THE Scottish Government should be “honest about the uncertainties” in its forthcoming White Paper on independence, the Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace has said.
Lord Wallace, a former Lib Dem deputy First Minister, said the document would contain measures which are “speculative” and which are “not in the capacity” of Scottish Government ministers to deliver.
The White Paper, to be launched by the First Minister on Tuesday, is being “published by a government which can’t promise or guarantee delivery”, Lord Wallace said in a speech in Aberdeen.
A Scottish Government spokesman said the document will be a “landmark publication on our country’s future”.
Lord Wallace said it is uncertain if an independent Scotland would enjoy the same terms of membership of the European Union as the UK, if it would remain part of Nato and if it would be able to agree a deal with the rest of the UK to use the pound in a currency union.
When a country gains independence it “does not automatically inherit the rights, obligations and powers of the predecessor”, he said.
Lord Wallace claimed that the Scottish Government “doesn’t always appear to acknowledge” this.
Instead the SNP believes “somehow, after independence, Scotland would get to keep what we have now because the Government of the remainder of the UK, other nations and international organisations would agree to it”.
He compared the White Paper with the 1997 blueprint that led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament which was proposed by a new government “with a large majority in the House of Commons which could be confident of delivering the content of its White Paper”, meaning voters in the referendum then “could be confident that the Scottish Parliament which emerged from the subsequent legislation would bear a strong resemblance to the Parliament proposed”.
The “crucial difference” with the forthcoming White Paper is that it is “being published by a government which can’t promise or guarantee delivery”.
Lord Wallace said: “Leaving a 300-year-old Union is always going to involve something of a leap into the unknown. And the way in which the Scottish Government seems to want to pursue its version of independence seems to me to increase the level of uncertainty because of the way in which they are approaching the issues of currency, Europe and defence, among others.
“All this means that for many of the legally cogent reasons I’ve outlined, there can’t be the complete picture of what independence for Scotland will mean.”
The test for Scottish ministers is “the frankness with which they admit those uncertainties”, he said.
“I hope that after the White Paper is out the Scottish Government will have told us as much as they can about what they will do if they win. I also hope they are honest about the uncertainties. Those are the challenges for the White Paper.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The certainty offered by independence is that it will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, with all decisions affecting the country taken by those who live and work here.
“The White Paper is a landmark publication on our country’s future which is first and foremost for the people of Scotland. As such, we are looking forward to making sure the public are as well informed as possible about its contents and the huge opportunities offered by independence.
“The White Paper will offer a clear and detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland and a vote in favour of that prospectus in next year’s referendum will, as acknowledged by Lord Wallace, be respected, as enshrined in the Edinburgh Agreement.”
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