Cartoonists like to portray Alex Salmond as a modern-day Braveheart preparing to charge the English enemy. But, in truth, Salmond’s strategy is far more subtle — and dangerous — than that.
The SNP leader’s piece in The Guardian today — a preview of the Hugo Young lecture he’s delivering tonight — downplays what a dramatic step independence would be. At times the article reads like an argument for ‘devo max’, not independence. He bemoans that devolution ‘left Scotland with fewer powers than the German Länder, most American states, parts of Spain or, within these islands, the Isle of Man’.
Salmond also wants to suggest that not that much would change after independence. He concludes by saying, ‘After Scotland becomes independent we will share more than a monarchy and a currency. We will share a social union.’ This talk of a ‘social union’ is designed to disguise the fact that, if he has his way, when a Scotsman comes to London he’ll do so as a foreigner. Do we really want to get into a situation where we become foreigners when we cross the Tweed?
Independence can probably be defeated on economic grounds alone. But if the Union is to be strengthened, then an emotional case for it will have to be made as well.