The sceptics circle the SNP

New polling shows a majority of opinion against Scotland going it alone.

As MSPs at Holyrood prepare to debate the Scottish government’s blue print for independence today, they will do so with new polling indicating the strength of opinion against the prospects of Scotland going it alone on both sides of the border.

The data, produced by YouGov for today’s Sun but conducted just before the publication of the White Paper was published yesterday, indicates that 61 per cent of Scots reject the principle of independence, compared to 27 per cent who support it.

Across England and Wales, 55 per cent reject the idea of Scotland becoming country in its own right, compared to 21 per cent who support the idea.

Ministers at Holyrood would no doubt argue that as it was taken before their details plans were published it cannot possibly give an accurate reflection of people’s views. That might be so, but the polling, together with this morning’s editorials provides much food for thought for the Yes Scotland campaign.

At the Scotsman, its editorial starts with some praise for the SNP, commending the paper’s author’s for their “diligence” as well as providing “answers aplenty” for a nation that has been calling for more, detailed information.

Yet for all the praise, the paper nevertheless echoes concerns raised by others that the plans fall short on the fundamentals of independence, including EU membership and the all-important matter of the currency.

“In some areas the answers provided in Scotland’s Future fall some way short of being definitive. Unfortunately for the SNP, these areas include some of the most fundamental aspects of statehood. For the most part, the white paper openly acknowledges when a particular outcome is simply an ‘aim’. It makes clear it is an advocacy document. But in other areas it is guilty of trying to give the impression that a favoured outcome is a foregone conclusion, when even the slightest degree of scepticism would reveal that it is, at most, a best guess or a high hope.

“There are too many unsupported assertions in this document, and they let it down.”

This concern is picked up also by the Guardian, which warns:

“The white paper, although fascinating and very detailed in some respects, in fact poses at least as many questions as it supplies answers. In places, it reads like a negotiating position rather than the blueprint which Mr Salmond claims. The reason for this is that many of the largest questions about independence cannot be couched at this stage as clearly defined black and white alternatives.”

It does however continue:

“That language about fairness attracts many voters in Scotland – which is of course why Mr Salmond uses it – as well as voters elsewhere in the UK too. The coming months will test whether Scottish voters have enough confidence that Mr Salmond can deliver on that claim. At this stage the independence case, especially in the light of the IFS’s warnings, is unproven. But the issues are momentous for all of us. Let the debate commence.”

In light of the doubts raised about the chances of Salmond et al actually being able to deliver on everything promised in the paper, Robert Hazell, director of UCL’s Constitution Unit, has raised the prospect of two votes being needed. Speaking yesterday he explained:

“This is an aspirational White Paper. Some of the most important questions – membership of the EU, of NATO, keeping the pound, sharing other services with the UK – are not within the gift of the Scottish government, but depend on others.  We will not know until the negotiations are concluded whether the Scottish government can deliver all it hopes.

“If the White Paper turns out to have been a false prospectus, there is a strong case for offering a second referendum in March 2016. The terms of independence will then be known.  They may be very different from the aspirations of 2014. In the second referendum the people of Scotland could then be asked, Do you still want independence on these terms?”

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