‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another’, the best way of going about it probably isn’t to write a 670-page document and then snarkily deride journalists who point out the obvious holes in it. As an old romantic, vaguely sympathetic to the dream of Scottish independence, I have long suspected that the SNP leadership are the greatest hindrance to the separatist cause. Alex Salmond’s off-form, dull, dreary performance this morning only served to reconfirm that feeling.
While separation is unlikely and potentially dangerous, increased devolution shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The ‘devo-max’ option would essentially give Scotland tax and spending powers and thus turning England and her neighbour into two competing financial players within the same currency zone. If lost, the referendum will be a stepping stone to this position of healthy rivalry and competition.
But today even that goal looks unlikely as Salmond consistently fails to deliver. For a long time, the SNP was Alex Salmond. Like McFarage, he was the face of the movement and kept it alive in its darkest days. It was thanks to him that the SNP went from being just a shouty pressure group to forming Scotland’s executive. But that sparkle has now gone.
The SNP could have written the greatest declaration of independence accompanied by a fully caveated and costed roadmap. Obviously they did not, yet even if they had, it would still have been undermined by the seemingly amateur operation the First Minister has surrounded himself with. At the same time as declaring that Scotland would be a grown-up, sensible country, free from the constraints of London rule, his deputy briefed out that if Westminster will not let Scotland keep the pound then they would default on their debts.