26 Nov 2013

Salmond and the holy book

Where there is doubt, may we bring certainty. That might be the slogan of the white paper on independence. But the other big theme of the SNP government’s document was a big retail offer to Scottish voters.

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A chunk of this paper is a “twofer” offer – what you get if you vote for independence and then vote SNP in the first post- independence election. You lose the welfare cuts you don’t like, you get free childcare and much more besides. At one point, Alex Salmond said you would be on average £600 per head better off if you went for the twofer.

At the Glasgow launch, Alex Salmond restrained himself from the usual swatting of unappealing questioners. He made a page reference to his weighty document in almost every answer like a clergyman citing the Bible.


But this sacred text did not require a leap of faith, he argued, because the rest of the UK would never do anything so stupid as to disagree with Alex Salmond’s view of its best interests. The white paper repeatedly proclaims that the UK will bring Scotland into a currency union despite protestations from UK government ministers to the contrary.

It will welcome Scotland into the common travel area despite protestations to the contrary. What is the plan B if any one of this doesn’t happen? The first minister carefully does not engage with such notions no matter how often he is asked. Two of his ministers I asked afterwards were equally word perfect.

By the way, if Scotland did vote for independence, it seems pretty certain that from that moment Scottish MPs in a UK government that would now be heavily absorbed by negotiating terms of separation for a country they belong to, might have to stand aside. The ministers an SNP negotiating team would be facing over the table would be predominantly English in a setting in which English nationalism might be growing.

One other observation. Isn’t there a danger exercises like yesterday’s intervention by Treasury Chief  Secretary, MP Danny Alexander, saying that on average Scots’ tax bills would go up by £1000 a year, might all sound a bit like those regular Tory tax bombshell campaigns that the Scots never voted for over  two decades or so?

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