2007 - 2021

The Salmond Problem

Amidst the disputed ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday, Matt Chorley and Brian Brady have produced the best (only?) credible broadsheet analysis of Scottish politics by an English paper (‘Westminster has no answer to the Alex Salmond effect’). See full article here.

“The two parties in coalition in Westminster have differing views on what to do about the “Salmond problem”: the Lib Dems’ blueprint for a federal Britain at the last general election pledged to “increase the powers of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament”, but the Tories baldly pledged to “strengthen the union”. One Lib Dem cabinet minister bridles at the word “unionist” and insists that “you won’t find anyone on our side using that word”.

However, in the absence – thus far – of a coherent political or emotional plan to “sell” the union to the Scottish people, the Westminster government has devised a scheme to lay bare the price of going it alone. The new, aggressive approach to the SNP, detailed in The IoS last month, centres on a campaign to drive home the costs of independence to wavering Scottish voters. Ministers have targeted areas where Mr Salmond is seen to be vulnerable, notably on the economy and welfare, for a more rigorous examination of how an independent Scotland would stay afloat – and bankroll its huge pensions and benefits bill without raising taxes.

Ministers in London have seized the opportunity in recent weeks to warn of a looming economic catastrophe. David Mundell, the Scotland Office minister, claimed Scotland would not have survived the banking collapse had it been independent, while Nick Clegg last week said the uncertainty over the referendum was “very unsettling for the business community and [would not do] the Scottish economy any good”.

But the most drastic intervention came from Danny Alexander, whose calculations led him to warn of a “catastrophic” £122bn cost of independence. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury told business leaders that Scotland’s share of the national debt last year would have been £65bn, while the cost of recapitalising the two major banking groups, RBS and HBOS, would have added a further £57bn to the burden.

That gloomy assessment is inevitably rejected by the SNP, but it has also been questioned by a number of economists. Professor Andrew Hughes-Hallett, of St Andrews University, calculates that, on the basis of income over the last five years, Scotland is a net contributor to the Treasury – and that an independent Scotland would be financially better off.

“If you were to take account of what is spent in Scotland and what is raised in Scotland – and that would include North Sea oil – then in 2008 Scotland was in a mild surplus,” he said. “So you could say the subsidy is the other way around. I think critics in England have only one side of the story.”

In an attempt to force Mr Salmond on to the back foot, David Cameron and Nick Clegg want MPs in Westminster to agree to block Scottish MPs from voting on English issues before the SNP referendum. The coalition agreement pledges to establish a commission to consider whether to bar MPs from devolved nations from all but UK-wide votes, first raised by Tam Dalyell in the 1970s when he was Labour MP for West Lothian.

A senior Lib Dem source said: “The Government is confident we can get the commission out before Salmond has a referendum, but it is hard to say because Salmond has not been brave enough to come forward about when he will hold it or what the question will be, and he continues to avoid telling the Scottish people what he has planned for their future.”

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  1. J. R. Tomlin says:

    Well, keeping SNP MPs from voting on English issues will SURE back foot Alex Salmond.

    Yeah, sure. Well since their one MP does vote on those issues and the SNP doesn’t, I’m really not sure how well that will work. In fact, that has to have Mr. Salmond chuckling into his teacup.

    But that was for the most part an unusually balanced article although it had a few peculiar comments such as that. Are the Tories really so dim, they don’t know the SNP does not vote on English issues?

  2. vera says:

    Go Guernsey, Scotland. Create your own money. If you stop being fleeced by the bankers, you’ll have plenty of resources.

  3. vera says:

    Oh and I want to say, this new policy of not letting comments through is irritating. If you are that scared of what your readers may say, maybe you should not be in the radical politics business.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Vera you don’t know the context of our current pre-mod status.

      1. vera says:

        True. Why don’t you tell us?

  4. Cameron says:

    Do you know what I find most amazing? HBOS was NEVER bailed out, Lloyds took it over and was then bailed out. So why are we being billed for the bailout of the Lloyds banking group? How has everybody forgotten this?

  5. The problem for Westminster is they are opposing the growth of support for independence from what worries them rather than the aspirations of the Scottish electorate for Scotland.

    The worries about finance are Westminster’s worries, the too wee, too stupid, too small narrative of Westminster for Scotland no longer has any real impact. The threat that a vote for the the SNP in May 2011 would be a vote for independence worked well – didn’t it?

    For any of the MSM to begin to deal with the ‘what is’ in Scotland for their mainly London and the SE readership requires the debouching of the subsidy / scrounging Scot lies of the last 3 decades or so. If the MSM does this then the Union is finished because Westminster as currently run becomes untenable in the present atmosphere of distrust in the political machine through out the UK.

    Amongst my own friends the growing reason for support for the SNP has everything to do with their personal aspirations for Scotland and not wealth – oil, pensions are not the major issue: what is best for future generations of Scots is and this is reflected in the social democratic policies being pursued by the SNP Government as opposed to the neo-liberal norm in Westminster.

    The Scots want their NHS to be free at the point of delivery, their education system based on intellectual ability, not deep fiscal pockets and a society where there is real opportunity for all rather than the sink estates with high poverty and low life expectancy which is the Union’s legacy for Scotland.

    Westminster is now a political dinosaur stuck in an evolutionary dead end and will be finished by the fiscal meteor of the Eurozone’s collapse or the break up of the Union – which ever comes first.

    Not so much the Salmond problem as the Westminster problem.

  6. Silver Ghost says:


    Please expand on that… What you find most amazing is, perhaps, what most people have not had spelled out to them, yet strikes you… Act to make your point, don’t merely react.

  7. Silver Ghost says:

    Mr Salmond has a great deal to negotiate with the powers that be and to explain to the people he seeks to take under his wing. There are many deep questions to ask and many, profound issues to ponder in terms of Scottish independence.

  8. Ard Righ says:

    Its when the map becomes yellow all the way to Manchester and Newcastle that I’ll start breaking out the choice whiskys- randomly. Can we smash some Roman monuments while were about it?

    The hill are ours….again.

  9. Ard Righ says:

    Cameron, You could start looking at companies accounts, dates of significant losses, the date of sale and how HBOS was kept as a sub company within Lloyds TSB and the relative percentages of bail out both companies received from the Wastemonster government and the amount this “acquisition” cost Lloyds since purchase. You should also ask your self why 30,000 employees are being sacked from Lloyds in the next year.

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