ALEX Salmond’s blueprint for independence has been branded a “mirage” by Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael as he urged people to “make the positive choice” and vote No in this year’s referendum.
The UK Government minister used his first speech of 2014 to highlight the benefits he believes Scotland gains from being part of the United Kingdom - such as cheaper mortgages and better financial protection for savers and pensioners
But he also used the address at Stirling University to attack the SNP administration at Holyrood and their white paper on independence, which was published last November.
“The Nationalists like to assert that they have a vision for an independent Scotland and that their White Paper is its articulation,” Mr Carmichael said.
“It is not. This is not a vision, it is a mirage. Like all mirages, the closer you get the less real it becomes.”
He claimed SNP politicians were “skittish and evasive” about their plans for an independent Scotland, saying there was “no coherence” in the white paper.
Mr Carmichael argued it “clumsily grafted” together plans to cut corporation tax with proposals for renationalising the Royal Mail and lowering the retirement age.
He said: “In every sense, it simply does not add up.
“Even in the best of times, no-one can have a low-tax economy paying for Scandinavian levels of social provision. If they could, Scandinavia - and others - would have done it.
“To say that they will do so with the backdrop of an ageing population and reduced oil and gas revenues only adds insult to injury.”
He claimed the white paper had “no vision, just 670 pages of words”, adding it was “big on rhetoric, low on facts”.
Mr Carmichael said: “It offers no true picture of what kind of country Scotland would really become.”
He then challenged Mr Salmond and the Scottish Government, saying: “It is for the Nationalists to present a full, true and costed vision of what independence would mean. If they refuse to do that, what are people being asked to vote for?”
Bruce Crawford: Yes vote in September ‘essential’
SNP MSP Bruce Crawford, who chairs the Scottish Parliament’s Referendum Bill Committee, claimed that the Scottish Secretary’s “flimsy and inaccurate case deserves to be kicked into touch in September”.
The Nationalist said: “The Scottish Government has published a detailed 670-page guide to an independent Scotland - which answers 650 questions covering every point that Mr Carmichael raises, and far more besides.
“Each point that Mr Carmichael makes is either an area of policy where Westminster control has been ruinous, and against Scotland’s interests and the votes of Scottish MPs - such as brutal welfare cuts and Royal Mail privatisation; issues which would be unchanged - such as free movement across the border; or common sense matters where it would be in the overwhelming interests of the rest of the UK and an independent Scotland to co-operate - such as a shared sterling area.”
Mr Crawford said: “The reality is that the UK Government presided over the near collapse of the financial system, pensioners in Scotland stand to be penalised by Westminster’s acceleration of the state pension age and the base rate for current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and mortgages will be the same across the Sterling area if we become independent.
“The outlook for Scotland if there is a No vote would be a massive cut in Scotland’s budget - politicians in each of the anti-independence parties signed up to the Westminster report calling for a £4 billion cull in Scotland’s cash.
“Mr Carmichael’s low-quality arguments are very easily dismissed. It is now time for the No campaign to answer the 50 hard questions that we have posed about the dangers of voting No.”
He spoke out as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon published a list of 50 questions for those campaigning to keep Scotland in the UK.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government has published a detailed, 670-page guide to an independent Scotland, including answers to 650 questions.
“In the interests of a fair, balanced and fully-informed debate, it is essential that there is an equivalent amount of detail from those arguing for a No vote - a position supported by no fewer than 70% of people in Scotland, according to the recent Panelbase poll.
“Therefore, those leading the anti-independence campaign have a responsibility to answer the crunch questions, such as by how much will Scotland’s budget be cut if there is a No vote, will the UK remain in the European Union, and how much more of Scotland’s money would be wasted on Trident nuclear weapons that we neither want not need?
“These issues and many more highlight why it is essential that we achieve a Yes vote in September.”