It will cost the Scottish Government £12 million to carry out their independence referendum - money it can ill afford in the present economic circumstances.
As anticipated, the Scottish Government used St Andrew’s Day to publish its White Paper, spelling out options aimed at achieving the Scottish National Party’s goal of a referendum on Scotland becoming a fully-fledged independent nation.
The 198-page document considers four separate options to be put to the Scottish people in a vote this time next year:
• No change at all to the existing devolution settlement;
• Further powers for Scotland, based in large part on the recommendations of the Calman Commission;
• So-called “devolution max” which would see Scotland gain full fiscal autonomy, with Westminster responsible for Foreign Affairs and Defence issues;
• Full-scale independence, with Scotland a member of the EU, but retaining the Queen as head of state.
Publishing the document, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“This White Paper charts the route to progress for Scotland – and we are calling on people of all parties and none who want real substantive additions to the powers of the Parliament to rally to the referendum campaign.
“That is why we are open to including the option of such powers on the referendum ballot paper, alongside independence. It is time for the people to have their say on Scotland’s future.”
Despite such rhetoric, however, Mr Salmond’s referendum proposals have been met with near-universal condemnation from Scotland’s main opposition parties.
“We should not be distracting ourselves with a referendum, with a question which we don’t even know what it is, with options we don’t even know what they are.
“It could cost anything up to £12m – that’s public resources which could be put to far better use protecting and creating jobs here in Scotland and I think that’s what Scots want us to be doing.”
And the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party Annabel Goldie branded the plans “a complete waste of money”, whilst for the Liberal Democrats, Tavish Scott concluded that the SNP were “trying to impose independence on Scotland when it is neither what Scotland wants nor needs”.
Given the extent of opposition, the SNP leader looks like he will have to answer several fundamental questions about his plans.
Recent days have seen news that the number of teachers across Scotland is falling and warnings that Scotland’s economy is trailing that of the UK. Given such serious and important issues, people are bound to wonder whether the estimated £12 million it will cost to hold an independence referendum is a wise use of public funds.
The BBC explains the reality the Scottish Government will face when they bring a bill forward – they simply do not have the votes to get such legislation through. Together with polls that make clear that show a majority of Scots neither favour independence nor see a referendum as a priority, it leaves many puzzled by Mr Salmond’s decision to continue to persist with his plans.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.