I find Alex Salmond’s latest comments on Scottish independence confusing:
Whilst I am ardently in favour of it, I would hesitate to vote for independence if I believed that the only party promising to deliver it were in danger of delivering a form of independence that I didn’t think was right for the country.
By this I mean I would hesitate to sign up to an independent Scotland if what we were about to receive would be an ‘independent Scotland within the United Kingdom’.
To me this idea seems very unclear. I wouldn’t really understand what I would be voting for. To bring about significant change, you need to have a clear and consistent vision that everyone understands and is ready to support, but I don’t think I understand this.
Perhaps I am politically naïve, or perhaps I have fallen for the Unionists rhetoric, but in my view the situation is clear cut: either you want Scotland to be an independent country or you don’t. There should be no middle ground. The middle ground is near enough what we have at the moment.
Alex Salmond believes that an independent Scotland would retain the Queen as Head of State, just like Canada and Australia; would continue to use the pound as its currency; and in short, would remain within the United Kingdom.
I am not entirely sure what his agenda is. On the one hand, he is adamant that his aim is to secure an independent Scotland. So far, so good. But on the other hand, he appears to want to drip-feed his ideas about what an independent Scotland would look like and perhaps also drip-feed the process over a longer period of time than he would have us believe.
Perhaps he believes that it would be too much for us to grasp if he were to give us the full story up front. Perhaps he fears that the reality of independence would cause too much concern among those not yet in favour of it, and whom he must convince if he is to secure his ambitions for the country.
At times, it almost looks as if he is hedging his bets and privately hoping to secure full fiscal autonomy in the first instance, with complete independence to follow at a much later stage, but only once he has demonstrated that it would be a sustainable proposition.
Perhaps he is playing a clever game of poker with the United Kingdom government. Perhaps he is privately concerned that he would need to concede too much in a separation agreement and lose full rights to the country’s oil reserves, particularly when the oil reserves appear to be one of the aces in his pack.
Full fiscal autonomy may help to get around this in the short term, depending on what he believes he could secure as part of that agreement, which could then be used to set a precedent that would enable the Scottish government to push for full independence further down the road.
The concern I would have with pursuing this strategy is that the people of Scotland may lose their appetite for full independence, and no longer see it as important once it had full control over its own reserves, and revenue raising powers, in what would be a stronger devolution agreement.
The problem facing Alex Salmond is that he knows he needs to convince the majority of people in Scotland to vote for independence, when there are many who are still psychologically and culturally committed to the United Kingdom.
As a result, he appears to be identifying reasons why many people in Scotland are committed to the United Kingdom, and suggesting that we can still retain all of this, whilst being an independent country.
To me that doesn’t sound quite right. I need to be convinced that Alex Salmond will create the right future for Scotland, but I suspect that he is not one hundred per cent sure himself what this would look like.
In the meantime, in trying to please the majority of voters, he may ultimately run the risk of creating a patchwork vision that few people really believe in, and few people would really want.