Moore and Salmond go head to head

Scottish secretary Michael Moore and first minister Alex Salmond will go head to head today as the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future intensifies.

Scottish secretary Michael Moore and first minister Alex Salmond will go head to head today as the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future intensifies.

In a heavily trailed speech, the Lib Dem Scottish secretary will accuse the SNP of seeking to “de-risk, deflect and distract” from the difficulties that would be faced by an independent Scotland.

Arguing that the nationalists are attempting to “re-cast hard realities in a more forgiving light” in an effort to bolster support for independence, Michael Moore will today use a speech at an event organised by Institute for Public Policy Research at Glasgow University to declare:

“When it comes to their rhetoric about an independent Scotland, the SNP has retreated a long way in a short time.

“They no longer want to talk about how different things would be. They want to us to believe instead that so much could stay the same.

“Having looked at the numbers, the SNP leadership has come to fear that independence is a product that too few Scots are willing to buy. So to sell the goods, they are changing the packaging.

“In the rush to de-risk independence, the nationalists are now stretching words beyond meaning and seeking to recast hard realities in a more forgiving light.

“The team who once argued that we should be ‘Free by 93’ now campaign for ‘an interdependent United Kingdom of five unions’.”

Pointing to a number of u-turns made by the pro-independence camp, Moore will continue:

“Despite the surface rhetoric, the submerged realities of the nationalist position are these: They will not confirm what currency an independent Scotland would ultimately use; they cannot tell us the terms on which EU membership might be achieved; they are unwilling to acknowledge the compromises required to join Nato; and they have no plans for a separate welfare state.

“Of course there are uncertainties – that is the nature of splitting up a country and starting anew. And where these exist, the nationalists should have the courage to say so.

“Instead they are trying to de-risk, deflect and distract from the challenges and realities that would face an independent Scotland. That strategy will not hold.”

Meanwhile, ahead of a speech he is due to give in Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre later today, Alex Salmond has used an  article (£) in the Times to outline his vision for a written constitution for an independent Scotland , describing the lack of one at present as a “democratic deficit”. He elaborates:

“The UK claims itself to be a constitutional monarchy, but it is the only country in the EU that doesn’t have a written constitution. Written constitutions are commonplace across the Commonwealth. The lack of one in Scotland is a democratic deficit that an independent Scotland will rectify. Constitutions in the modern world are more than just a necessary defence of essential liberties but also an expression of citizens rights and responsibilities.

“A Scottish constitution could enshrine the right to higher education, recognising Scotland’s history as a pioneer of free education and acknowledging that our future depends on seeing education as a public good as well as an individual benefit.

“We could impose safeguards on the deployment of our Armed Forces, preventing us from ever again participating in action such as the illegal invasion of Iraq. And a constitution could also include a ban on housing nuclear weapons.”

In declaring in no uncertain terms as only Alex Salmond could, that the people of Scotland “will chose independence”, the first minister concludes:

“Next year’s referendum is a defining choice about what kind of nation and society we want to be. When all the arguments are heard and considered, the people will choose independence.”

With views so polarised in the debate, Scotland’s former top civil servant has warned that the ongoing battle over Scotland’s future risks dividing Scottish society, defining the public by how they intend to vote next year.

Sir John Elvidge, permanent secretary to the Scottish government from 2003 to 2010, has warned:

“This is, at present, a polarised and divisive debate.

“I’m not sure what legacy we should be left with in Scottish society at the end of this process, particularly if it becomes more polarised and aggressive as we move towards the referendum.

“A Scotland in which everyone was defined by which side they were on a particular day … is not, I think, anyone’s definition of a healthy, modern society.”

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