Scottish independence: Salmond’s ‘policy successes’

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon greet supporters at the referendum date announcement. Picture: Reuters
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon greet supporters at the referendum date announcement. Picture: Reuters
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Alex Salmond today sought to capitalise on the popularity of devolution as a launchpad for his all-out campaign for a Yes vote in next year’s independence referendum.

Just 48 hours after announcing the date of the referendum – September 18 next year – the First Minister was due to rally his troops at the SNP’s spring conference in Inverness by setting out the “why of independence”.

He was expected to highlight the “policy successes” of the Scottish Parliament since 1999 – including free personal care, abolition of tuition fees and the maintenance of a “genuine” NHS free from privatisation and fragmentation.

And he was due to quote the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey which showed 71 per cent of people trust Holyrood to act in Scotland’s best interests – four-times more than say the same about Westminster.

Ahead of this afternoon’s speech, he said: “With the partial independence the Scottish Parliament has in health, education, justice, business support and social services, we have achieved much – and with the full measure of independence we get by voting Yes, we will achieve much more for Scotland.”

But as the conference began, the party came under challenge from the anti-independence campaign Better Together, which published the results of a YouGov poll showing a majority of people against the Nationalists’ plan for an independent Scotland keeping sterling.

YouGov asked more than 1000 people what currency they wanted for Scotland, in or out of the UK. The result suggests 56 per cent wanted Scotland to remain in political union and keep the pound, compared with 17 per cent supporting the SNP’s position that Scotland should keep the currency but leave the UK and ten per cent who would prefer a Scottish currency.

Better Together leader Edinburgh South West Labour MP Alistair Darling said the currency was one of the most important details in the referendum debate.

He claimed the situation in 
Cyprus showed how important it was for a country to have control over its own currency and its own central bank. He said: “A currency union means the two countries involved, Scotland and the rest of the UK, would have to agree everything. They would have to agree on their tax, their spending, their borrowing. In other words, Scotland’s budget would have to be agreed by another country – that’s not independence.”

Better Together also launched an opinion poll on independence via a video text message to 300,000 people. Campaign director Blair McDougall said it was the first in a series of “innovations” planned over the next few weeks. He said: “The referendum on Scotland’s future is the biggest decision any of us will ever be asked to make. We have to make sure that we use every opportunity available to us to speak to Scots and to give them the facts that they need to help them make this decision.

“Technology has changed our world. Now we are using it to change political campaigning.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com