Tory Cabinet Minister attacks ‘SNP pick-and-mix plan for independence’

Iain Duncan Smith calls himself 'a proud Scot'. Picture: Esme Allen
Iain Duncan Smith calls himself 'a proud Scot'. Picture: Esme Allen
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“I DON’T want independence”, because welfare would “cost more and be more difficult to implement” if Scotland separated from the rest of the UK.

The senior Tory Cabinet minister, who was born in Edinburgh and describes himself as “a proud Scot”, also set himself against a so-called devo-max settlement, where welfare would be completely devolved to Holyrood.

He also accused the SNP of taking a “pick-and-mix” approach to independence and trying to “cloud the issue” but leaving much of the responsibility with Westminster.

He said: “I do love their [the SNP] argument, which is, at one level, they hate being part of the Union, they want out, they want independence. Then, because they realise that actually a lot of people begin to think that there is some real mileage to having this strength and support from the monarchy right the way through to the financial institutions, they now have a kind of pick-and-mix independence –which is ‘We will take the bits we want, and all the things we need support on … well, we’ll leave those very much with Westminster’.”

As someone who was born in Scotland, lived much of his life in England and partly schooled in Wales, Mr Duncan Smith describes himself as “a product of the Union” and argues there are many like him who would be damaged by separation.

“The number of Scots living in and around London alone is very high indeed, who would consider their home to be Scotland, but are doing what is legitimate in the Union, which is work and go home when the need arises.

“Many of them down here and their families have all benefited from being part of a Union that has no prejudice against anybody from any part of the Union.

“No-one in London will sit there and say ‘Why are Scots working down here?’ – quite the contrary, they are considered to be the same as somebody from Chingford taking a job.

“It’s probably the greatest union, because it has been done over a period of time people have meshed together.”

He said that, had RBS and HBOS collapsed in an independent Scotland, the country would now be making “savage cuts” similar to Ireland.

He said: “We stopped people in Scotland suffering and they would have suffered dramatically on the back of the banking crash. But they haven’t and won’t have suffered to that extent because we had the Union, which said Scottish problems are British problems, we have to deal with them together.”

On welfare and independence, he said the scale of a £200 billion budget meant the costs could be absorbed more easily.

He said his department worked well with the Scottish Government on welfare, and that by allowing the Back to Work Programme to focus on the needs in Scotland there had been “better results than the rest of the UK” in increasing the number of jobs.

But he set himself against devolving welfare to Holyrood.

“My sense about this is that the Scottish people, if they add up all the things that they gain from a very compliant and helpful department that on a UK basis works hugely for the Scottish people with the Scottish Executive, I think it is a brilliant position to be in.”