Scottish independence: The key battlegrounds in run-up to the referendum

The Prime Minister with the Scottish First Minister. Picture: AP
The Prime Minister with the Scottish First Minister. Picture: AP
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THE economy is certain to be a key battleground in the lengthy run-up to the referendum, with the SNP under pressure to set out its stance on key issues, such as currency and interest rates.

SNP cabinet ministers say an independent Scotland would retain the pound and be able to influence interest rates by having a seat on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee.

However, critics say that the government of an independent Scotland would effectively have to place its budget before the UK’s authorities for approval.

Senior unionists, such as former chancellor Alistair Darling, say an independent Scotland would have its key economic decisions taken by institutions in a foreign country – the UK.

Unionists bring out their big guns for the battle

Leadership of the campaign will be a major factor, with Alex Salmond likely to try to heavily invoke the “father of the nation” type of stance that served him so well at the 2011 election.

The First Minister may find it hard to resist adopting a presidential role and will attempt to contrast this with what he will say are dour and weak unionist party leaders.

However, the SNP leader will be forced to go up against Labour big-hitter, such as the Better Together leader, Alistair Darling, and Gordon Brown, who has hinted he will come out of semi-retirement to play a key role.

The issue of leadership may be crucial when it comes to potential TV debates close to the referendum date, with heated and possibly bad tempered clashes.

Debate will centre on Trident, Nato and the military

THE SNP is under pressure to set out its plans for the defence of an independent Scotland.

Part of the Yes campaign will focus on the importance of scrapping Trident at Faslane on the Clyde – a long-standing policy of the SNP that has some support within Labour’s ranks. However, there have been varied reports about a vastly scaled-down army, air force and naval capability.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson has made much of the leadership’s plans for an independent Scotland to be part of Nato, but the suggestion that membership would be automatic under independence will be challenged by the unionists.

There will also almost certainly be a bitter dispute about defence jobs.

Doubts over Scotland’s membership of the EU

BOTH the Yes and No sides will make Europe a key plank of their campaigns.

The Better Together campaign will claim Scotland’s interests in Europe are best served by being part of the UK – a member of the European Union since the 1970s. The Yes lobby will say an independent Scotland would be able to exert more influence over key sectors, such as oil and gas and fishing, with its own seat at the negotiating table.

However, a key focus will be the SNP’s claim that an independent Scotland would automatically inherit EU membership from the UK.

The unionist parties will say an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership as a successor nation and risk being left out in the cold.

Opponents keen to raise the biggest war chest

CAMPAIGN finance and election spending will be a key issue in the run-up to the start of the official campaign in summer 2014.

The Yes and Better Together campaigns will be at loggerheads on the rules affecting funding.

The Yes campaign has already been handed

£1 million from lottery winners Colin and Christine Weir, and a similar bequest from the late Makar, Edwin Morgan.

Better Together will be anxious about being outspent before campaign rules on spending officially kick in and will want the Electoral Commission to act.

The SNP’s slick and successful campaign in 2011 was much better funded than Labour’s campaign. Unionists will want to avoid a repeat.

SNP likely to raise the spectre of Thatcherism

ALTHOUGH the referendum is almost certain to be held before the next UK general election, the issue of Tory rule from Westminster will be a campaign battleground.

The SNP will attempt to suggest to anti-Tory Scots, even Labour voters, that the only way to avoid a repeat of Thatcherism is to vote for independence.

Alex Salmond will make a personal pitch to left-of-centre Scots, telling them an independent Scotland would never be affected by cuts on the scale of those being passed on from David Cameron’s Westminster government.

However, if Ed Miliband’s Labour Party at is on line to win the election, the SNP’s message may be blunted.

Labour would warn the SNP would pursue centre-right economic policies.