Salmond fishing: The SNP leader's blueprint for an independent Scotland leaves all the big questions unanswered

At its core is the assertion that, freed from the dead weight of Westminster, an independent Scotland would be automatically able to meet its challenges

Share
Related Topics

With the publication of Scotland’s Future yesterday, the battle lines for next September’s referendum were supposed to be drawn. Billed by Alex Salmond as “the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever”, the document was to spell out the details at last, turning the rhetoric about an ancient country’s national story into a practicable analysis of quantifiable advantage. Instead, the White Paper is just more of the same, a 650-page confection of promises, guesses and elisions, part wish list, part Scottish National Party manifesto.

At its core is the assertion that, freed from the dead weight of Westminster indifference, an independent Scotland would be automatically and unquestionably better able to meet its (barely acknowledged) challenges. There were plenty of sweeteners. The minimum wage will rise, unpopular welfare reforms will be scrapped, the public purse will bulge with an extra £600 per year per head. Transport will be better, childcare will be universal, there will even be more opportunity to address the under-performance of more deprived schoolchildren.

In short, Scotland will – at the stroke of a pen – be richer, happier and more equal. At the same time, however, the more comforting aspects of union will remain unchanged. The pound will stay, thanks to a re-creation of the long-defunct Sterling Area; so will Strictly Come Dancing, courtesy of a joint venture with the BBC; and so will the Queen, whose sovereignty, via the Union of the Crowns in 1603, is apparently less of an infringement than the 1707 Union of Parliaments. And yet somehow, despite all this, “a vote for independence will be the clearest possible declaration of confidence in ourselves and our nation”. More emotive still, “if we vote no, Scotland stands still”.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the old questions remained unanswered. Indeed, the SNP’s assumptions are so legion, the only difficulty is in selecting the most egregious examples. Take currency union. The White Paper presumes Scotland can stick with sterling, at the same time retaining the Bank of England as the lender of last resort. Such an arrangement is possible, but it requires more than Mr Salmond’s say-so. Yet, as the No campaign has been swift to point out, there is no suggestion of a Plan B. Furthermore, Plan A hardly constitutes the sovereign independence of which Holyrood is so vocal a champion (as the hard lessons from the euro crisis so compellingly attest).

Similarly, the SNP talks glibly of a “smooth transition” into the EU on the day of independence (scheduled for 24 March 2016). Not only do such assurances gloss over a multitude of diplomatic implication; they also overlook the awkward fact that new EU states are required to commit to a future in the eurozone, something that Scotland’s Future explicitly rules out.

Even the eye-catching pledge on childcare is not what it seems. Given that such matters are already devolved to Holyrood, it hardly requires the unpicking of three centuries of shared history and shared values to put the plan into action.

The Independent firmly supports the Scots’ right to choose. But we also firmly believe that their country’s interests remain firmly within the union. Mr Salmond has not changed the debate, he has merely conjured more castles in the air.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor