ALEX Salmond has attacked London as the “dark star of the economy, inexorably sucking in resources, people and energy” from the rest of the UK – while promising independence will provide “a northern light” to rebalance the economy of the British Isles.
In a major speech in London last night, the First Minister blasted the influence of the UK’s capital in words which echoed criticisms made by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, who described the city as “a great suction machine”.
But while Mr Salmond tried to mollify his comments by praising London as “a great global city” and insisting his views were “more moderate” than Mr Cable’s, opponents said his rhetoric amounted to telling the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland how “rubbish they are”.
In the New Statesman lecture and question and answer session, entitled Scotland’s Future in Scotland’s Hands, the First Minister made it clear Scotland would be a low tax economy.
Asked whether he would restore the 50p rate for those earning £150,000 or more, he said: “We will not put ourselves at a tax disadvantage with the rest of the UK.” He also underlined that the policy to slash corporation tax to Ireland’s level of 12.5 per cent was aimed at directly competing with London.
He spoke of his optimism for the result, saying “I have a feeling in my bones” the Yes campaign will win on 18 September, and claimed that devolution has “dramaticised the democratic deficit, not ended it”.
He insisted a UK government would agree to a currency union after a Yes vote and said Chancellor George Osborne’s “sermon on the pound will come to be seen as monumental an error as Margaret Thatcher’s sermon on the Mound”.
The thrust of his speech was an attack on London’s economic power, adding that an independent Scotland will be a powerful economic counterweight to the benefit of the whole UK.
Quoting Professor Tony Travers, of the London School for Economics, Mr Salmond said: “London is the dark star of the economy, inexorably sucking in resources, people and energy. Nobody quite knows how to control it.”
He added: “After independence, the growth of a strong economic power in the north of these islands would benefit everyone – our closest neighbours in the north of England more than anyone.
“There would be a ‘northern light’ to redress the influence of the ‘dark star’ – rebalancing the economic centre of gravity of these islands.”
Mr Salmond’s attack was in stark contrast to the claim made in the Scottish Government white paper which stated that Scotland’s proximity to London would be a major boost for the independent country.
A Better Together spokesman said: “Alex Salmond seems to have ditched his plan to be best pals with the rest of the UK and has instead decided to tell the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people how rubbish they are.
“Alex Salmond should treat the people of Scotland with respect and set out a credible Plan B on currency.”
Labour shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “Alex Salmond can’t hide the fact he still can’t give Scots an answer on the most fundamental question about our future – what currency we would be using.”