UK Politics

Independence blues

An upside of the credit crunch has been the damage it has done to Alex Salmond’s plans for independence. Scotland as an independent nation would likely have gone the way of Iceland with its banks in ruins and many more thousands jobsless.

The Guardian reports that the vast scale of the emergency bail-out of the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS has, say Labour, the Tories and prominent unionist commentators, dramatically wounded Salmond’s case for taking Scotland out of the UK.

It comes down to the simple arithmetic and coincidentally pleasing numbers. Westminster gave the two institutions £32bn and access to more. The Scottish government has a total budget of £31bn and even with North Sea oil and independence, would be bankrupted by that bail-out.

The Times has Gordon Brown taking his new-found political strength and attacking Salmond and the SNP’s core belief saying that it is the Union that made the bailout possible and “that we are prepared to share the risks as well as the opportunities. And when things are difficult we are in a position to support each other — stronger together, weaker apart”.

Brown also rips up Salmond’s idea that a separate Scotland could form part of a Northern European “arc of prosperity” with Iceland, the Irish Republic and Norway by pointing to the situation those three are now in: Iceland broke, Ireland in recession and Norway cap in hand to the US Federal Reserve for a £2.9 billion lifeline not to mention one of the highest tax and fuel rates in Europe.

“We have seen the problems in Iceland, we’ve seen the problems in Ireland. We were able to put the whole strength of the United Kingdom’s resources behind these two banks and I think it’s important because I value the Scottish banking tradition.”