Salmond's big gamble: Can his plan for an independent Scotland survive the counter-attack?

Sturgeon and Salmond: fortune in referendum rests on white paper
Sturgeon and Salmond: fortune in referendum rests on white paper
Ian Dunt By

Alex Salmond was braced for a relentless attack on his plans for an independent Scotland today, after he published a massive 670-page document outlining his vision for the future of the country.

The white paper, which is intended to answer people's questions about how Scotland's economy, military and political system would function in the event of independence, will now be pored over by supporters of the union for potential weaknesses.

"If you're in a political argument would you rather be on a positive side of the argument or the negative - in a deadly embrace with Liberal Democrats, Conservative and Labour leadership together, pointing out all dreadful things which will befall Scotland if it becomes an independent country?" Salmond said.

"My view is the positive wins. We're on the positive side of this argument. We will win this election."


The day started problematically after deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a barely-veiled threat that Scotland would default on its debts if Westminster refused to allow it to continue to be part of the currency union.

"The pound is a shared asset. It's as much a Scottish pound as the rest of the UK," she told the Today programme.

"We would take fair share of liabilities but we also need a fair share of assets as well.

"Assets and liabilities are two sides of the same coin."

She added: "If they're saying Scotland can't use the pound then it follows from that that Scotland can't take its fair share of liabilities.

"It's not the scenario I'm arguing for but it's the logical solution."

Sturgeon urged Westminster to hold back on any effort to force Scotland out the currency union so it could preserve trading levels.

"Scotland is the rest of the UK's second biggest export market, after the USA. It would make no sense for the Westminster government to force its own businesses into a separate currency," she said.

"Scottish oil and gas exports make a substantial contribution to the UK's balance of payments."

But the Better Together campaign believes the decision to retain sterling is Salmond's Achilles heel because he cannot guarantee Westminster will allow Scotland to remain in the currency union.

It is also a distant proposal from his vision up until 2011, when he envisaged Scotland moving closer to Europe.

"We have waited months for this and it has failed to give credible answers on fundamentally important questions," Better Together leader Alistair Darling said.

"What currency would we use? Who will set our mortgage rates? How much would taxes have to go up? How will we pay pensions and benefits in future?"

"It  is  a  fantasy  to  say  we  can  leave  the  UK  but  still  keep  all  the  benefits  of  UK  membership.

"The White Paper is a work of fiction.  It is thick with false promises and meaningless assertions.

"Instead of a credible and costed plan, we have a wish-list of political promises without any answers on how Alex Salmond would pay for them."

The success of the white paper is vital for Salmond, whose credibility has been damaged by a series of gaffes which 'no' campaigners say reveal an inability to be straight with the public.

An internal Scottish government document obtained by a freedom of information request revealed that the advice Salmond received on oil revenues was at odds with his public comments.

Sturgeon also had to admit that the Scottish government had failed to secure legal advice on whether it would be forced to join the euro, despite assertions from Salmond that he had been legally briefed.

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