SNP independence plans criticised as “half baked”

The SNP Government is coming under criticism from all sides as it publishes its White Paper on plans for an independence referendum.

The SNP Government is coming under criticism from all sides as it publishes its White Paper on plans for an independence referendum.

Given that Scottish voters seem to have turned against independence, the Independent on Sunday reported that Alex Salmond will attempt to shore up his plans by opting for what has been described as “devolution max“, which would see Scotland remain part of the UK, but gaining control of every policy area except for defence, foreign affairs the overarching economy policy. The Queen would also remain head of state.

The news came as Alex Salmond used an interview on the Politics Show to confirm that his intention is for a referendum on the plans to be held on Burns Night in 2010.

Responding to the reports however, former SNP member, and now Independent MSP for the Lothians, Margo Macdonald, a veteran advocate for an independent Scotland described SNP thinking as “half baked”, continuing:

    “The SNP have failed to make the case for independence. I will have to vote for the bill because presented with a choice between giving the Scottish people a say or giving them no say, I will have to back it. But I hate it and I will say why I hate it.”

For Labour, Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy accused the SNP of having a “peculiar obsession” with independence. He went on:

    “In these difficult times they should behave like patriots, not just like nationalists, and put Scotland before their party.”

However, both Labour Leader Iain Gray and Jim Murphy have use weekend interviews to make clear that while they did not believe a vote now was in Scotland’s interest, they were not opposed to a referendum forever.

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Tavish Scott has written to the Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Alex Fergusson to investigate the circumstances around the sacking of a constituency assistant to Constitution Minster, Mike Russell.

The row centres on the actions of Russell’s assistant, Mark MacLachan. The Sunday Telegraph reported that while being paid by the taxpayer, MacLacen used contributions to his blog to smear opposition politicians.

The Telegraph’s Scottish Political Editor, Simon Johnson, has written:

    “Mr MacLachlan suggested some Labour politicians got a sexual thrill from bullying women, falsely branded a prominent Tory “the biggest liar in the Scottish legal system” and posted a picture of Gordon Brown in a noose.
    “He also alleged a married Labour MSP visited gay cruising spots, attacked the daughter of Lord Steel of Aikwood, the former Holyrood presiding officer, and launched foul-mouthed tirades against a series of other targets.”

Opposition parties have united in their condemnation of such behaviour, and have called on Alex Salmond to explain how it was allowed to happen, and for an apology.

Russell made his disgust clear, saying:

“It’s absolutely unacceptable; I was shocked to discover it.

    “There’s no place for despicable anonymous commentary of this sort in politics and the person no longer works for me.”

This weekend has also seen Iain’s Gray’s decision to oppose SNP plans for a minimum price for alcohol challenged.

The BBC has reported that former Labour Health Minister, Malcolm Chisholm will vote in favour of the SNP’s plans. The corporation goes on to quote part of a letter from Chisholm to the Royal College of Physicians, in which he says:

    “I believe that a range of measures must be taken to combat the serious problems caused by alcohol in Scotland.
    “I believe that price is a key element and I am persuaded by the arguments in favour of minimum pricing.”

Similarly, another former Labour Health Minister, Susan Deacon, who stood down as an MSP in 2007, told the Politics Show Scotland:

    “Frankly, the Labour party in Scotland has ended up in the wrong place for the wrong reasons on this issue.”

SNP Health Secretary and Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon reacted:

    “I am encouraged by the support from Malcolm Chisholm and Susan Deacon, and we will continue to have constructive talks with opposition parties about the broad range of positive proposals contained in the Alcohol Bill, including minimum pricing.”

Speaking against the proposal, Murdo Fraser, Deputy Leader of Conservatives at Holyrood has claimed that the SNP policy could be illegal. He went on to say that minimum pricing “penalises responsible drinkers and will cause immense damage to the whisky industry”.

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