On the fundamentals Alex Salmond's blueprint for independence resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with holes running through it.
At over 600 pages, the publication today of the Scottish government’s blueprint for independence could prove to be one of the biggest abuses of taxpayer-funded civil servant time ever seen.
What Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon have produced is, as Better Together argued, tantamount to a wish list.
Whilst the document might be promising the earth, the reality is that on the fundamentals it resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with holes running throughout.
Take for example currency union. The document declares in no uncertain terms:
“An independent Scotland will be able to decide our currency and the arrangements for monetary policy.”
It asserts also that “Scotland will continue to use the pound”. The only snag is that it wouldn’t be for an independent Scotland to dictate to the rest of the UK whether it could adopt the pound.
Wales’ first minister Carwyn Jones has already made clear that he is “not convinced” that a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could work.
“I would be uncomfortable being part of a currency union where there are competing governments trying to run it. If there is a disagreement, who has the final say? This is a recipe for instability and these things matter, particularly in times of crisis,” he said.
Likewise both the current UK government and the shadow chancellor Ed Balls have concluded that a currency union would be highly unlikely. The SNP cannot, in all honesty, be certain of anything when it comes to the currency and independent Scotland would use.
On the crucial issue of nuclear weapons, the document again reiterates that an SNP government would, under independence, seek to banish such weapons from Scotland altogether whilst remaining in NATO.
Such a position remains dubious to say the least. Take the former NATO secretary general Lord Robertson, someone with probably more understanding of the subject than Alex Salmond, who earlier this year wrote:
“The Nato Strategic Concept states, ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance’. I have expressed my doubts about whether Scotland could eject nuclear weapons one day and expect to be welcomed into a nuclear alliance the next.”
These might just be two issues from a lengthy document, but they remain two of the most crucial issues of all. The currency a nation uses and defence systems it adopts are the very highest of priorities for sovereign nations, yet today’s paper cannot be certain of anything on these matters.
As the columnist Peter Jones so clearly writes in today’s Scotsman:
“We know broadly what Mr Salmond expects independence will deliver, which will have an impact internationally – Scottish membership of the European Union, non-nuclear independent membership of Nato, and Scottish sharing of the pound inside a UK sterling zone.
“We also know a bit about what the UK government’s attitude to these expectations is. What we don’t know is how other countries, who have levers in this debate, regard it. We might expect that France, for example, which has an equivocal relationship with Britain, or les Anglo-Saxons, might cheerfully help push through Scottish EU membership. But what if it regards the upheaval of having to remove Trident submarines from Scotland as an unacceptable dilution of European, and hence French, security?”
“On the other side of the debate, Germany has an acute interest in European financial stability. What if it decides that a shared sterling zone is the best guarantee of British financial stability and uses its clout in the EU, say by agreeing certain EU powers should be repatriated to assist David Cameron’s EU referendum, to achieve that?”
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“…the point remains – little of what Mr Salmond publishes today can be guaranteed as he might end up, thanks to truculent voters in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, negotiating with an extremely hostile UK government.”