Scottish independence and Salmond’s Plan B

In a month’s time, Scots living north of the border will be able to vote on their independence.

On August 5, 2014, a debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling took place in Glasgow. In case you missed it and would like to watch it, you can find it on STV Player.

The sponsor was Carte D’Or Eton Mess. Hmm.

Bernard Ponsonby presided over the debate. In the audience, he said, were 300 ‘specially chosen’ voters.

Putting aside Darling’s record as chancellor not so long ago, he came up with good arguments punctuated by a few great lines, reminiscent of a schoolmaster: ‘Sometimes we must say no’, ‘Imagine you are wrong’ and ‘stupidity on stilts’.

Salmond relied on emotional appeals which lacked substance.

Opening statements

Salmond spoke first, asking the audience to consider children. Think of ‘the children relying on food banks’. Think of Westminster being out of touch with Scotland’s needs. He urged people to vote ‘yes’ on September 18: ‘seize it with both hands’.

Darling replied, ‘Sometimes we must say no. There is no second chance’ of returning to the Union.

A discussion between them followed on polling figures. Salmond said that ‘yes’ has gained ground. Darling maintained that the polls were static.

Salmond said he wants a ‘prosperous but just society’ for children and the disabled. Darling pointed out that our markets are ‘unimpeded’ and provide ‘a massive gain’ for the Union.

Salmond told the audience that an independent Scotland meant they would always be able to vote for their own candidates. Darling warned that Scotland has the highest proportion of elderly people in the UK. Independence would mean that Scots would have to pick up the associated costs at a time when North Sea oil revenues are declining. Darling then asked Salmond why he was pushing for independence when Scotland already has its own parliament.

Cross examination — and Plan B

Salmond and Darling had 12 minutes apiece to cross-examine each other’s arguments. Currency dominated this exchange.

Salmond insisted, ‘It’s our pound as well as your pound!’

He added that, whatever happens, he has a ‘Plan B’.

Intrigued, Darling asked what this Plan B is. He asked twice. Salmond responded by saying all the information was in the 600+-page independence document and that Darling didn’t know what it said.

Salmond made it clear he didn’t want to go with the euro.

Darling then asked how Scotland could use the pound without their own central bank. Salmond responded by criticising Darling’s record as chancellor.

Darling pointed out that Scotland’s keeping the pound was hardly the sign of an independent country.

At this point, the audience became rather noisy.

Darling warned that independence would make it ‘impossible’ for Scotland to borrow money, therefore, it was ‘stupidity on stilts’.

Salmond called the Better Together campaign ‘Project Fear’. Darling refuted this and called Salmond’s repartee ‘barroom chat’, accusing him of portraying jokes as facts.

Darling told Salmond that if he hoped to enter Scotland in the EU it would take much longer than he envisages, adding that independence would lead to ‘massive uncertainties’.

Darling again mentioned declining North Sea oil revenues. Salmond dismissed this warning, saying that Scotland was like Norway, ‘a successful small country’. He defended this description by saying that even David Cameron had used the same words. Darling countered by saying the risks outweighed the opportunities.

The debaters then began talking over each other with the audience joining in. This was the debate’s noisy climax.

Salmond concluded this portion of the debate by mentioning children suffering from unfair policies such as the bedroom tax.

Backstage, a small panel of Scottish politicians were watching the proceedings and commenting during the breaks. Kezia Dugdale, a Better Together Labour MSP, said that Scots were most concerned about the currency issue: ‘What would they use for money? How much would it be worth?’

Questions from the audience — and Plan B

The final part of the debate, with questions from the audience, was the longest and most interesting.

Not surprisingly, money in an independent Scotland was their main preoccupation.

Plan B

Alistair McKean (undecided but leaning towards ‘no’) asked about Salmond’s ‘contingency plans’, i.e. Plan B. Salmond simply responded: ‘I want what’s best for Scotland’. Darling said that currency union could work only with economic and political union.

Ponsonby took a few questions in succession for further discussion. One lady asked for details on this ‘unknown’ Plan B. Another asked to what extent North Sea oil revenues were underwritten. A man asked what revenues Scotland could realistically expect from oil in future.

Ponsonby seized on Plan B. Salmond merely repeated his non-answers before accusing Better Together of employing ‘scare tactics’.

Darling warned that an independent Scotland could not force the rest of the UK to underwrite its banking system which is worth 12 times the value of Scotland’s assets as a country. Salmond’s response was more criticism of Darling’s record as chancellor ‘when the UK banks went bust’.

Public spending and revenues

Christine McInally from Glasgow asked why Scotland should continue to subsidise the rest of the UK. Darling said that Scotland also partakes of the public purse. Salmond countered by saying that over the past 33 years the Scots have paid in £8bn more than they have received. Ms McInally said that neither side answered her question.

A businessman remarked that Salmond’s responses were ‘snide’ and unhelpful. Another man asked how an independent Scotland could hope to negotiate with powerful multi-national oil companies when, up to now, it has taken the British government to do it.

Salmond said Darling had understimated North Sea oil revenues by a few million pounds. Darling said that Scotland had overestimated oil revenues by £4.5m over the past few years. Salmond criticised the British government for not having set up a separate oil revenues fund.

Health and education

The discussion then turned to health costs and education. Tim McAlpine-Scott asked about free prescriptions. Salmond pledged his support for free prescriptions and ‘free education’. Darling pointed out that Salmond was depriving underprivileged Scots of free university places whilst charging English and Welsh full fees. Members of the audience responding to the tuition fees discussion agreed that Scotland’s current system was unfair to everyone. Political waffle followed.

State pensions

Robert Allen, a ‘yes’ proponent, asked about state pensions. Salmond stated that there would be no adverse effect in an independent Scotland because people had already paid into the system. However, Darling warned that state pensions depend on the ability of the current pool of taxpayers to pay pensions. Allen did not seem reassured by Salmond’s answer.

Two other members of the audience also wanted to know more about how Salmond could guarantee the safety of state pensions in an independent Scotland. Darling said that even if you’ve paid in all your life, what you will receive when you retire will depend on the size of the taxpayer pool at the time. He added that this would ‘come as a surprise’ to many. Indeed it does, because this is the first time I’ve ever heard a politician come out and say it so clearly.

Salmond’s response concerned persuading 37,000 young Scots from emigrating and increasing immigration.

Closing statements

Darling, in the spirit of Better Together, emphasised the importance of working together as a Union. He added, ‘No new boundaries. No new borders’.

Salmond said that Scotland was governed by people Scots didn’t vote for: ‘This is our moment — let’s take it.’

The panel of politicians backstage found both sides unconvincing but each thought their man did better than the other. Contrary to what the ‘yes’ people said, Darling wasn’t ‘shouty’ at all. He had facts rather than emotional appeals. Salmond had no real answers.

And we’re still no clearer on what his Plan B is.

Meanwhile, the Coalition and Labour are negotiating more powers for Scotland:

All three pro-Union parties have produced individual proposals for extending devolution after a No vote and promised to include them in their manifestos for next year’s general election.

… this is the first time the three leaders have formally united to pledge the devolution of powers over income tax and housing benefit.

Those readers who missed my post from December 2013 might find what could happen in the months that follow of interest — and amusement.

16 comments for “Scottish independence and Salmond’s Plan B

  1. mikebravo
    August 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Salmond’s plan B is the same as his plan A. Keep talking bollocks and hope that he will fool enough people to get his name into the history books.
    He is a modern politician and therefore a self serving, lying shyster.

    • August 19, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      There is something rather unpleasant about this independence idea. What a costly way to get one’s name in the history books.

      • August 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

        It will be voted down, don’t worry.

        • August 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm

          It’s not the worry — I do think it will be voted down — but the sheer, unabashed materialism that has gone behind this independence campaign.

  2. Errol
    August 19, 2014 at 12:57 am

    I don’t want Scotland ot have more power. I’d quite like Scotland to acknowledge that it is a poor, welfare ridden utterly dependent country that sponges off the older brother -England.

    Without English taxes, Scotland cannot survive. It is sad, but blooming obvious.

  3. August 19, 2014 at 2:32 am

    Financial independence from England? Bring it on.

  4. Ed P
    August 19, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Do they have any idea of how poor Scotland will be without the huge support they enjoy from English taxpayers? It’ll be,”Where’s my free education, healthcare, welfare handouts & prescriptions gone, Jimmy?” Slippery Salmond cannot explain Plan B ‘cos he hasn’t got one.

    • August 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      I don’t think he does, either.

      Also agree with the rest; watch taxes soar and banking/insurance HQs leave.

  5. meltemian
    August 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    It could mean the final solution to the ‘Midlothian Question’.
    Scottish Independence……bring it on!

    • August 19, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Re the final solution to the ‘Midlothian Question’ — oh, if only!

  6. Tedioustantrums
    August 19, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Now why would England want to pay keep Scotland in the Union? Why? If we offer little to the rest of the UK why are we to stay in the union?

    Are you aware that the Labour Party support in Scotland is dwindling, no one votes Tory and who is going to vote LibDem?

    North Sea oil will not run out for decades. Of course you won’t believe that but it’s true, Billions have been invested in the past couple of years by the oil companies and they expect to get their money back and more in less than 3 years.

    Maybe the English should take a long hard look at what that means? What does it mean? Is Westminster what England needs or Englad gets where it works or not? Why aren’t the English people asking hard questions if the current political system?

    Scotland going will let the English realise the things which need to be done to make England a great country again.

    I work and travel in England often. It’s a lovely country. The English are a lovely people.

    You might want to wait for the next debate. You see Alex changed his style so that he was less combative. Next time Darling will be toast. Lastly, the SNP are merely a useful vehicle. True political change will take place within a year or two after a suvccessful yes vote.

    • August 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      We do realise much must be done in order for England to return to greatness; the political establishment do not wish to know. Yes, many of us would like to have the devolution that Scotland and Wales currently enjoy.

      One debate was quite enough, so I’m not sure I’ll watch another but may do just out of curiosity. What more can Salmond say? I doubt we’ll find out about Plan B. 😉

  7. Junican
    August 20, 2014 at 4:18 am

    I like the idea of a 10 feet, solid, electrified fence across the border, and the English would build it to keep the likes of Salmond out of England. It is sad, but, if Scotland is to be independent, then it must be totally so, which means that it will be no different to China. No ‘special relationship’ will exist. Contacts between Scotland and England will go through the EU Commissariat.
    But another ‘visualisation’ is possible.
    If Ireland was to get rid of its demonstrably incompetent Government, and if it forgot the past,it could ally with England and Scotland to have a mini-federation. (I discount Wales as a ‘Country’ – it is really no more than a county, not dissimilar to, say, Yorkshire).

    ‘Devolution’, in the sense of special treatment of the ‘County’ known as Scotland, was a huge mistake. Yorkshire has just as much right to such devolution.
    Anything else is sentimental slop. Sentimental Slop seems to be all the rage. It is Sentimental Slop which drives the EU. The EU project is driven by and depends upon avoiding any further European wars. The EU Zealots claim success. They may be right.
    Lots of things enter into the philosophy of the EU. Things like nazi antipathy to homosexuals. Is that the reason that the EU demanded that homosexual ‘marriage’ should be the norm?
    I have nothing against homosexuals of either sex. That is their personal choice, nor I have I any objection to ‘partnerships’. But I object to the use of the word ‘marriage’. To me, messing about with such words is akin to eradicating the words ‘male’ and ‘female’, and replacing them with the word ‘person’. Thus, the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ would be replaced by a word such as ‘hesh’. Thus, one might read in a newspaper that ‘Charlie’ said to ‘Tommie’ “Let’s go and get us a bit of action with heshes”
    But there is no real need for ‘he’ and ‘she’. The word ‘it’ is adequate. “I spoke to Sheila. ‘It’ said ….”


    In the future, somehow or other, better voting systems need to be invented. I do not know what they might be, but it is certainly true that ‘special interest’, well funded, persons have stood for election and been elected with the specific intention of getting certain laws enacted – and nothing else. These persons have no regard for ‘truth’. They lie and cheat – and, once they have the legislation, they disappear. They play a long game, but, as MPs, they are well paid for it.
    One despairs.
    In a vague sort of way, I am coming round to the idea that voting in our democracy needs to be restricted somehow. “One Man, One Vote” seems to be too simplistic somehow, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what system of voting would make more sense.
    Perhaps it is not about the system of national parliamentary elections, but about who is responsible for what. That is, it would be the suitability of a candidate to do a specific electoral job which would be important, and not ‘Party’ affiliations. For example, Cameron,Clegg and Miliband might just as well have tossed up to see which of them will represent which Party. They are all the same.
    But who cares?


    • Tedioustantrums
      August 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

      Well Junican…

      How about a political system with no political parties? All MPs are independents and have to take instruction from their constituents before voting on anything at all?

      In Scotland we will have the opportunity to examine everything and find a better way. Why should we not?

      Westminster the mother of all parliaments? Maybe once upon a time. Corruption, sleaze, contempt… It is time for the English to address all of this. Get your own house in order. Get back to being one of the best countries in the world for the People who live in England.

      I truly wish you all the best.

      • August 20, 2014 at 10:19 pm

        Sorry to chip in on your reply to Junican, but we are trying to get England’s house in order. The problem is, our elected representatives do not listen to us.

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