Tom Peterkin: Uncertainty is the only certainty as 2014 approaches

David Cameron and Alex Salmond sign the referendum agreement. Picture: PA
David Cameron and Alex Salmond sign the referendum agreement. Picture: PA
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ONE can’t help feeling that this week we have been given a wee glimpse into the arguments that will be bandied around the independence debate over the next few months.

As 2014 creeps closer, the electorate is in desperate need of some concrete facts and figures on the benefits, or otherwise, of independence.

But we have been given a clear sign from both sides that instead of clarity we can expect the word “uncertainty” to be chucked about ad nauseam as they get stuck into each other.

That much was clear from recent utterances by both Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Moore when the issue of pre-independence discussions between the Scottish and UK governments found its way on to the agenda.

Responding to Moore’s refusal to pre-negotiate an independence settlement, Sturgeon blogged that there should be talks to ease the transition to independence. But the key sentence in her blog came at the end.

“I look forward to a constructive response – otherwise the responsibility for any so-called ‘uncertainty’ in the referendum debate will lie squarely with Westminster,” she said.

Blame games are a common tactic in politics and it looks as if we are on the verge of yet another. Both sides say they are going to publish a series of documents outlining their position on the effect of independence.

Needless to say, these will have vastly differing takes on Scotland’s share of North Sea Oil, defence, benefits etc. Bombarded by conflicting facts and opinions, it will be difficult for the undecided voters to figure out what an independent Scotland would actually look like.

So uncertainty will continue to reign. Indeed that was acknowledged by Moore himself in the article published at the beginning of this week when he ruled out talks on divvying up the assets and debts of the UK to form an independent Scotland.

At the weekend, Moore claimed that the UK government had done its bit “to remove as much uncertainty as possible” by ensuring a legal, fair and decisive referendum.

But in the same breath, he acknowledged that his refusal to talk about an eventual independence settlement before next year’s vote would leave many unanswered questions.

“Uncertainty about what an independent Scotland will be like will remain and cannot be wished away,” Moore said.

So the UK government spend the next year and three-quarters arguing that independence and uncertainty are inseparable bedfellows. While the SNP will blame the UK government for creating uncertainty. It is perhaps a bit trite to remark that one of the few things that can be foreseen with any certainty is that we face uncertain times. But one fancies there is some truth in that observation.