The First Minister of Scotland said to reporters last year that “nations are nations if they feel themselves to be nations, and Scotland overwhelmingly feels itself to be a nation”. If you take away the fluffy dialogue that is begging to be used as a soundbite, this quote distributes a simple claim from Alex Salmond; the Scottish people want independence.
He made this declaration after the Scottish National Party won an outright majority in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections last May. Although its overall victory of nine seats may have been slight, the SNP deduced from it that the people of Scotland had finally come around to its core policy.
Gaining a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament is not to be sniffed at. Due to the complexity of the political system that elects MSPs to Holyrood, it was the first time this happened since powers were first devolved to Scotland in 1999. The system was made to be complex to prevent 2011’s result from occurring.
The unprecedented- and unexpected- win last year by Salmond means he can plough forward towards the aim he has sought after for decades. After all the dreaming, he now only has a single hoop to jump through before he can grant his nation independence. He must go to his people and ask them if they back his life-long ambition.
If you speak to most SNP members, they will probably assure you that jumping through this hoop will be an easy task. If you speak to Alex Salmond, he will probably assure you the task will be so tediously easy that he can pick up the hoop and spin it round his waist whilst writing a new Scottish national anthem.
He isn’t speaking of “whether” a landslide referendum result will trigger a new, self-governing state; he is speaking of “when” this will happen. Opinion polls are not parallel with his confidence. Earlier this month, a survey by Panelbase for The Sunday Times revealed only 37% of the Scottish electorate is in favour of outright independence. Yet, on the surface, Alex Salmond seems certain that these figures are erroneous.
Etch away his exterior certainty, though, and a blatant question is revealed. If the Scottish First Minister is so sure that his people are so keen for outright independence, why is he attempting to set up a fall back? He claims Scotland definitely wants all the powers of Westminster to be transferred to Holyrood, but plans on asking his country whether it just wants a few instead.
One word manages to send shivers down the spines of Westminster workers on an almost-daily basis nowadays, whilst simultaneously sounding like a name for a carbonated drink. DevoMax is the hazy grey area between two black and white options. If Alex Salmond was actually sure he could drive his country from one end of the road to another, he wouldn’t be trying to build a pit-stop halfway.
DevoMax is the trendy, abbreviated term for full, fiscal autonomy. Other names for it include “independence lite” and “independence-minus”. It would effectively see Scotland take full control of its finances, without gaining official status as a single sovereign state. It is precisely the same dream the SNP has been fixated on since its establishment, but it has been watered down.
Anyone able to join dots together in a kids’ magazine would question the reasoning for this diluted proposal. A large majority of the Scottish electorate is apprehensive about full independence, and transferral of power on a smaller scale would undoubtedly be easier to digest.
Salmond is hedging his bets. I doubt I am the first, and I am certain I won’t be the last, to draw these conclusions. Many people might disagree with my somewhat cynical stance when approach Mr Salmond’s referendum plans. I am merely voicing confusion at the contradictory behaviour of those at the helm of the Scottish independence campaign.
When he talks the talk, you are forgiven for thinking the breaking of the Union is a foregone conclusion. Yet, when he walks the walk, the so-called “brave heart” seems considerably more fearful.