If Scottish nationalists can’t persuade the country of their case while they are led by what is universally accepted to be Scotland’s best political communicator, when can they?
With all the humility of a man who has, since he came to office in 2007, felt the hand of history on his shoulders, Alex Salmond yesterday finally announced that on 18 September 2014 the Scottish people will be able to cast politicians aside and make a decision on whether Scotland should become an independent nation.
Addressing MSPs at Holyrood, Salmond spoke of being “honoured” to be able to make an announcement which, in his words, will be the day when “we take responsibility for our country, when we are able to speak with our own voice, choose our own direction and contribute in our own distinct way”.
Tub thumping stuff, from the tub thumping first minister. The only problem is that for a lengthy period of the campaign, the Scottish people will be none the wiser as to what the SNP Government actually envisages independence looking like, with the news that it’s White Paper outlining the case will not be published until November.
Responding to the first minister’s statement yesterday, Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont summed things up, declaring:
“He plans to hold the referendum in the autumn of next year and to publish his white paper in the autumn of this year. Why the delay? If we are to have the transparent debate that the first minister says he wants, why does he not publish his full independence plans now? If he wants a proper debate, he must disclose that white paper today.
“If he does not, the whole country will be asking, “’What’s the plan, Alex?””
Unsurprisingly, an answer came there none and there is no doubt that Lamont’s question is as much an attempt at political mischief making as anything else, but there remains a serious point.
In 2009, the Scottish government published a prospectus for independence. The question therefore must be asked, what is so different between these plans and what ministers plan to produce in November. If ministers north of the border don’t believe that this already published paper provides the basis upon which to go forward then why did they publish it in the first place?
Scotland finally has its date with destiny. It is now time that the nationalists actually told Scotland what they are thinking. On such an historic decision Alex Salmond’s plans need detailed and lengthy scrutiny leading to the obvious question as to whether he is fearful of having his plans torn apart.
He’s been plotting this moment for his entire political life, surely he must know now what he thinks independence means and looks like. If so, he should tell the people. If not, what has he been doing all this time?
One way or another history will be made on the 18th September 2014. For the SNP however, the risks are huge. All polling suggests a clear majority against their desire for independence raising a simple question – if they can’t persuade the country of its case whilst led by what is universally accepted to be Scotland’s best political communicator, when can they?
It could be that next September proves a pivotal moment in Scottish politics, a moment when the country asks a fundamental question – what’s the point of Alex Salmond and the SNP.
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