Guess work, blind faith and crossed fingers. No, I am not talking about the 2015 Liberal Democrat manifesto but the debate last night on Scottish Independence between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond.
To everyone’s surprise Darling is credited with beating Salmond quite easily in the first debate. Darling started slowly and fell victim to the undoubted charms of Scotland’s First Minister. But then came the substance of the debate and Bonny Prince Alex was left floundering.
Salmond’s narrative that there are no downsides to Scottish Independence and that the rest of the UK will do exactly as I tell them in any constitutional settlement did not work. Darling probed him for a Plan B should the main political parties in Westminster carry out their threat to exclude an Independent Scotland from a currency union with the rest of the UK.
Salmond spluttered and staggered like a washed up old street fighter trying to avoid the punches that Darling was laying on him. He was in effect claiming that the English and the EU know what’s good for them; they wouldn’t dare say no to me. Well, there is a little bit more to running a country than ripping off your shirt Alex, getting the Mrs to put on your war paint and start shouting ‘Freedom’ all over the place.
Can Scotland be a successful Independent country Salmond asked? Yes of course is the answer, but to be so, Scotland will need a credible currency of its own, backed up by a lender of last resort and membership of the European Union. It will need a tax and spend programme of Government that won’t spook the markets or the international money-lenders. Alex Salmond cannot offer the people of Scotland any of the above with any certainty prior to the vote on September 18th.
As Alistair Darling said this is not a decision Scotland can take with guesswork, blind faith and crossed fingers. Nice try Alex but you will need a credible plan B and you will need it quick.