering a middle ground, dubbed "devo-max," for maximum devolution, where

Scotland could control issues such as tax policy.

Here's the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.


GEORGE OSBORNE, CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland and then Scotland

will have the best of both worlds. They will both avoid the risks of separation but have more control over their own destiny.


AMANPOUR: Now Salmond says this all smacks of panic.


ALEX SALMOND, SCOTLAND FIRST MINISTER: They're just panicking because they're losing. And what we're seeing today is that the No campaign, that

the West wants to delete in total meltdown.


AMANPOUR: But is it too early to write off Great Britain? Liam Fox is a member of Parliament and a former Defence Secretary; though Scottish

himself, he represents a constituency in England and he wants the United Kingdom to remain united. He joins me now from Westminster.

Has to be said, Mr. Fox, welcome to the program. You are a Tory MP and a former member of David Cameron's government.

So has the government found itself in meltdown right now? Is Alex Salmond right? Is there rampant panic?

LIAM FOX, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: No, there's not panic. But I think there's a genuine feeling at Westminster that the No campaign has focused

too much on the negative. It's told people in Scotland why they would be worse off leaving the United Kingdom rather than why they're better off

remaining inside it.

Now if you look at a whole range of indicators, Scotland gets benefit from the United Kingdom's economy of scale in terms of finance, the provision of

pensions, the provision of public services. It gives opportunity in terms of employment. I trained as a doctor in Scotland, but worked as a doctor

in England. And I'd like that opportunity to remain for others.

And of course, with the United Kingdom armed forces and the U.K. defense budget being the fifth biggest in the world that provides safety in a very

unstable world, all those are benefits that should be restated rather than a rather negative campaign about seeing the dangers of leaving.

AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, Mr. Fox, the better together or no campaign has not done that. Can they do that in the 10 days remaining? Now that the

momentum seems to be shifting to the Yes campaign?

FOX: Well, I'd be a little bit skeptical about overstating the momentum of the Yes campaign. We've had one poll which suggested they were doing

better. If you actually even looked at the uncorrected data for that poll that showed quite a big no lead and other polls have all shown a no lead.

But notwithstanding that, there is no room for complacency and it's very, very important that the No campaign gave a positive reason for staying in

the union.

And of course, we need to tell people in Scotland that it's not in any way unpatriotic to vote for the No campaign because the question is not whether

Scotland could be independent but whether it should be independent. And in my view, it could be independent, albeit with a range of problems attached.

But it shouldn't be independent because we are better off as a United Kingdom for a whole range of reasons, some of which I've given.

AMANPOUR: I know that you're saying it is one poll. And it is just one poll. But in that one poll, there's been a sort of a deficit now of 22

points, as they've turned around a lead for your campaign.

One of the better together campaigners, the lead, Alec -- Mr. Darling said that your campaign has focused too much on the head and not enough on the

heart, whereas in Scotland, it's very emotional; it's very much about community. It's really appealing to the heart of people who want

independence and are very patriotic and nationalistic.

FOX: I agree with that and I think that you have to give people an emotional reason as well as an intellectual one for any decision you're

asking them to take. And the way I would put it to the people of Scotland is that when the union was formed, as you say, way back in 1707, we were a

nation of treaty.

Now we're a nation of people. It's very hard to find someone in Scotland who doesn't have a grandparent or a great-grandparent from a different part

of the United Kingdom . It's very hard to find families who don't have a family member working in a different part of the United Kingdom.

And how sad it would be if we had passports and different currencies that made foreigners of our families in their own country. That would be a

tragedy. And I think that emotional element needs to come out in the last week or so from the No campaign.

AMANPOUR: And what about this devo-max, devolution max, that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne talked about yesterday, apparently they're

going to roll out some kind of offer to Scotland.

Why now? Why so late? Why wasn't that offered in the beginning instead of the prime minister saying, OK, go ahead, have an in-out referendum?

FOX: Well, some of those powers were outlined in a previous piece of legislation. I think the argument now is about timetable. And you will

get those at Westminster who are for or against the idea of wider devolution.

But I think that in the days ahead, what we need to concentrate on is the very big picture about the maintenance of the United Kingdom, whether

Scotland has additional tax raising powers on this issue or that is how, while important a subsidiary issue to the maintenance of the United Kingdom


And it's amazing that here in London in the southeast of England, the realization of the importance of this issue and the closeness of the issue

has only arrived in recent days. And it's caused something of a minor political earthquake here at Westminster. I hope that it's simply a strong

wakeup call for those who've not been paying attention.

AMANPOUR: Tell me what this will mean for our international audience, for all the nations that do business in one way or another with Great Britain,

the United Kingdom?

FOX: Well, there wouldn't make any difference for what is the rest of the United Kingdom that is England, which is the vast majority of the

population, city of London, Wales, Northern Ireland. What it will mean is a number of questions raised for doing business in Scotland.

What currency will they use? Because it's been made very clear that by all the main parties in England that they wouldn't accept a currency union.

So Scotland, it's very unclear what currency it will use. Will it be in the European Union? Well, it would have to apply for membership. And of

course, were it to join the European Union, it would have to use the Europe. Will it be a member of NATO? We don't know what the implications

will be for North Atlantic defense.

None of these questions have been properly answered by the Scottish nationalists and they cause a great deal of worry in the rest of the


But if I were living in Scotland, I think my biggest worry would be what happens to inwards investment when it's not clear what the economic

position will look like or what the fiscal position would look like? And Alex Salmond has said, well, if he doesn't get what his way -- his way, the

first thing he will do is not accept Scotland's share of U.K. debt.

Well, it's a very foolhardy man who embarks on a potential new currency and whose first move is to say that he's defaulting on previous loans.

AMANPOUR: Let me just follow up on what you said about a question as to whether there would be a NATO. Let's just take the current military

challenge in front of NATO and the rest of the world, frankly, and that is confronting ISIS. Obviously world leaders, Prime Minister Cameron,

President Obama, trying to gather a coalition to strike down and defeat ISIS.

You were very clear about this in an editorial, in a column, in fact, a few weeks ago, saying that we failed in Syria; we can't afford to blink twice.

What should our leaders be doing right now to defeat, as they say, ISIS?

FOX: Well, if ISIS is the level of threat that our leaders tell us that it is, then it must be very clear that they have to be defeated. And we have

to defeat them on every front. We have to make sure that the oil that they're selling on the black market becomes more difficult; that's how they

sustain themselves financially.

We have to stop the financial flows through the banking system which are funding them. We also have to make sure that we disrupt their command and

control mechanisms and their lines of supply. That means hitting them militarily by air and I welcome the fact that the United States has already

decided to do that.

And we also have to confront the idea that many of their bases lie inside Syria and I have been very clear that I think that we need to take military

action to ensure that we diminish the threat to the -- to the human population around where their bases are and the populations they control.

The fact that they are pushing us closer to potentially an all-out religious war in the region and that they can become a university of jihad,

which will eventually affect most Western countries and countries in the region, they are very dangerous. We have to deal with them by all means

financially and militarily.

AMANPOUR: And indeed, many British security officials and others have warned about the blowback to this country, to the rest of the West indeed.

Let me ask you about the blowback specifically for the prime minister, David Cameron, if he loses the referendum vote in Scotland. People are

talking about forcing him to resign.

Do you think that that will happen?

Should he resign if he loses this vote?

FOX: Well, I hope you'll forgive me if I am unwilling to discuss that question because it seems to me that here in the Westminster bubble, with a

major potential constitutional and institutional crisis on our hands, if there's a yes vote, the Westminster bubble still wants to talk about the

Westminster bubble. And I think that we should be talking about the big issues.

And I think to get into the minutiae of what might happen hypothetically if there is to be a yes vote is extremely unhelpful.

And we must be very careful not to make the weather that actually helps the nationalists get across the finishing line.

AMANPOUR: Liam Fox, thank you very much indeed for joining me tonight.

FOX: My pleasure, thank you.


AMANPOUR: And this is, of course, now in the hands of the politicians and the people. But spare a thought for the Queen.

Will Her Majesty be the last Queen of Scotland? While she must be basking in the happy news of another grandchild on the way, miles away from the

family hearth, as she cheered the Highland Games in Scotland this weekend with Prince Philip and Prince Charles, she must also have been mulling her

own future role.

While officially politically neutral, the Queen is said to be horrified at the prospect of a breakup.

And after meeting privately with her embattled prime minister, she attended church service near Balmoral Castle, which is in Scotland, and both, of

course, must have been praying for a way out that keeps the Queen on the Scottish throne as well and Cameron in Number 10 Downing Street.

When we come back, more constitutional fireworks, again, with a British flavor, happening half a world away in Hong Kong.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

With Scotland threatening to spin out of Great Britain's orbit now on the other side of the world, Hong Kong did just that nearly 20 years ago.

In 1997, Britain handed back control of the city-state to China, promising, quote, "a high degree of autonomy and universal suffrage for the


But now Beijing has pulled a Houdini. On the one hand, it says Hong Kong can directly elect its next leader; on the other hand, only from a list of

candidates handpicked by the Chinese Communist Party.

Would Beijing really risk reform and Hong Kong's world-class status as a business hub? Yes, local legislator Claudia Mo tells me. Indeed, she says

that Beijing has, quote, "closed the door, the window, the fire escape and the back door" rather than negotiate.


AMANPOUR: Claudia Mo, welcome from Hong Kong.


AMANPOUR: With China's new edict about having to approve any candidates, is Hong Kong's dream of democracy dead?

Or is it merely deferred?

MO: It's nearly dead, I would say. China's trying very hard to try to cheat Hong Kong.

In the past what happened was we would have a leader of the city, handpicked by Beijing and to be chosen -- they were chosen by an enclosed

group of people.

Now it's going to be another handpicked leader that supposedly voted by everyone in Hong Kong. "one man, one vote," they call it.

Why? Because in between, they have all kinds of screening systems, Iranian style, basically, that you have to be a -- you have to love the Chinese

Communist Party to become a candidate to start with.

So that's sort of fake democracy.

AMANPOUR: You call it a fake democracy and leaders all around the world have criticized other countries for fake democracies, sham democracies.

Have you got the support, at least, from Great Britain, your former colonial master, if I might put it that way?

What is Britain saying about this?

MO: Yes. No, Christiane, I'm sure you've read the foreign office statement; it's a lot of diplomatic gobbledy-gook, right? Diplomats are

very good at doing things by halves and they're neither here nor there.

We welcome the confirmation from Beijing. They said that Hong Kong is supposed to -- we will enjoy democracy, full stop.

What does that mean? It means absolutely nothing.

AMANPOUR: What should Great Britain do?

MO: Well, at least have some sense of honor. It has the moral obligation for Hong Kong and they should at least speak up.

In life, we really have to realize that there is some bottom line. And we have to draw the line there somewhere. Speak up at least.

AMANPOUR: Now what is China's aim, then?

Why is China doing this now, first of all, announcing that there would be "one man, one vote," but then saying actually we will approve the


MO: I think China, Beijing, is essentially very insecure and paranoid and they want to play tough with Hong Kong. And the message is we don't care

about Hong Kong anymore. Hong Kong is disposable. This supposed financial hub in Asia; the supposed cosmopolitan city, never mind.

Well, if you don't like it here, Hong Kong people, you can leave.

AMANPOUR: But, Claudia, what sense does this make?

Hong Kong is famous all over the world for its entrepreneurial business, financial hub. One only thought China wanted to keep all of that positive

strength about Hong Kong.

Are you saying they just don't care anymore?

MO: They only thing they might just care a tiny bit still is their international image. They're so paranoid. They're terrified of Hong Kong

becoming some subversive base.

AMANPOUR: So what is Hong Kong going to do about it?

Where do people stand, the majority of people stand?

Is it a protest movement?

What is it that's going to, do you think, change Beijing's mind, if at all?

MO: Well, I'm not sure what we can do to change Beijing's mind. We have this Occupy Central movement, not exactly with the aim of paralyzing it,

but we want to show to the international community that this is what Hong Kong wants.

And we're not demanding anything out of the ordinary. We're asking for basic political rights only. And we will be doing sit-ins. It's all going

to be very peaceful. We learned from Gandhi.

AMANPOUR: Peaceful or not, do you worry about a Tiananmen situation or any kind of heavy-handed Chinese attempt to squash this?

MO: We know in life, if you fight, you may not get what you want. But if you don't fight, you definitely won't get what you want. And Tiananmen

part two in Hong Kong, the time to make that threat indeed.

But I don't think that's going to be justified if it is an all-peaceful protest, right?

But if they send out ATCs or tanks into central district in Hong Kong, will people be terribly surprised? I don't know. There's the, you know, threat

lingering on.

AMANPOUR: Some people have said that already the Occupy movements have put the wind up the Beijing sails. In other words, they got frightened by the

amount of protest there has already been.

Do you think the movement backfired?

Do you think China might have allowed you to have a real "one man, one vote," if they hadn't been frightened by this?

MO: Well, you're talking about Chinese psychology or the psychology of those in power. One can always say that with hindsight. But then I doubt

it very much. I think China seriously do not want Hong Kong to become democratized, democratized mainly because, one, it might have a spillover

effect onto -- across the border onto mainland China.

We're appealing to basic humanity. We're appealing to basic political rights to be, you know, enjoyed by Hong Kong people. And that was promised

in the basic law, the mini-constitution for Hong Kong and it was actually guaranteed in a final British joint declaration, one country, two systems.

And as "The Economist" magazine said this week, right, it's no longer one country, two systems; it's only one country and half a system done here.

AMANPOUR: Claudia, are you frightened for yourself and for your fellow pro-democracy activists?

MO: Personally, at my age, you look at me, right, I have nothing to lose anymore. My parents are gone and my boys are grown up. They're young

adults, they're doing fine and I have a steady, married, happy life and I have nothing to lose.

But then I am worried about our next generation and more next generations.

AMANPOUR: Claudia Mo, thank you so much for joining me from Hong Kong tonight.

MO: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And that yellow ribbon Claudia Mo was wearing is a symbol of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. It's increasingly popular among high

school and college students there. And it's also reminiscent of the so- called Yellow Revolution in the Philippines back in the 1980s, following the assassination of Benigno Aquino that then led to the ouster of the

Marcos regime.

After a break, imagine yet another revolution involving the British crown, this one over two centuries ago. And just like today, a prime minister's

future hung in the balance. We'll explain when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a British prime minister loses a vital corner of the empire along with his job. Some say

Scottish independence could cost David Cameron his address and his job at Number 10 Downing Street. But he wouldn't be the first British PM forced

to resign for losing a precious jewel in the crown.

Back in 1782, while King George III sat on the throne, tone-deaf to the demands for taxation with repression by his American colonies, Lord North

was his prime minister and point man in an ill-fated campaign that might have been called better together or else. After the first Tea Party

protest, the one in Boston Harbor in 1773, Lord North refused to compromise.

Sound familiar? And instead tried to put his American cousins in an economic vise to compel their allegiance. It backfired and led to the

Declaration of Independence and a war that lasted seven years until Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown and the British

band played a song called, "The World Turned Upside Down."

Labeled "the man who lost America," Lord North became the first British prime minister to resign after a vote of no confidence. Now 232 years

later, if his fellow Tory, David Cameron, loses Scotland, could he face a similar fate?

That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks

for watching and goodbye from London.