Scotland cannot have it both ways

Independence involves harder choices than the SNP admits, writes an FT editorial.

Published on 29 November 2013 at 12:50

With the publication of its massive white paper on the case for independence, the Scottish government has sought to silence critics who claim it has not thought through the implications of separation.

The 670-page document may be short of Braveheart-like passages designed to tug at the heart strings. But its purpose is not to fire up the committed. Instead Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National party, has crafted a highly detailed technocratic treatise designed to reassure the fearful. He is after converts, not the allegiance of those who have already made up their minds.

Whatever the result of next September’s referendum, much will remain the same north of the border. In the nationalist vision, Scotland would keep the monarch and the pound. The country’s frail fiscal condition would inevitably constrain the use of its new economic freedoms. But this has not stopped Mr Salmond from scattering a few fiscal goodies over the post-independence gruel. Business taxes would be cut and promises made to fund free childcare for two-year-olds. Unpopular measures, such as the “bedroom tax” and the Tory-backed married couples tax allowance, would be scrapped.

While the Financial Times strongly favours the continuation of the union, we accept that there is an arguable – if flawed – case for independence. Scottish voters must ultimately decide whether Scotland would prosper more under Holyrood than it does as part of the UK.

View from Scotland

Westminsters’ lack of vision

The chief executive of Edinburgh Financial General Holdings Peter de Vink, writing in The Scotsman, believes the publication of the White Paper marked “a turning point” in the debate, adding: “We now have an in-depth, evidence-based positive case for independence.” He continues –

That prospectus presents a serious challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron and the No [to Scotland’s independence] campaign. It highlights the absence of any positive vision on Scotland’s future should there be a No vote in September. That should bring to an end the nation’s tolerance of the fears and smears from Westminster. The No campaign has no plan for realising Scotland’s economic potential. It has no manifesto commitments on the likes of taxation, investment, jobs, childcare, schools, hospitals, justice, business regulation or even Scotland’s future in the European Union.

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