I’d put money on the fact that Alex Salmond is squirming today after another horrendous week in his dream for Scottish Independence – and since it’s only Thursday I’m sure he’s got time to drop a few more clangers!
It started with the resignation of two of his backbenchers over the NATO u-turn announced last Friday and then came the “little” matter of not seeking legal advice on whether an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.
Highland MSPs Jean Urquhart and John Finnie stood down in protest at the decision to end the SNP’s long-standing opposition to NATO.
Former police officer Finnie, who joined the SNP as a 16-year-old, insisted: “I can’t continue to belong to a party that quite rightly doesn’t wish to hold nuclear weapons on its soil but wants to join a first-strike nuclear alliance. Although I envisage I’ll continue to share common ground with the SNP on many issues, I can’t in good conscience continue to take the party whip.”
Urquhart, who has been a supporter of independence for 25 years, said: “Nuclear disarmament and removing Trident from Scotland’s waters is a red line issue for me. I couldn’t remain committed to a party that has committed itself to retaining membership of NATO.”
This all seemed bad enough but to then find out that the SNP Government didn’t feel it necessary to obtain legal advice over such an important matter as to whether a separate Scotland could join the European Union was laughable to say the least!
The First Minister then decided it was ok to miss a House of Lords committee inquiry yesterday into the economic consequences of Scotland breaking away from the UK. The meeting in Edinburgh City Chambers was the first time a Lords committee has sat outside Westminster and was attended by a host of Scot politicians, including ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling and all opposition leaders. Mr Salmond blanked the session to attend the book launch of a local businessman’s biography at the Britannia Spice restaurant in Leith.
And today Salmond left it to Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to admit that it was “unfortunate” that the SNP had given a wrong impression over whether they had taken legal advice on an independent Scotland’s place in Europe. Reiterating her leader’s stance that they had never confirmed whether or not they did have legal advice because they were not allowed to do so under the ministerial code, she conceded the impression had been created that ministers had already taken legal advice on the matter.
Perhaps to emphasise the fact that politics is a very smelly business, it is perhaps no coincidence that both the First and Deputy First Ministers have the names of fishes in Salmon(d) and Sturgeon ….. I rest my case!
So the deed has been done and David Cameron has signed the independence vote deal, known as the “Edinburgh Agreement”. But while all the polls say that by two to one, Scots do not believe the country would be more economically successful on its own, making a ‘no’ vote all but certain in the autumn of 2014, I can’t help but worry that common sense will fly out of the window come 2014.
The Nationalists will jump on the bandwagon of the significance of the date – 2014 marks the 700th anniversary of The Battle of Bannockburn (the first Scottish War of Independence when Scotland scored a decisive victory over Edward and the English), and there is also the fact that the Commonwealth Games are being held in Glasgow just before the crucial vote.
Alex Salmond has got his own way on 2 counts – the date of the referendum (Cameron had wanted it to take place next year) and also on allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote. David Cameron did however win on one key point. Voters will be asked a single question – whether they want in or out of the United Kingdom – despite Mr Salmond’s desire for a second option of increased powers for Holyrood, “devo-max”.
I find it hard to believe that any right-minded individual could believe that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. The economic figures speak for themselves but the SNP also seem to have failed to understand one other crucial matter. Mr Salmond claims an independent Scotland could simply remain in the EU and keep Sterling. Constitutional experts and the Westminster government say, however, that Scotland would have to reapply to the EU for membership and commit – like all new EU members – to joining the ill-fated euro. A recipe for disaster? I think so!
As an English person who has been living in Scotland for the past 16 years, I truly believe that most voters are too sensible to vote Yes, especially in these disastrous economic times – it would not be Scotland the Brave, but Scotland the Foolhardy! If the disaster that is Scottish Independence does happen – I’ll be on the first flight out of here!