Scottish independence: Salmond ‘let’s do this’

Alex Salmond pictured at Edinburgh Airport this week. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Alex Salmond pictured at Edinburgh Airport this week. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

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ALEX Salmond today issued a direct appeal to voters on the eve of “the greatest, most empowering moment any of us will ever have”.

The First Minister urged people to “take a step back from the arguments of politicians and the blizzard of statistics” in the final hours before the referendum.

He acknowledged that for every expert on one side, there was an expert on the other, but said the talking was nearly done.

He continued: “The campaigns will have had their say. What’s left is just us – the people who live and work here. The only people with a vote. The people who matter. The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands.

“It’s the greatest, most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.”

He said a Yes vote meant accepting a responsibility to work together “to make Scotland the nation it can be”.

And he urged: “Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country. Wake up knowing you did this – you made it happen. “

But former prime minister Gordon Brown, who has been leading the No campaign’s promotion of extra powers for Holyrood, predicted a vote to stay in the Union.

He said: “I think people are going to come to the conclusion that the change they really want is to have a Scottish Parliament as part of the UK, not the change that the SNP want, which is the chaos of a separate state.”

The three main UK party leaders yesterday signed a pledge of “extensive new 
powers” for the Scottish Parliament if there is a No vote.

Mr Salmond dismissed the Westminster pledge as a “last-minute desperate offer of 
nothing”.

And now David Cameron faces a backlash from Tory MPs.

Christchurch MP Christopher Chope said he would vote against a “devo max” package in Westminster unless there was a wider examination of the balance of powers within the UK as a whole.

He said: “I certainly think that people in Scotland should recognise that this is a ‘pledge’ by party leaders, but that is not a guarantee that that would be implemented in the United Kingdom parliament.”

Fellow Tory John Redwood demanded an “honest” and “more grown up” constitutional settlement if Scotland votes to stay in the UK.

“If Scotland is going to decide some tax rates as well as spending for itself, so should England. What is good enough for Scotland is good enough for England,” he said.

“It must mean the end of Scottish MPs voting on English schools or English hospitals whilst being unable to do the same for their own.

“There must be no question of Scotland setting her own income rate and then sending MPs to Westminster to help set ours.”

And Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, said more fiscal autonomy should mean Scottish MPs are barred from becoming chancellor.

“We could never have a Scottish UK chancellor setting English taxes in England at the annual budget but not in his or her own constituency. So parliament will have to consider how to establish an English executive, with an English first minister and finance minister,” he said.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson claimed the Tory revolt exposed “the utter deceit at the heart of the No campaign that additional powers would follow a No”.

He said: “Tory MPs are promising a ‘bloodbath’, and are itching to slash Scottish spending.”

A poll has found almost two-thirds of adults in England and Wales want to see Scotland remain part of the UK.

In the TNS survey, 63 per cent said Scotland should not be an independent country, with 18 per cent in favour of independence and 19 per cent unsure.

Meanwhile, banking giant UBS claimed anything other than a decisive No vote in the Scottish referendum risked an economic slump.

A narrow victory for the No campaign could still lead to a downturn as uncertain investors may be spooked by the possibility of another referendum in the near future, the bank said.

But days after Deutsche Bank claimed a vote for independence would plunge Scotland into a 1930s-style depression, rival German financial giant Commerzbank said such speculation has been 
overdone.

One of the bank’s economists, Peter Dixon, said: “Whilst the Scottish independence vote has raged, I am struck by just how little the markets have actually moved so far.”

He added: “Whilst we believe that the economic case set out by the Nationalists is way too light on detail, it is also hard to avoid the view that some of the worst case scenarios set out in recent days are also overdoing the gloom.”

He said Scottish shares had actually outperformed those of the UK as a whole this year, rather than registered any major collapse.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com