Case for independence ‘dead’ - former SNP policy chief

Alex Bell says the current independence model is broken beyond repair. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Share this article

ALEX Salmond’s former head of policy has said the SNP case for independence is dead.

Alex Bell, who was tasked with creating a new social model for an independent Scotland between 2010 and 2013, said the economic case presented during the referendum was based on wishful thinking and it is deluded to continue to promote it.

The campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death

Alex Bell, former head of policy

He suggests the current SNP leadership know this is the case but continue to lead a “morally dubious” government which opposed Tory cuts without any credible alternative.

In response, the SNP said its continuing case for “self-government for Scotland” is being backed by a growing number of Scots who are angry that the UK Government “has not delivered on their vow of more powers”.

Writing on current affairs blog Rattle.Scot, Mr Bell said: “The SNP’s model of independence is broken beyond repair. The party should either build a new one or stop offering it as an alternative to Tory cuts.

“The campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death.

“The idea that you could have a Scotland with high public spending, low taxes, a stable economy and reasonable government debt was wishful a year ago - now it is deluded.”

It is “debatable” whether a separate Scotland could maintain British levels of spending, he said.

“The fact is a gap exists - Scotland does not earn enough to pay for its current level of spending. Once you accept that, you acknowledge that the SNP’s model is broken.”

Scotland would have to tax or cut to bridge the gap, pay the substantial independence transition costs and meet its additional anti-austerity spending pledges, he said.

Borrowing would be complicated by the higher interest rates and low market confidence afforded to new states, he added.

Mr Bell said the bumpy transition to independence would be like the over-stretched and over-budget Police Scotland merger “multiplied by a hundred”.

“It is reasonable to assume that all these obstacles can be overcome, but it is stupid to deny they exist,” he said.

He suggested Scotland’s long-serving Finance Secretary John Swinney would be “unfit for the job” if he does not understand these obstacles “so we must assume these bright people know that the old model, once optimistic, is now dead”.

He described the Scottish Government’s current stance of telling people it backs independence without publishing any work to justify or prepare for it as “a morally dubious form of government”.

“Posing as the defender of the poor against Tories when you have no credible alternative and don’t bother to research one is arguably immoral,” he said.

“More so when there is an explicit party policy not to reverse all cuts upon independence. The SNP’s ill-prepared version of independence does not plausibly offer any real alternative.”

An SNP spokesman said: “In the year since the referendum, every opinion poll conducted on the matter has shown an increase in support for independence, with some putting Yes ahead.

“This is due to the widespread anger that the UK Government has not delivered on their vow of more powers for Scotland - but also because the SNP continues to make the case for self-government for Scotland, and demonstrate a strong track record in office.”

Scottish Labour’s public services spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “This is an extraordinary intervention from the man who was at the heart of the SNP’s campaign for separation.

“Alex Bell is absolutely right to say that it is wrong for the SNP to claim they oppose Tory cuts but offer no alternative.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “This is more confirmation that the SNP is merely a propaganda machine which hopes it can trick people into thinking it is a competent government.

“But looking at the failures in all the main devolved areas such as health, education and justice - it’s clear it is anything but that.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Immoral fools with no credible alternative is a powerful condemnation from someone who knows the SNP leadership well.”

More from News