Scottish independence debate heats up

SNP leader Alex Salmond calls for loose cooperation of UK nations
SNP leader Alex Salmond calls for loose cooperation of UK nations

Alex Salmond will tomorrow call for a loose partnership of countries in the United Kingdom as exists in Scandinavia, as the debate over Scottish devolution heats up.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader will highlight the Nordic council, which includes Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, as an example of how Scotland, England and Ireland could cooperate as independent states.

"We will take our own decisions on peace and prosperity. And we will have an effective forum to work together as equal, sovereign states," Mr Salmond will tell the Institute of Internal Auditors in Falkirk.

"Like successful Ireland, it's time we were equal with England in a new partnership, not run by Britain in an outdated union. Like Ireland, this independence is the key to Scottish success."

His comments come amid renewed debate over the future of the UK - this week the architect of Scottish devolution, Kenyon Wright, threw his support behind a separate English parliament, and the Conservatives are considering English votes for English laws.

However, last night Scottish first minister Jack McConnell warned against "inter-ethnic conflict" caused by nationalists around the world, and insisted that the current devolution settlement was a "tried and tested" deal that offered the best of both worlds for Scotland.

"In the Scottish parliament we have a whole welter of powers at our disposal. It can't be other than sensible for us to make the fullest possible use of those powers before demanding lots more," he said.

"For if such demands become a persistent feature of Scottish politics, and there are those who want this to be so, then we'll sink all too quickly into a collective and wholly self-imposed inertia."

He added: "England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have access to the 'union dividend' by virtue of being part of a strong UK."

Mr McConnell argued that the drive for an independent Scotland could take up years in constitutional wrangling, and said it represented a highly destructive force.

"In a world that's globalising economically, a world that's simultaneously racked and torn by inter-ethnic conflict, we should surely be starting to look beyond nationalisms of the stand-alone variety; beyond further territorial division," he said.

However, SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr McConnell of scaremongering, saying: "It's clear that after previously trying to wrap himself in a saltire, he's now changed his tune under orders from his London bosses."

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Annabel Goldie, added that the first minister was "acting like a political ostrich, with his head buried in the sand".


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