I love it when Alex Salmond sets a deadline for Scottish independence. First was his “free by ’93” slogan, followed by a lame joke about “nationalist heaven in 97”. Then came his prediction that the “union will not live to see its 300th birthday” (ie 2007 – a deadline shared by Sean Connery). Now he’s talking about 2017 – but I’m less confident about dismissing this one. His policy of rubbing Scotland’s spending advantage in England’s face, with free university fees—but not for English students—and an end to prescription charges, he’s doing a brilliant job at whipping up English support for Scotland’s independence (or, as one Tory recently suggested to me Scotland being blown off at the border and floated somewhere towards Iceland). So Salmond may get his wish not from Scottish demand, but English exasperation.