Independence: Yes campaign to begin in May

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By a Newsnet reporter

Speaking to the BBC Sunday Politics show, First Minister Alex Salmond has announced that the pro-independence campaign will begin officially in May.

Mr Salmond told the Andrew Neil of the BBC that he wanted a long campaign because he was confident of the case for independence and confident that Scots would vote yes.

By a Newsnet reporter

Speaking to the BBC Sunday Politics show, First Minister Alex Salmond has announced that the pro-independence campaign will begin officially in May.

Mr Salmond told the Andrew Neil of the BBC that he wanted a long campaign because he was confident of the case for independence and confident that Scots would vote yes.

Mr Salmond said that the anti-independence parties were incapable of agreeing on anything except a no to independence and, as things stood, were not fit to argue their case.  With the anti-independence camp mired in disagreements and incoherence, Scots, he said, could not be certain what they would be voting for if Scotland remained under Westminster rule.  

In contrast, Mr Salmond said that the Scottish Government would fully answer people’s questions about what independence would mean for Scotland.  The two year campaign period would give the people of Scotland enough time to discuss the most important political decision they have been faced with in the 300 years of Union. 

This, argued the First Minister, would allow for full discussion and debate, unlike the proposals of the anti-independence parties who want to bounce Scotland into a rushed referendum.

The First Minister said: “The people who seem to argue for a no seem to be in no fit position to argue their case. They don’t even know what their case is.

“I think it is important when we come to the referendum in 2014 people will have an exact proposition on independence, which I pledge to give.  All of the questions (will be) answered to people’s satisfaction.

“So confident are we about winning the referendum, that shortly after the local elections in Scotland in May and the final position on the Scottish government’s consultation – which I think is 11 May – then the yes campaign will be launched.”

The First Minister told the BBC that the campaign would be broad based and would not solely involve the SNP, saying: “It will be a broad-based campaign with civic Scotland, with the job creators of Scotland, with the unions of Scotland, a variety of people coming together to annunciate the case for independence.

“And that positive approach is going to contrast very markedly with our opponents who are united only in their negativity.”

When pressed by Andrew Neil about the economic feasibility of independence and whether Scotland would keep the pound as its currency, Mr Salmond replied that the Scottish Government would promote a new “sterling area”. 

The proposal would involve a stability pact, which meant there would be limits on government borrowing.  Holyrood and Westminster would be able to negotiate and agree on the best economic strategy for both Scotland and the remainder of the UK.

He explained that while he had previously supported Scotland joining the euro, “the facts have changed, so my view has changed.”  Mr Salmond said that a new monetary sterling union would work efficiently because the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK were already closely aligned, unlike the economies of some countries within the eurozone.

Mr Salmond added: “Your fiscal room for manoeuvre is limited in the modern world anyway.

“Let’s say your stability pact said over the long term your borrowing should not exceed 3% of GDP.  I would argue that is no more than the fiscal discipline a sensible country would have in any case.

“There would have to be a stability pact which would have criteria on what they could borrow.”

Mr Salmond also stressed that Scotland would be a successor state to the European Union equally with the rest of the UK, and would not have to apply for membership as an external candidate.  As an existing EU member, Scotland already meets the membership criteria of the EU. 

He added that statements from the Scottish Government on the issue were consistent with legal advice, but added that it was not the practice of any government, including the Westminster government, to release the legal advice they had received from their law officers.