Alex Salmond needs to woo, not bully, the rest of the UK

When voters go to the poll in September’s referendum they deserve to know how Scotland’s ministers will respond if they can’t get their way.

For years, if not decades, Alex Salmond has based his campaign for Scottish independence on building his stature within the minds of Scottish voters, and appealing directly to nationalistic tendencies.

As he prepares to deliver a major speech today on independence, the SNP should, if it is not already aware of it, accept that its audience is now bigger than the people of Scotland alone.

For Scotland’s voters to have any confidence in Salmond plans for independence, the Scottish government must persuade the whole of the European Union that it should be accepted as a member state whilst appealing to the rest of the UK that Scotland should be able to retain the pound.

On both points the omens aren’t good for Scotland’s first minister.

When voters go to the poll in September’s referendum they deserve to know how Scotland’s ministers will respond if they can’t get their way. Any failure to provide an alternative will lead Scotland into pursuing a radically different path to the fantasy dreams of the SNP without any democratic legitimacy whatsoever.

In his speech last week on currency union, George Osborne, followed shortly after by Ed Balls and Danny Alexander, made crystal clear that based on the advice received by permanent secretary to the treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the remainder of the UK would not accept Scotland staying within the same currency.

Whilst in his response today Alex Salmond will launch a stinging attack on the chancellor’s position, it would behold him to accept some humble pie, and realise that all three of the UK’s main political parties are only giving voice to the views of the people they are there to serve.

A YouGov poll published over the weekend shows that 58 per cent of voters in England and Wales would oppose an independent Scotland using the pound. This is an increase of 15 per cent since the question was last asked in November. Salmond needs to woo, not bully the rest of the UK.

But there is something else far more curious that has emerged over the weekend.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr programme yesterday, the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso declared in no uncertain terms that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the European Union.

Accepting the fact that the SNP disagree with this view, it nevertheless raises the question as to why its White Paper on independence failed to outline the scepticism within the Commission about the prospects for Scotland joining the EU on its own. What else did ministers in Scotland omit to mention when they published their prospectus for independence?

Outlining the challenge faced by the Yes campaign on the European Union, the Scotsman’s leader column this morning notes:

“The Yes campaign now has to find a credible pathway through the deep uncertainties surrounding the status of an independent Scotland, and in particular to assure Scottish exporters that their interests will not be prejudiced. While there may be room to establish a status of Scottish exceptionalism to ease the evident concerns of Spain, that, as matters stand and with seven months to go, is starting to look a very tall order.”

Scotland needs a credible plan McB from Alex Salmond today. It’s doubtful that he’ll deliver though.

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