'Scotland on its own will need friends'

Tuesday 25 February 2014

There’s a small but extraordinarily vocal niche of pro-yes campaigners who are infuriated by the slightest criticism or questioning of their position.

And that’s just if it comes from fellow Scots. The same angry clique do their collective nut if the doubts expressed come from south of the border. If the journalist or politician concerned is on a social network such as Twitter then never mind tin hats – you need sandbags and a nice comfy Anderson shelter. Last year I hosted a short, informal and good-natured television discussion on the subject. Long-range shellfire from north of the border is still incoming: enraged, explosive tweets, quite a few personally threatening in tone (which oddly always makes me feel rather embarrassed for the perpetrators).

But as arguments intensify ahead of the September referendum I find myself more and more drawn to the secessionists’ case. Not I assure you because of anything the SNP’s Alex Salmond has to say.

His refusal to engage seriously with specific, independent warnings of sink-holes ahead, be they in the post-independent Scottish economy or the fledgling country’s new relationship with Europe, is the most shameless It’ll Be All Right On The Night strategy I can remember witnessing in British politics. Even Michael Foot’s bonkers, closed eyes, crossed-fingers pleading for unilateral nuclear disarmament doesn’t come close to it.

No, it’s the growing appetite for independence among ordinary Scottish people that I find increasingly persuasive. Vox populi and all that. If you strip away all the pros and cons, all the Westminster stick-waving (Osborne, Balls and little Danny Alexander miscalculated the tone spectacularly in their dire warnings that to leave the Union means leaving the pound: talk about an iron fist in an iron glove) you are left with something immensely more powerful and timeless than economic or political diatribe. A national mood.

Read the rest of Richard's Daily Express column here

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