Scotland sets out blueprint for independence
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — An independent Scotland would continue to use the pound sterling as its currency, remain in the European Union and join the NATO military alliance, Scotland’s government said Tuesday.
In the first detailed outline of Scotland’s political future as an independent country, First Minister Alex Salmond’s administration set out the ways it said the nation would prosper if it left the United Kingdom. In a referendum on Sept. 18, 2014, Scots will be asked whether they want Scotland to become independent.
The document says independence will create a more democratic Scotland and a more prosperous country.
Scotland is part of the U.K. but it has had its own Parliament since 1999 and has its own set of laws. The governing Scottish National Party supports independence, while the opposition Labour and Conservative parties both oppose it. Independence day would be on March 24, 2016, if the people of Scotland vote ‘yes’ to going it alone.
“This is the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent nation” Salmond said at the launch of the 670-page document setting out the terms of separation.
On foreign policy, Salmond said that negotiations with the European Commission to join the EU were being blocked by the U.K. Government in London and added: “We believe Scotland will be a welcome member of the EU.”
The U.K.’s nuclear deterrent is based in Scotland but would be withdrawn during the first parliament of a newly independent nation, the report states.
Salmond said Scotland would also be welcomed into the NATO alliance.
“Our assurance about NATO membership is that 25 out of 28 members are not nuclear powers and 20 members have no nuclear weapons on their soil so we ask for no special arrangements for Scotland,” he said.
Political battles in the run-up to the referendum could come down to straightforward pocketbook politics.
The independence movement is strongly opposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The British government argues that people living in Scotland would pay an extra £1,000 ($1,600) a year in tax, while Salmond said Scots would actually pay less than they are paying now.
Alistair Darling, former UK Treasury minister and leader of the ‘Better Together’ campaign which is in favor of remaining in the UK, called the report a “work of fiction.”
He said independence advocates “ducked the opportunity” to answer key questions about Scotland’s future.
“We have waited months for this and it has failed to give credible answers on fundamentally important questions,” he said. “What currency would we use? Who will set our mortgage rates? How much would taxes have to go up? How will we pay pensions and benefits in future?”
Salmond called for the historic referendum after his Scottish National Party in 2011 won a one-seat majority in the Scottish Parliament, the devolved assembly in Edinburgh that has powers over health, education and law.
Polls have consistently put support for independence at between 25 percent and 30 percent over the past three years, with support for remaining in the union at between 45 percent and 50 percent. But the number of undecided voters is significant.