In the SNP’s 75-year history, we have never been closer to our objective of independence for our nation.”
So boasts Scotlands First Minister Alex Salmond at the SNP party conference. But what kind of independence has this become? One which remains a social union with the rest of the UK, sharing embassies abroad, even currency, and even armed forces, minus nuclear bases on the Clyde. Magnus Linklater, doyen Scots columnist, rates this as a sign of growing maturity with a Scots electorate that stubbornly refuses to support Braveheart-style independence above the mid thirties level. Independence-lite just might seduce more of them. Or else the new lite version might just slide back into devolution or quasi-federalism without anybody noticing too much and allow the SNP to climb more or less gracefully off the independence hook altogether. At the same time, Salmond is whipping up hopes of the next Parliament at Westminster hanging by a Scottish rope. But as Brian Taylor points out, thats more aspiration than strategy. A Bel Tel piece, inspired perhaps by its former Scotsman editor, suggests that independence-lite might have ripple effects for Stormont. But Old Bel Tel contributors and others remember that even though its possible for a minority parties to have a major share in the balance of power in a hung parliament as unionists did in 1974 and after 1995, it may not get them very far if the two main parties are determined to deny them what they want.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London