Alex Salmond is still a snake oil salesman

While Salmond landed some blows in the debate about Scottish independence last night he was still unable to answer the crucial questions

While Salmond landed some blows in the debate about Scottish independence last night he was still unable to answer the crucial questions

In some ways it is rather heartening that there is an audience left for the utopia Alex Salmond is trying to sell Scotland. One in which the cuts agenda will not give way to the bedroom tax, nor draw money away from the National Health Service. This is the kind of society I want to live in.

And clearly the way Salmond sells it is working. After his lacklustre performance last time round he has, according to a snap poll of 505 voters in Scotland for the Guardian by ICM, the backing of some 71% of viewers compared with 29% who backed Darling.

But as Darling said last night in the debate, a good line is not always the good answer.

Indeed Darling, the more critical and analytical of the two, was correct to pursue answers to questions that had not been previously answered. Is Scotland safe in Salmond’s hands given the estimates of oil barrels in Scotland? Has the currency question been sufficiently settled yet?

Darling was right to say that in the 670 page white paper, Scotland’s Future : Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, there was just one page of numbers for just one year, and as it turns out estimates were lower than originally thought. Without the right data it is fair enough to accuse the Yes campaign of “gambling children’s future.”

This is backed up by a recent interview with Energy Voice, where Sir Ian Wood pointed out that Scotland’s oil reserves had been “massively overestimated” and the prediction that 24 billion barrels remain in the North Sea is “45% to 65% too high”. Rather, Sir Ian estimates there remains between “15 billion and 16.5 billion barrels.” This requires significant alterations to the economics Scotland’s future.

Once again showing that the letters pages in The Scotsman provides better analysis than debates between campaign leaders, Paul Wright of Edinburgh last month said:

When we read the small print of Scotland’s Future we discover that the claims of vast oil wealth are built on a flimsy foundation. They are based on a hypothetical economic model which assumes a geographical distribution of reserves. This in turn relates to a principle (the median line principle) that has been established for purposes of economic analysis and determining zones of civil jurisdiction (but not for distribution of oil and gas reserves).

Salmond fell flat again on currency (three plan-B’s is an idiotic line to deliver, obviously making Plan-A sound impossible) and scare-stories about hospitals in the UK, whereas the blows that landed were on an odd statements about the shared platform of his campaign (though the Yes vote has support from various political parties, including Labour, as well), and a point about the cost of replacing Trident, which while relevant, in context of the evening (Darling was pressing Salmond on his own number crunching at the time, and winning) was classic smoke and mirrors.

The truth is that an independent Scotland would still face the same struggles to deliver quality public services as the rest of the UK does. While of course we must accept the political dimension of this within the cuts agenda, there are other external factors that must be appreciated, for example an ageing population that will require more investment money into a national health service.

And we mustn’t forget that the SNP themselves are given to short-term strategies that are contrary to the social-democratic tradition. We hear less and less of, for example, the party’s desire to lower corporation tax in Scotland.

Salmond is happy to criticise Darling for sharing platforms with the Tories, some fuss had even been made in the past about the Better Together campaign accepting money from a major Conservative Party donor, but the SNP does not exist only from the good willing of normal people off the street of Scotland. It also has multimillionaire backers such as Brian Souter, the owner of Stagecoach.

Working people, who it has to be said have been more pro-independence throughout the campaign, should not have to put up with the grotesque policies of the coalition government, sure. But an independent Scotland will not exist in a utopian vacuum. Even the SNP woo millionaires for funding and doth their caps at rich businessmen by promising to lower corporation tax.

The point is we have to tackle this crisis, perpetrated by establishment politicians of all colours, together. Alex Salmond remains a snake oil salesman.

Carl Packman is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

99 Responses to “Alex Salmond is still a snake oil salesman”

  1. Jimmy Laing


  2. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh right, facts are propaganda now to you. Separatism is separatism is separatism.

  3. Guest

    So calling the British corrupt. Calling British democracy a sham.

    You are part of the anti-British establishment, this is about your hate, clearly. You keep repeating the lies about left of centre, as you work for the Tories, doing their work for them.

  4. Guest

    The SNP are a very broad church with elements from across the political spectrum.

  5. Guest

    Ah right, so replace journalists with those who will spout your propaganda for you.
    Thanks for that totalitarian statement.

  6. Guest

    You don’t want to be a colleague, as you want a barrier to be slammed up. Your entire seperatist viewpoint is the offensive one here.

    And the SNP are a very broad church with some support from a lot of groups, not at all limited to the left. You’re accusing others of your hatred, while standing in a burning building.

    The YES campaign is the SNP’s, don’t pretend otherwise.

  7. Guest

    And the Scottish NHS is separate to the English NHS. Well done!

  8. Guest

    Government ordered forecasts? LMAO.

    Scotland would survive, but wouldn’t have a long future of oil revenue.

  9. Guest

    Great. And why should the UK take back the subs? After all, part of the military would go…you can clean it up.

  10. Sidney Ruff-Diamond

    That’s all well and good, but the Yes team are saying in their own
    documentation they’ll be taking the approach of Denmark and Norway, not
    Spain. That is in their own documentation.

    That is because they recognise that that would be demanded of Scotland
    given its strategically important access to the North Sea / south Arctic
    Ocean compared with Spain.

    Bringing up Spain by comparison is utterly irrelevant when the Nats’ own guidance says their approach will ape Denmark and Norway and doesn’t mention Spain once.

  11. Kryten2k35

    You would have to leave the EU (not be thrown out, grow up) as a new nation. But if you rejoined the EU, you would have to allow English students free University access.

  12. Kryten2k35

    No, those are facts.

  13. Kryten2k35

    And this has something to do with Alistair Darling?

  14. Donald Carthlan


    Norway refuses to have nuclear weapons on its soil, as does Spain, yet both are in NATO. Indeed, the new Director-General of NATO is Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. In March 2013, Norway hosted a conference attended by 130 nations in which it called on the entire world to abandon nuclear weapons. SEE HERE –

    So it seems reasonable to assume that a Norwegian head of NATO wouldn’t block Scotland’s membership on the grounds of it rejecting such weapons.

  15. dougthedug

    Yes it certainly is, but this conversation was about the English NHS.

  16. Donald Carthlan


    Yes considering that he was Chancellor at the time. more to the point can you point me to a speech/statement etc where Darling opposed the privatisation of the NHS?

  17. Donald Carthlan

    That “private equity” firm you refer to is Cinven Limited, the company is a leading buyout firm, who in 2008 bought 25 private hospitals from Bupa for £1.44bn. Other UK investments include Spire Healthcare, who run private healthcare hospitals, and whose clinical director Jean-Jacques de Gorter said the use of private sector would “spiral” as a result of Conservative MP Andrew Lansley’s reform proposals.

    This is important in the context of the NHS because In 2011, Alistair Darling received over £10,000 for addressing a dinner organised by Cinven Limited.

  18. Sidney Ruff-Diamond

    But it isn’t rejecting it. It is operting a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy along with Denmark, if the Nats proposals are accurate. They can say they refuse all they like; their actual policy is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend they aren’t hosting subs carrying nukes.

  19. Donald Carthlan

    “why should the UK take back the subs? ”

    Seeing as its the UK who wants the subs and based them in Scotland in the first place.

    “part of the military would go”

    Only a tiny minuscule part as evidenced by this article here –

    In Trident’s place Scotland would replace the utterly useless Trident with conventional forces that under the UK are non-existent. Within the UK at the present moment Scotland’s coasts and maritime assets are almost totally unprotected. When a Russian warship ventured close to the Moray Firth in December 2013, the Royal Navy had no vessels to intercept it except HMS Defender, which took a full day to sail from the south of England to monitor the intruder. This article here – states:

    “The missile-carrying Russian warship came within 30 miles of the coast before Christmas. Portsmouth- based HMS Defender was the only ship available to respond due to Ministry of Defence cutbacks and had a tense stand-off with the Russian ship. The Type 45 took 24 hours to reach the coast of Scotland.”

    Meanwhile the UK government has also closed RAF Leuchars, leaving only a single air base in the whole of Scotland, and is reducing the size of the British Army by a quarter, cutting 20,000 jobs . All this is being done in order to continue to afford the Trident nuclear weapon system and its replacement, at a projected cost of £100bn see here-

    Yet almost everyone acknowledges that Trident serves no military purpose. Tony Blair said of the system in his 2010 autobiography that:

    “The expense is huge and the utility [is] non-existent in terms of military use.” see here -

    While former Conservative defence secretary Michael Portillo said of Trident in 2013:

    “It’s completely past its sell-by date. It’s neither independent, because we couldn’t possibly use it without the Americans, neither is it any sort of deterrent, because now largely we are facing the sorts of enemies – the Taliban, Al Qaeda – who cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons. It’s a tremendous waste of money, it’s done entirely for reasons of national prestige.”

    And the UK’s major allies also want the system abandoned. The right-wing UK magazine The Spectator reported in 2013 on claims that the US military was urging the UK to scrap it, noting that:

    “From the American perspective Trident serves no useful purpose whatsoever whereas other things upon which Britain could usefully spend the cash presently earmarked for Trident DO matter to the Americans or would, that is to say, be useful to them. And to NATO.” see here –

    Trident didn’t deter Argentina from invading the Falklands. It didn’t prevent the 7/7 terrorist attacks. Indeed, even the vastly larger nuclear arsenal of the USA didn’t stop Iraq invading Kuwait, nor avert the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

  20. Donald Carthlan

    So to summarise Scotland like Spain, Denmark and Norway will be in NATO.

  21. Donald Carthlan

    “wouldn’t have a long future of oil revenue”

    Care to provide any evidence to back this statement up? I disagree I would direct your attention to a recent article by the Investors Chronicle. SEE here – which states:

    “We think that Westminster has been deliberately downplaying the potential of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) ahead of September’s referendum on Scottish independence.

    The Department of Energy has certainly been far more subdued than it was at the time of the February publication of Sir Ian Wood’s preliminary findings on the future of offshore oil & gas in the UK.

    According to the report, the UK economy could generate £200bn over the next 20 years through the recovery of only 3-4bn barrels of North Sea oil and gas.Many analysts believe that the potential is much greater.“

    When highly respected oil-industry figure Professor Sir Donald Mackay – a former economic adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland for over 25 years – told the Sunday Times in July that the UK government’s figures for future oil revenues were wildly understated, not a single other newspaper picked up the story.

    But the recent revelations are simply too big (and too many) to conceal. Oil rig workers have been telling their families of the magnitude of the finds as they get sent home on full pay to await the start of operations. Facilities in Shetland are so overburdened with new workers they’re having to be accommodated in huge floating hotels, SEE HERE - . And even the UK media can’t keep a secret that size.

    “Scotland’s oil and gas revenues could be up to six times higher than those forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), according to an independent report which Alex Salmond, the first minister, said ‘blows another huge hole in the credibility’ of the London-based fiscal watchdog.

    N-56, an apolitical economic think tank, has published an analysis of Scotland’s future oil and gas revenues which suggests they could be worth £365bn by 2040. The OBR has forecast a more conservative figure of £57bn.

    The report, which draws on oil production forecasts and barrel prices by Oil & Gas UK, the industry body, and the findings of a recent review by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood into maximising North Sea oil revenues, states that recoverable oil and gas reserves could range from 15bn to 24bn barrels.

    It claims that Scotland’s public finances could be comfortably in surplus by as much as 7% of GDP by 2020 – more than £12bn per annum – with surpluses of £9bn to £11bn a year in the 2020s and £5bn a year in the 2030s.

    The report calculates that an oil fund, assuming a modest 3.2% real interest rate, could grow to more than £300bn – in today’s prices – by the end of the 2030s.”

  22. Donald Carthlan


    “You would have to leave the EU”

    Completely and utterly false, for a start the UK Government refuses to clarify Scotland’s position in the EU as evidenced by this article SEE HERE – which states:

    “The UK government has said it would not ask the European Commission’s view on whether an independent Scotland would remain a member of the EU. The statement follows confirmation from the commission that it would offer its opinion if asked to by a member state.”

    It’s very difficult to imagine why the UK government would refuse to ask that question if it was confident that its position (namely that Scotland’s membership would be delayed for years) was correct. What is certain is that no serious politician, commentator or EU bureaucrat has ever suggested that the EU – an expansionist organisation – wouldn’t want resource-rich Scotland as a member state. So the only real debate is on how Scotland would go from being part of a member state to being a member state in its own right, and if you accept the premise that the EU wants Scotland in, then it’s clearly in everyone’s interests to sort that out as quickly and smoothly as possible. For that reason, most impartial experts, and even honest Unionists, expect the process to be made very quick and easy – not as a special favour to Scotland but because it’s the common-sense plan, and also because the alternative would be to cast the entire continent into unimaginable, unprecedented and completely needless chaos from which absolutely no-one would benefit.

    Scotland is currently in the EU (as part of the UK), which means that hundreds of thousands of Scots live abroad, and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens live in Scotland. Were Scotland to be ejected even temporarily, millions of people – including Scots living in England and vice versa – could lose their rights of residence overnight and have to be thrown out of their respective countries. No mechanism exists within the EU for ejecting existing citizens against their will. The administrative mayhem would last for decades, which is why the pro-Union MP Eric Joyce dismissed the idea in February this year as:

    “Manifest nonsense. I want Scotland to remain part of the UK, but not on the basis of an argument deploying blatant threats and lies.”

    Graham Avery, the Honorary Director-General of the European Commission and senior policy adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels with four decades of experience in negotiating EU enlargement (including the UK’s own entry), told the UK Parliament SEE HERE - in 2012 that:

    “From the political point of view, Scotland has been in the EU for 40 years; and its people have acquired rights as European citizens. If they wish to remain in the EU, they could hardly be asked to leave and then reapply for membership in the same way as the people of a non-member country such as Turkey. The point can be illustrated by considering another example: if a break-up of Belgium were agreed between Wallonia and Flanders, it is inconceivable that other EU members would require 11 million people to leave the EU and then reapply for membership.”

    In 2014 he also told Holyrood’s European committee: “A situation where Scotland was outside the European Union and not applying European rules would be a legal nightmare for the people in the rest of the United Kingdom and the British Government has to take account of that. I think it would be very, very unfortunate for the rest of the United Kingdom if Scotland was not a member from day one of independence.” SEE HERE –

    In February 2013 Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and a Foreign Office minister in the last UK Labour government, told the BBC that: “Whatever the legal formalities, in terms of the political will if Scotland were to vote for independence, I think Europe would try to smooth its way into taking its place as a European member.” SEE HERE –

    In July 2014, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, professor of European law and human rights at Oxford University and author of a book on EU constitutional law, agreed: “Despite assertions to the contrary from UK lawyers, EU lawyers and EU officials, any future independent Scotland’s EU membership should be assured, and its transition from EU membership as a part of the UK to EU membership as an independent Scotland relatively smooth and straightforward.” SEE HERE –

    And the same month, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was reported as saying Scotland would be treated as a “special and separate case”, rather than a new applicant SEE HERE -.

  23. Donald Carthlan


    Well duh that goes without saying.

  24. Sidney Ruff-Diamond

    Yes. And like Denmark and Norway, Scotland will accept nuclear wepons carrying subs in its ports, despite stating no Trident o9n Scottish soil.

  25. David Stringer

    “Salmond fell flat again on currency (three plan-B’s is an idiotic line to deliver, obviously making Plan-A sound impossible)”

    This isn’t obvious to me at all – it makes it sound like he’s well prepared. I’m no fan of Salmond, but this is an idiotic argument to make.

  26. Guest

    Ah, more revisionism.

    Of course Scotland would be invited to join. But it would not be an existing member. (And Junker has *no* authority to make the statement he did.)

    That’s precisely what Lord Mark Malloch-Brown was saying, for instance.

    It’s perfectly and entirely normal that leaving..leaves.

  27. Guest

    Yes, the projections for north sea oil. All of them. You’re not going to become an OPEC-type nation.

    14-16bn barrels is reasonable, 32 is a pipe dream.

  28. Guest

    Very unlikely the financial services would stay anyway…

  29. Guest

    Wow, not supporting barriers and separatism, fighting for workers against selfish capitalist economic reasons?


  30. Guest

    Which posts have you deleted?

  31. Guest

    And again, this is relevant to Scotland how?

  32. Guest

    So 40% should get their own way?
    And which polls say that the non-Scottish British want to end the Union?

  33. Guest

    The entire military is British, at present. Scotland would get part of it.
    The subs are current in Scotland.

    An independent Scotland should have the subs, easy enough. If you object so much, you clean it up.

  34. Guest

    From the *British*

  35. Leon Wolfeson

    I’d settle for MMPR.

  36. Julia

    Debate protocol was once cherished as giving equal opportunity to your opponent to make their point. I have attempted to post several polite observations regarding the referendum in Scotland. My posts are deleted within minutes.

    Is this the democracy the Labour Party cherishes?

    Control of the media of discussion is not a healthy situation.
    Personal attacks on your political opponents is an American import that should be rejected.

  37. Kryten2k35

    Many, many Scots consider themselves British and Scottish.

  38. Kryten2k35

    That’s not how the burden of proof works. You make the claim, you show the proof.

    He was Chancellor, yes, but he was not health secretary. Show him backing the privatisation of the NHS, otherwise your mentioning him is irrelevant.

  39. Kryten2k35

    Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers?

    I can see how that’d be better.

  40. Donald Carthlan

    If the rest of the UK want the subs, they pay the clean up costs simple.

  41. Donald Carthlan

    “not supporting barriers”

    It’s actually England who support barriers, they want to pull out of the EU while Scotland broadly wants to stay in.

    “fighting for workers against selfish capitalist economic reasons”

    The UK is doing nothing of the sort. We currently have the most ideologically right wing Government in decades, certainly in my lifetime who are busy destroying the hard won rights of workers. Take for example the workfare scheme whichprofits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.

    From 6 April 2012, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal clams was increased from one year to two years. The Government also passed a scheme whereby workers can waive their rights for shares.

    Scotland has the ability to escape this right wing hell and chart a new course, one where workers will be valued and not penalised. For example the Scottish Government’s White Paper states:

    Our priorities include:

    introducing a package of employment measures designed
    to improve company performance and develop a greater sense of cohesion and opportunity in the workplace, including employee representation and greater female participation on company boards

    “We plan to establish a Fair Work Commission which will guarantee that the minimum wage will rise at the very least in line with inflation and provide advice on fairness at work and business competitiveness. The Commission will work with a Convention on Employment and Labour Relations to transform the relationship between government, employers and employees.”

  42. Donald Carthlan

    “Junker has *no* authority to make the statement he did.”

    Your evidence for that is? The NO campaign have spent the last two years telling Scots that we would be thrown out of the EU and would take decades to rejoin. This has been proven to be an outright lie.

  43. Peem Birrell

    >> they can’t have a successful left of centre country with aspirations of social justice and fairness on their agenda next door

    No need to worry about that whichever way it goes…

  44. Baxter Parp

    Your faith in Tory politicians statements is touching but misplaced.

  45. uglyfatbloke

    There is a fair point about British democracy being a sham though; First Past the Post in an outrageous fiddle…so much so that the UK had to get a special ‘opt-out’ (subsidiarity) from the normal conditions of EU membership.

  46. Kryten2k35

    Want to point me to the relevant part?

  47. John Smith

    You should take your own advice and read up on how the Scottish government is financed. Then you will be able to answer your own comment.

Leave a Reply