He has made realising the dream of an independent Scotland his life’s work. But as the nitty-gritty issues behind that dream have been debated endlessly over recent months deep down is the leader of the ‘yes’ campaign is having second thoughts? Here are five things that maybe keeping Alex Salmond up at night, and why he may be secretly praying his countrymen vote No tomorrow.
1) He’s taking a huge gamble on oil. All of the Yes Campaign’s budgeting for the future depends on the ability to raise a certain amount of revenue from North Sea Oil. But that is horribly unpredictable. All of the published predictions – both optimistic and pessimist are just that: predictions. It’s a pretty scary thing to base the future of an independent country on.
2) He can’t guarantee NHS spending in an independent Scotland – despite what he’s said. The NHS north of the border faces the same problems that it does in England – a rising elderly population, new and expensive treatments and restricted money to pay for them unless you put up taxes. While the rest of the UK is giving a chunk of money to the Scottish Government – he can blame them for the cutbacks. When that stops he can’t.
3) He knows – but can’t admit it in the campaign – that the rest of the UK will never accept a currency union. Pressure on English politicians will be too great from the rest of the country ever to agree to a union where England takes responsibility for another country’s debt but has no control over its spending. Even if it was the sensible thing to do the politics of England in a post-independence world are such that it would never happen.
4) In the short term some businesses – and maybe a lot of businesses – will reduce their presence in Scotland. Negotiations for independence will create uncertainty, and businesses whose only loyalty is to their shareholders hate uncertainty. They will not wait to ‘see how things turn out’ – they will unsentimentally make plans for the worst, and implement them before a final agreement over separation is reached. That will not be poplar in Scotland.
5) But if it’s a no vote then none of this is a problem. His Government gets more power, more money and can carry on blaming London if things go wrong. The SNP will cruise to another victory in the Holyrood elections on the back of the independence campaign – which he will be seen to have won even if he loses. He maybe scathing about Devo Max now – but just two years ago he wanted that to be an option on the referendum question. He may be secretly hoping that’s what he gets now.
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