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UK Politics

Scottish independence: Alex Salmond accuses Westminster's 'daytrippers' of 'scaremongering'

With six months to go until the referendum, support for the 'Yes' campaign rising and one in 10 voters still undecided, the First Minister lays into Tory-led 'No' emissaries

Campaigners for an independent Scotland are offering hope over the "fear" of those arguing for the United Kingdom to remain together, Alex Salmond says today.

In comments to mark six months until the 18 September referendum, the First Minister said voters were beginning to show signs of rejecting the "scaremongering" of the Better Together lobby.

The polls have given the No campaign a clear lead for months, but a survey last week put support for a Yes vote at a six-month high, nine points behind a No vote, in the Survation poll for the Daily Record.

In a sign that pro-unionists need to do more to persuade the large rump of undecided Scots – who are likely to prove decisive on polling day – David Cameron said on Friday that Scotland could have more tax-raising powers if voters rejected independence – effectively "devo max", or maximum devolution. The PM offered Mr Salmond devo max in 2010 and again in 2011, after the Scottish Nationalist Party's landslide, but the First Minister rejected it.

In his comments today, Mr Salmond says: "Six months from now, Scotland's future will be in Scotland's hands – it will be a historic day and a unique opportunity for everyone who lives and works in this country. And the contrast between the two campaigns couldn't be more dramatic.

"On the one hand, there is a Tory-led No campaign of Westminster politicians day-tripping to Scotland to lecture and patronise from on high, while at the same time Scottish ministers carry out traditional public meetings in communities across Scotland, meeting ordinary people and answering their questions."

Without support from any of the mainstream Scottish media, the Yes campaign is focusing on a grassroots campaign to win over support, with town-hall meetings and community ambassadors. Mr Salmond describes this as the "biggest grassroots effort Scotland has ever seen – door to door, street to street and community to community".

He adds: "People in Scotland are sick and tired of the Westminster establishment talking Scotland down and telling us we are incapable of running our own country.

"That is why, despite the No campaign pursuing the most negative campaign in modern political history, momentum is firmly with the Yes campaign, as the latest opinion polls show.

"People across Scotland are rejecting the scaremongering of the self-styled 'Project Fear' in favour of the vision of hope, aspiration and progress offered by a Yes vote."

With Scotland "one of the wealthiest countries in the world", Mr Salmond says, the issue was not "whether we are wealthy enough to be independent, it is why so many people don't feel the benefit of that great wealth".

Countering economic arguments, he points out: "We are the 14th wealthiest country per head in the developed world. To say we can't be independent would mean there would only be 13 countries rich enough to be independent in the world. But there are nearly 200.

"For the next six months we will continue to highlight the potential of Scotland to counter the scare stories.

"The contrast between the two campaigns is crucial as we approach 18 September. Because this referendum isn't about politicians – it's not about me, or David Cameron. It's not about the press and it's not about the broadcasters, or the elites in London or Edinburgh. It's about the people of Scotland. And on September 18th, I firmly believe the people of Scotland will choose hope over fear by voting Yes."

On Friday, addressing the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Edinburgh, the Prime Minister said a No vote in September was "not the end of the line" for devolution.

Mr Cameron said: "Let me be absolutely clear: a vote for 'no' is not a vote for 'no change'. We are committed to making devolution work better still. Not because we want to give Alex Salmond a consolation prize if Scotland votes No, but because it's the right thing to do.

"Vote no, that can mean further devolution – more power to the Scottish people and their parliament, but with the crucial insurance policy that comes with being part of the UK."

But the Yes campaign said the PM's pledge showed that Better Together were "hopelessly split" on how much power to give to Scotland.

The Survation poll suggested 39.3 per cent will vote for independence, compared with 47.6 per cent who said they want Scotland to remain part of the UK. The rest are undecided.

Your questions answered

When's the big day?

Thursday 18 September 2014.

What's it all about?

Should Scotland be an independent country? That's the question people aged 16 or over and living in Scotland will be asked. Voters include more than 360,000 English-born people living in Scotland. More than 750,000 Scottish-born people living in England will not be able to vote.

You mean, the United Kingdom could become disunited?

Yes, if the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has any say in the matter. An extremely capable politician, he is feared and respected by his opponents. The electoral system in Scotland – a combination of first-past-the-post and proportional representation – is said to have been designed to prevent a majority for any single party, ensuring endless coalitions. But in the 2011 election, the SNP won 69 of the 129 seats with 45 per cent of the vote. Latest polls, however, put support for independence at 35-39 per cent, compared with 47-53 per cent against.

What happens if Scotland votes Yes?

An almighty argument. Scotland would have to negotiate with the rest of the UK about issues such as rights to North Sea oil, the UK's debts and the nuclear base at Faslane amid a general dividing up of the family silver. Scotland would also seek to continue as a member of the EU, but countries like Spain – where Catalonia is threatening to break away – would likely argue that it must apply as a new entrant, a process which could take years.

So a No vote means everything just stays the same?

Wrong. The powers of the Scottish Parliament are expected to increase – a pledge likely to be made to try to win over soft nationalists to the unionist side. Under devo max", the Scottish Government would control taxation/spending, but pay a fee to Westminster for shared UK services such as foreign policy and defence. That could prompt calls for Scottish MPs to stop voting on English matters, leading to a possible constitutional crisis in which Labour has a UK majority but the Tories outvote them on domestic English affairs.

Robert Griffiths