Dear First Minister and Mr Salmond,
I am sure you will agree that it is only fair that your fellow Scots, the UK and the EU should know precisely your approach to Scottish independence before the May elections. Accordingly, I set out below 20 questions which I hope you will answer before the campaign gets under way.
1 – Why do you seek independence from the UK? Is it simply a desire for self-government, which devolution has substantially given you, or an atavistic longing to be rid of what you see as English domination through Westminster?
2 – If it is simply a desire for independence, why do you seek to subject yourselves to the less democratic EU run by an unelected bureaucracy that takes its orders from the Franco-German axis?
3 – Could it be that you see your future in Europe because you prefer its essential socialism to the innate conservatism of the Westminster Parliament?
4 – Why do you think that the EU will accept any application from Holyrood for membership? Have you ensured that Spain will not veto it because to allow it would undermine its opposition to Catalan independence?
5 – Why do you think that the EU will welcome you when, in their terms, Scotland is a basket case with a budget deficit more than twice its three per cent of GDP limit?
6 – Do you accept your economic condition can only get worse rather than better since North Sea oil and gas is a fast-wasting asset and you would lose Westminster’s grant towards your public spending? That is now worth £2,000 more per head to Scots than disbursed south of the border.
7 – What makes you think that Scots would welcome vastly increased taxation to balance your books?
8 – Have you decided whether to retain the pound if the EU won’t have you or launch a new Scottish currency? If you retain the pound, do you accept you will not be independent of the Bank of England?
9 – Do you propose to retain the Queen as head of State?
10 – If not, which of you will become president, bearing in mind that you seem to agree on only one thing: Scottish “independence” in the EU? Would any Scottish president take over Balmoral?
11 – If you choose to become a republic, will you remain a member of the Commonwealth headed by the Queen?
12 – Will you remain in Nato?
13 – If so, how will you square it with withdrawal of the nuclear submarine base facility at Faslane and presumably closure of other bases such as Lossiemouth and Leuchars?
14 – If closure, where will their employees find alternative jobs? Would you still permit British warship building on the Clyde?
15 – In or out of Nato, how do you propose to defend Scotland? This is of great concern to the rest of the UK since a neutral Scotland would vastly weaken the defence of the British Isles when the Russians are regularly probing North Sea and North Atlantic defences.
16 – How do you propose to manage cross-border trade and the border itself? I don’t think you can afford to build a new wall like Hadrian, so will there be customs posts on all main roads?
17 – Will I need a passport to enter Scotland like any other foreigner?
18 – Do you know whether Orkney and Shetland will go along with Scottish independence? Is there not a risk they will declare UDI?
19 – Given that there are persistent complaints that SNP rule has done nothing for Scottish educational standards, the NHS or policing, why should any canny Scot risk a further deterioration in his way of life by voting to cut itself off from the UK for the uncertainties of an EU in dire trouble over, among many things, Covid vaccination?
20 – And this is the 60,000-dollar question: why do you think your self-interest lies outside the UK after more than 300 years in Britain and then the UK? What is wrong with the current relationship – not least in view of the premium in public expenditure Scotland commands under the Barnett formula for distributing UK public spending? Is there something I, as a possibly dense Englishman, have missed?
I hope you will agree that this list of questions demonstrates the urgent need for greater clarity about the SNP/Alba position. I look forward to your answers tomorrow.
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