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Scottish independence a major risk - Michael Moore

Michael Moore's comments were branded extremist by senior nationalists. Picture: Esme Allen

Michael Moore's comments were branded extremist by senior nationalists. Picture: Esme Allen

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

A YES vote in the independence referendum will mean “lasting, irreversible changes” for Scotland and its relationship with the rest of the UK, the coalition government will warn today.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will condemn the SNP government and its “keep everything the same as now” approach, and insist that leaving the UK will entail major risks.

But his comments were branded “extremist” by senior nationalists.

Mr Moore will make a keynote speech in Dunfermline reflecting on six months of the independence debate. “It’s just over 400 days until those of us living here in Scotland will make our biggest ever collective decision,” Mr Moore will say.

“It’s a big, bold moment, offering us the choice between staying within the most successful partnership of nations the world has seen, or an irreversible decision to leave the United Kingdom and go our own, separate way. We’ve looked carefully at the Scottish Government’s over-arching arguments and their approach, and you have to give them credit for some creative thinking about what independence means.

“I have always taken it to mean a separate country making its way in the world, choosing new and different policy paths, which the proponents of independence have argued are necessary.

“The simple truth is, if we break up the United Kingdom, we will have turned our backs on our shared interests, so that we can instead develop separate interests. Doing things differently and creating differences is at the heart of separating Scotland from the rest of the UK.”

The SNP government has claimed that Scotland will keep the pound as part of a monetary union with the UK after independence, retain the Queen as head of state, and even that Scots will remain British through the “social union” with the UK.

But Mr Moore will say: “Those who advocate independence are surely not saying to people in Scotland – vote for independence to keep everything the same as it is now? And more to the point, it is something that they cannot faithfully promise or deliver. Indeed, even its own supporters are starting to question this vision of independence as a pale imitation of what they used to dream of.”

Leading nationalist figures, including former SNP Westminster candidate George Kerevan, have voiced concern over the lack of a bolder approach to independence from the Yes campaign in recent weeks.

But nationalist MSP Annabelle Ewing accused Mr Moore, a Liberal Democrat minister, of “aping the language of the Tories”. She added: “Mr Moore’s speech comes perilously close to rejecting the very concept of Scottish interests – which logically would invalidate the case for a devolved Scottish Parliament, never mind independence. It is an extreme form of Unionism which the majority of people in Scotland – not just independence supporters – will find offputting.”

She added: “One of the ways people will gain from independence is because we won’t have Tory-led governments at Westminster imposing disastrous policies on Scotland against our will. These include the bedroom tax and George Osborne’s failed austerity agenda, with a slashing of infrastructure spending.

“A Yes vote for independence means completing Scotland’s home rule journey, so we have the political and economic powers in Scotland to take the decisions that are right for Scotland.”

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