‘Independence white paper should scare Scots’

Alistair Darling is calling on Alex Salmond to agree to a televised debate with him. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alistair Darling is calling on Alex Salmond to agree to a televised debate with him. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Scottish independence: Unanswered questions in the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence should send “shivers of fear through Scots” Alistair Darling has told The Scotsman.

Mr Darling said that the document that sets out the Scottish Government’s case for independence has emerged as the nationalists’ main weak spot, because it fails to address key questions that voters want answered ahead of September’s independence referendum.

In an interview, the leader of Better Together said that in the nine months leading up to this year’s vote, pro-union campaigners would target “shortcomings” in the white paper as part of their strategy to keep Scotland part of the UK.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon published the long-waited white paper in Glasgow in November amid a blaze of publicity, with the Scottish Government insisting the document would provide detail on what a post-independent Scotland would look like.

But Mr Darling said Better Together would highlight what he claimed was the lack of detail in the white paper on important issues such as the SNP’s plan for a currency union with the rest of the UK and future membership of the EU.

Mr Darling suggested the document could be a chink in the armour of the SNP and help deliver a No vote on 18 September, 2014.

He said: “The white paper highlights how much is not known about independence and a whole series of black holes in the arguments of the nationalists. We’ve not seen a shred of evidence in any of the 640 or so pages of the white paper. Not even on one page.

“It’s a dead-end read. There’s not much in it and I am surprised they didn’t get Mills and Boon to write it. It should send shivers of fear through us as it just glibly asserts things. It actually raised more questions than it answered. We’ll continue to make these points.”

However, the Better Together leader insisted that the campaign would also promote what he claimed were the benefits of Scotland’s place in the UK.

He said: “Of course we’ll go after the white paper and we’ll keep stressing the positive benefits of Scotland’s place in the UK in terms of being part of a big market and the direct political influence we have.

“There’s also the security and pensions as well as our place in the EU. Why give all that up?”

Mr Darling said Better Together would also highlight what he claimed was a risk of increased poverty in an independent Scotland due to a lack of an economic plan from the SNP.

He said: “Social justice is a big question for the referendum and how we make sure each generation is looked after in terms of pensions and how we protect poorer members of society.

“It comes back to the economy and whether you want to give up the certainty of the Barnett formula for the unknown quantity of North Sea oil.

“I believe in a fair and just society. You can only do that if you generate wealth in the first place.”

Mr Darling urged Mr Salmond to agree to a televised debate with him in the run-up to the referendum. The First Minister had said he wanted to debate with the Prime Minister. “David Cameron has made it clear that he’s not going to have a televised debate with Alex Salmond,” Mr Darling said. “I’m ready to have the debate on an occasion that’s decided. He shouldn’t be afraid to debate with people living in Scotland.”

Mr Darling said former prime minister Gordon Brown would also be playing greater role in the campaign against independence this year.

A spokesman for Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “They have nothing positive to say, so all they can do is attack the white paper.”

McLeish urges No campaign to publish own white paper

FORMER first minister Henry McLeish has warned the No campaign that it faces defeat unless it publishes its own white paper setting out the case for Scotland’s place in the UK.

The former Scottish Labour leader said the Scottish Government’s white paper offered a “vision” and an “alternative serious case for leaving the UK” and urged the No campaign to publish its alternative plans for extending devolution in the event of vote against independence.

Senior unionists have dismissed calls for the No campaign and United Kingdom government to publish their own version of a white paper setting out a plans

Although Mr McLeish said he hopes that Scotland votes to remain in the United Kingdom, he understands that a number of Labour supporters could be persuaded to back independence.

“A lot of No voters need to be reassured that there’s more than extreme conservatism at the table if Scotland remains part of the UK.

“We need a narrative of constitutional change within the Union,” Mr McLeish added.

Mr McLeish, who served as Scotland’s Labour First Minister from 2000-1, has been critical of his own party’s involvement in the anti-independence Better Together campaign alongside the Tories.


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