Scottish independence: Constitution ‘like framing picture that hasn’t been painted’

Alex Salmond unveiled plans for a written constitution yesterday. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alex Salmond unveiled plans for a written constitution yesterday. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE SNP government’s plan to write a constitution for an ­independent Scotland without providing the details of how the country would be set up is like “framing and hanging a picture that is yet to be painted”, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has claimed.

A day after First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled his plan for a written constitution to ­underline a series of rights that would accrue after a Yes vote, Mr Moore warned the SNP against “fast-­forwarding” over the nuts-and-bolts practicalities of an ­independent Scotland.

His remarks came as the Scotland Office confirmed it would publish the first in a series of papers backing the Union next month.

The SNP also has plans to unveil elements of its own white paper on independence, setting out details of its proposals.

A major report is expected from a Fiscal Commission led by former Scottish Enterprise chief Crawford Beveridge before the end of February.

But Mr Moore said the public wanted clarity from the SNP now, rather than a focus on more process. He also criticised Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who, earlier this week, released letters she had sent to Mr Moore calling for talks about how negotiations after a Yes vote should proceed.

Mr Moore said at the weekend there would be no discussion of a post-referendum deal until after Scots voted.

Speaking in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Moore said that with Westminster having agreed to hand over control of the running of the referendum to ­Holyrood earlier this week, that the debate should now turn to the “substantial issues”.

He added: “Over the last few days, we’ve had the First Minister speculating about the constitution of an independent Scotland and the Deputy First Minister wanting talks about talks in the event of a Yes vote.”

He went on: “This is not where the debate should be. People don’t want an esoteric conversation between politicians about constitutional law, or how they will deal with one another in the event of an outcome that the polls say they don’t even want.”

He added: “Planning the summits and designing the constitutional apparatus is like framing and hanging a picture that is yet to be painted. No matter how gilded and fancy the frame, the missing image is the essential part.”

However, the SNP yesterday reiterated its call for discussions between Edinburgh and London prior to the referendum, saying that talks could proceed between officials similar to those that take place between the civil service and opposition parties prior to a general election.

Mr Moore was speaking after Mr Salmond used a speech in London on Wednesday to say the SNP favoured a written constitution in Scotland which enshrined the right to a free education, to a home and to a ban on nuclear weapons.

He said he believed an independent Scotland would be up and running by the summer of 2016.