For months, years, even, whenever we’ve asked questions about independence, after we’ve been accused of scaremongering, we’ve been told to wait for the White Paper.
Well, that wait is over as the White Paper has now been published
– or is it? Scotland’s Future, it’s called. That’s profound. We have a future? That’s kind of inevitable. It doesn’t promise a bright future, or a happy one.
On the big questions of the day, such as the three on pensions, currency and cost
posed by Alistair Carmichael two weeks ago, we are really none the wiser. We know what the SNP wants to happen in a perfect world, but everyone who has ever done anything in life knows that you can’t, in fact, shouldn’t get everything you want.
Obviously I haven’t read all 670 pages, but I’ve had a good scan through and, frankly, I’m not hearing much I hadn’t heard before. I’m variously annoyed, frustrated and uninspired. The idea that we have to wait until independence to get decent childcare in place is a cynical ploy to attract women’s votes. Why cynical? The SNP Government has all the powers it needs to put that in place now. And why doesn’t it?
Because, as Nicola Sturgeon said this morning, they want women back at work to pay taxes to an independent Scotland and not to the UK Treasury. Ah, so it’s not about the kids and what’s good for them, then. They are letting down every child who’s two now or will become two before 2016.
Willie Rennie, who’s been at them for a long time to deliver similar childcare to that which Nick Clegg has introduced in England had this to say:
It’s difficult to believe the SNP wish list on childcare as the Scottish Government has the worst arrangements on the British Isles. In England thousands of two year olds have a nursery place today but the Scottish Government say children here will have to wait three more years.
Delaying better childcare until after the referendum won’t convince families that the Scottish Government fully understands the urgent need for early education.
The SNP have the power to deliver better childcare now but their message to our children is: you will not get what you need until we get what we want.
In any event, that sort of policy can’t be guaranteed as it will only stand a chance if the SNP are elected the government of an independent Scotland.
Alistair Carmichael was unimpressed, too:
This was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people will judge them on that.
For years we have been promised that all the answers on independence would be in the white paper. The big day has finally arrived and we have 670 pages that leaves us none the wiser on crucial questions such as currency, pensions and the cost of independence.
Rarely have so many words been used to answer so little.
People will draw their own conclusions that the Scottish Government have deliberately sought to ignore the uncertainties and difficulties of independence. We are simply expected to believe that everything will be perfect after we leave the UK. We are asked to accept that ending a 300 year United Kingdom will be straightforward. We are told it will all be alright on the night.
We know that the terms of independence would need to be negotiated with many countries including the rest of the UK and the EU. An honest assessment of the challenges and uncertainties of leaving the UK would have seriously helped the debate between now and September. Instead we have been given a wish with no price list. Today was their chance to level with people. They have chosen a different path and people in Scotland will judge them on that.
It is astonishing that the Scottish Government can sit in private discussing the costs of independence and then refuse to share those figure with the Scottish people. John Swinney’s leaked paper said it would cost £600m every year to run an independent tax system but today we saw nothing about that.
It looks more and more like the Scottish Government will continue to keep these things private. If they had convincing answers then today really would have been the day to share them with everyone.
From now until September 18 we will keep making the positive case for the UK. It works well for Scotland. It gives us the best of both worlds. It offers us a better future. We will fight hard to preserve it against those who have been obsessed with independence for their entire political lives but now seek to disguise it.
My (first) three questions:
The White Paper mentions that “many” of the 30,000 UK Government civil servants will get jobs in Scotland’s civil servants. What exactly does that mean? Who will lose their jobs and in what departments?
My passport’s up for renewal. If I buy a new one from the UK Government for no small amount now, will I have to do the same for a new Scottish one in two years’ time. Similarly, what about my driver’s licence?
Apparently, an independent Scotland will share in
the UK’s Green Investment Bank (delivered by Liberal Democrats), the Royal Mint, the Monarchy, NHS Blood and Transplant, and Research Councils among other things. How so? Have they asked?
A risky strategy
The White Paper talks about a new constitution for Scotland binding the powers of the state. This is very strange coming from a government which treats the Freedom of Information Act like it is an optional extra
and whose reaction to being found wanting on the European Convention on Human Rights was to insult the people making that decision.
Alex Salmond knows that every economic and practical argument points to it being best for Scotland to stay in the UK. What he hopes to do is to make it a fight between his Governnent, which he’ll portray as fighting for Scotland against a nasty, unreasonable Westminster Government. It’s desperate and divisive. You can see that from one revealing comment he made when asked about the division of assets between Scotland and the UK. He made it sound like he’d pick and choose which assets of the UK he kept and which liabilities he’d ditch, as if the rest of the UK would have no say in the matter. And he expects to conclude negotiations in 18 months? Will Scots really want that sort of confrontational, uncertain post yes vote strategy?