Scotland might be hostage to Alex Salmond's vanity, but it's best hope is to remain part of Britain

I will never say my beloved country can't go it alone. But the SNP's leader has made a bunch of ridiculous claims about the prospects for an independent Scotland

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If you were to follow Scottish politics, you would think the only challenge facing Scotland was which politicians have which powers. Not the crisis in the eurozone or the ongoing economic crisis at home, not record levels of unemployment or the rising cost of living. Instead, Scotland is on pause.

It’s now almost 18 months since we knew that Scotland would have a referendum. It will be the most important decision that the country will make in hundreds of years and certainly the biggest of our lifetime. We were promised a positive, honest debate about the issues. Instead, we have had process-driven debate and grandstanding from the First Minister.

Throughout the SNP’s existence, their answer to every question has been independence, but now that the question is independence they don’t seem to have any answers.

Theirs is a case built on intellectual dishonesty, based on assertion not fact. An argument that all the things you like will stay the same and all the things you don’t, just won’t happen any more.

And in their attempt to be all things to all people, they seem to suggest that an independent Scotland would have Scandinavian public services and the taxes of Monaco.

But the people of Scotland will want, and deserve, more than mere opinion and assertions dressed up as reality and fact. The people of Scotland have a right to base their decision on all the information and nothing less will do.

Having previously described sterling as a “millstone round Scotland’s neck”, Alex Salmond now wants a separate Scotland to keep the pound and have a foreign country set our interest rates, borrowing and spending limits. He asserts that the Bank of England would be the lender of last resort and that Scotland would automatically gain a seat at the Monetary Policy Committee, having never even raised it with the Treasury.

Salmond wishes to dump the BBC and create a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation, while promising to maintain the current breadth and depth of output. Quite how he will do that, with only one-tenth of the licence fee income, is anyone’s guess.

He asserts as fact that Scotland will automatically become an EU member state, despite President Barroso’s comments to the contrary. And at the Court of Session, he last month used taxpayers’ money to fight the Information Commissioner’s ruling on the release of Government legal advice on EU membership.  That’s taxpayer’s money being used to keep secret legal advice paid for by taxpayers’ money.

But perhaps the most ridiculous claim of all, for a party whose primary aim is the break up of Britain, is that somehow after the creation of a separate Scottish state Scottish people would still be British.

There was no mistaking the sentiment of an SNP MP when he said in Parliament in 2008 that: “I have never felt British. I do not even know what Britishness is.” All pretty clear. Imagine my surprise then when the selfsame MP wrote in August that “Britishness is one of our many identities and one that will be forever cherished in an independent Scotland”.

And the use of taxpayers’ money to fight the release of legal advice is just one example of how Alex Salmond and the SNP Government are using public money to further their cause of independence.

Despite the economic conditions, the SNP Government are investing millions of pounds of money in a new visitors centre at Bannockburn for a battle that took place 698 years ago. It is intended to be open in 2014, the same year as, you’ve guessed it, the referendum on Scottish Independence is planned.

The First Minister was personally involved in a decision to give a government loan to a private company organising a gathering of Scotland’s clans. The clan event collapsed with huge losses and the loan, funded by taxpayers, of course, was written off.

Worthy as such investments might seem to Mr Salmond, today in Scotland one in four young people are out of work. You might have expected that such sobering figures would have spurred the SNP into action. Instead, we have seen the continued pursuit of independence, except with renewed vigour.

The Scottish Government once had a Cabinet minister whose sole job was to oversee the use of publicly funded building projects to help boost the economy. Unfortunately, Alex Salmond has also now given the same person the job of running the referendum. Still, at least we now know that when Alex Salmond says his Government is focused on construction, what he really means is that it will spend the next two years building the case for independence.

I will never say Scotland couldn’t go it alone, but I believe Scotland is and can be a better place as part of the UK. And after the referendum, in which I hope people will recognise that we are better together, I look forward to our country coming together and working together to break down barriers not create new ones.

Anas Sarwar is MP for Glasgow Central  and deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party

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