First crack in SNP’s facade

Belfast Telegraph columnist Lawrence White has provided inspiration for the first half-convincing counter attack against the SNP since it gained office in Holyrood last year. The ammunition comes from an innocent enough Scottish Policy forum analysis by Prof White of the importance of Scotland’s links with sterling, and the perceived irrelevance of Alex Salmond in spite of much screaming and shouting, to the consequences of the Lloyds-TSB takeover of Halifax-Bank of Scotland last week. Jim Wallace, erstwhile Lib Dem leader in Holyrood invokes the analysis to ask: “ In the circumstances, how viable is Scottish independence?”

From the SNP’s candid friend Iain McWhirter comes a rejoinder:

“A lot of small countries have had very successful banking systems, including Ireland, Iceland and Sweden. Yes, Ireland is in trouble with its housing crash and Iceland recently increased interest rates to 15%. But that doesn’t mean they are eager to become a part of the UK and Denmark again.”

McWhirter mounts a kind of Occam’s razor attack on Gordon Brown, arguing that talks between HBos and Lloyds TSB began two years ago and had nothing to do with Brown…and anyway it’s not a done deal yet… and anyway the merger may be too big.

A dialogue of the deaf on replacing council tax with a local income tax rages in the Sunday Times between Andy Kerr Labour’s finance spokesman and the SNP government’s financial secretary John Swinney.

When the going gets tough the tough get going to the Middle East. First Minister Alex Salmond with unabashed ingenuity says he’s off to Qatar “next year” (why wait so long?), to negotiate PFI funding for Scotland’s crumbling roads. These will be different PFIs of course from the ones he denounced to build Scottish hospitals.

  • The future of Scotland is matter for the Scottish people Brian.

  • Dewi

    Don’t see how Mr White’s paper is anything other than giving options. The other debates are just that – debates. In the current situation it is Salmons’s duty to speak to Qatar and others.

    Brian – you always start from the position that Scottish independence is a bad thing. Why is that?

  • percy

    Scotland for the Scottish, Ireland for the Irish , Wales for the Welsh etc etc
    Its not rocket science!

  • Rocket Scientist

    He’s right.

  • percy


  • George

    In the circumstances, how viable is Scottish independence?”

    There was many a time when things looked grim for the Irish State and things aren’t looking too rosy right now but I for one wouldn’t swap Irish independence for the world.

  • I thought Salmond along with others was trying to re-establish the Bank of Scotland as an independent entity.
    Anyway the financial crisis requires an international solution.No single country can isolate itself from its effects.Nationalism is largely useless.

  • abucs

    If you’re going to do it, do it before the oil runs out !

  • Jer

    That people must rely on inspiration for a half-convincing attack on the SNP Scottish Government a year into their term only points up the success of that Govt, and the paucity of the opposition.

  • Brian Walker

    “Brian – you always start from the position that Scottish independence is a bad thing. Why is that?”

    Dewi, You alway start from the minority position that separatism is a good thing after 300 years of successful union. why is that? The case is yours to make. The majority of Slugger contributors are untypical, and why not? Separatism is about conviction politics. There are many obstacles to ending the Union which haven’t been widely debated. In the end I think separatism is reductionist. A strong and broad-based Scottish identity is better employed tackling common problems and seizing common opportunities, although I accept it now requires the space of wider devolution to do so. The English centre has yet to wake up to all the implications. In the end I believe UK politics will settle down in a moderately changed framework, although I could be wrong. It’s worth following Salmond’s minimalist strategy closely. The end game of old-fashioned sovereign independence is not necessarily his end game. While the SNP still retains the advantage I think the financial crisis has created an opening for the unionist parties. Jim Wallace whom I label as a unionist politician makes his case well I think. But it’s only the latest episode in a long and complex story.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Percy,

    “Scotland for the Scottish, Ireland for the Irish , Wales for the Welsh etc etc
    Its not rocket science!”

    British Isles for the British. Yer right. It’s not rocket science ;0)

  • Brian:
    300 years of successful union.

    Lemme guess-you’re not from Scotland.

    Ok just a guess……..

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Phil,

    Scotland came bankrupt to the union. Bailed out again by the English over the HBOS fiasco. I’m sure they appreciate your gratitude…

  • Brian Walker

    Phil Mac.. Always good to hear from a member of a Scottish minority.. Does a great grandfather from Ayr count? Do you have to lay an egg to eat an omelette? You’re welcome to comment on all sorts of matters beyond your immediate background Phil and you frequently do! (etc.etc..)

  • No Brian you dont have a vote on this.
    As good friends of mine in the SNP would probably say same to you quite trenchantly.
    Neither does Middle England have a vote on this.
    Separatist movements tend to be like that.
    My mum’s new MP John Mason,on election, was quite clear that he came into politics to take scotland out of Britain.
    Things have moved on this the day of your greart grandfather.
    as the electionposter in Glasgow east said
    “Scottish not british!” (except at Ibrox of course)

  • Dewi

    “although I accept it now requires the space of wider devolution to do so”

    So your opposition to independence is one of degree. Scots are better at running somethings themselves but not all things. It’s a point of view, but one that in the old days we would say is marred and doomed to failure because of it’s internal contradiction.

    Ian Dale – Conference Diary Monday 2 – interesting calls by some Tories for the repeal of the Scotland Act..consistent I suppose…

  • “No Brian you dont have a vote on this.”

    And neither do you unless Westminster grants you one. 🙂

  • Chekov
    The Scottish people-as Salmond said when he took the oath of office-are sovereign.
    It is that belief that will increasingly de-stabilise “Ukania” (Tom Nairn).

    The growth of Jeremy Clarksonesque English separatism is also very welcome.

  • Brian Walker

    Phil, ” I don’t have a vote on this” But Westminster has to enact the legislation for a referendum and therefore might offer terms the Scots electorate may not like i.e. the end of subvention. A divorce would not come cheap to Scots and it would not be one-sided.

  • Jocky

    Congal, So press-ganged into end and scotland should be press-ganged to remain.

    Remind me what propped up the Tories failed economic policy throughout the 80’s?

    Using the economic arguement on it’s own against independence is as week as uding it for it. Think it’s got something to do with self determination. Stand or fall on the merits of your own actions. not as a by product of others

  • Dewi

    “But Westminster has to enact the legislation for a referendum”

    Don’t think that’s true Brian – the devolved Parliament can surely call a referendum.

  • Brian Walker

    Dewi, It’s misleading to think of independence as the only democratic fulfillment. The SNP are indeed at the other pole from Labour but there are many hurdles to jump before independence can become a reality.

    A Referendum Bill for 2010 in the Scottish Parliament could only empower the SNP to negotiate independence. Independence itself can only be legislated for by Westminster. The SNP may well emerge as the largest party in the next election but pro-union parties are likely to remain the majority, given the electoral system. That being the case, the SNP will not be able to pass legislation for a referendum anyway so independence falls at the first hurdle. But if that were different, if the Scots really wanted independence, I’m sure they’d get it. Westminster would be smaller hurdle in the end, the Scottish people are the biggest. In order to make an informed decision, they should know the terms for an independence settlement. The terms of that negotiation arguably should be voted on again by the Scottish people. However the SNP are jibbing at the idea of a second referendum. The danger is that Salmond might go to the people first with a very “soft landing” independence proposal, including “Scotland’s oil”, a hope to stay with sterling, joint citizenship, the maintenance of the “social union” and continuing EU membership without the need for re-negotiation, even a golden goodbye from England, – none of which is in his gift. He might then accept harsher terms for independence the Scottish people would want. It may be that he wouldn’t but the outcome should not be left to him and the SNP only. The jury is out on whether he’s in it for real but wants to take lots of tricks from a hapless Labour party and make the SNP the permanent party of Scotland with independence – tomorrow?? Salmond is great at the atmospherics, but there’s a very long way to go before independence is established as the settled will of the Scottish people, if ever.

  • So Brian you know Salmond well do you?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Jocky,

    “Using the economic argument on it’s own against independence is as week as using it for it.”

    Agree totally. Can’t remember who said it, and I paraphrase, “anyone who would sacrifice sovereignty for economic gain deserves to have neither”. The oil wouldn’t even come in to then?

  • Brian Walker

    Jocky, Congall, The Patrick Pearse type of visionary nationalism is all very well, but these days it’s often combined with a more realistic sense of national self-interest. Economics usually comes into it somewhere for the vast number so of people who aren’t visionary romantics.