Can Salmond salvage anything from a doomed referendum?
Last week, the First Minister of Scotland – Alex Salmond – spoke at an event hosted by the Queen in the Scottish capital, spouting his admiration for the monarchy.
It is no secret of course, that Salmond wishes to keep the constitutional monarchy in any vision of an independent Scotland, and has made that clear in recent times. He also rather shockingly says that the Queen ‘would not be bothered’ about Scotland’s independence, as long as it was clear that the people were happy with it. I can’t help but feel that Her Majesty will be furious that this man and his SNP cronies are crusading to destroy the union and everything it has stood for more than 300 years. As she so eloquently mentioned in her silver jubilee speech all them years ago;
“But I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of this United Kingdom.”
Of course the Queen will, as ever, remain silent and a-political on the matter as the referendum approaches. But, as many royal analysts and journalists have stated in recent months and years, the separation of the union would secretly be extremely upsetting to her.
However, what relevance does this have? Well, the SNP have performed a colossal U-turn on this issue. Several years ago, when independence was only a small and distant prospect, they officially proposed a directly elected president. Now that a referendum looms large – and support for independence in the polls is waining – this is yet another ‘safe’ option for Salmond. It is nothing but political opportunism. He knows that people in his country want more powers, and a degree of independence, but many see it as a risk and don’t want to lose all of the benefits that the union brings.
By pledging to keep the monarchy, he is simply encouraging them marginal voters to go for independence. This, coupled with the ludicrous idea that he wants to keep the British Pound, proves that he is just trying to salvage as much support as possible, in a referendum that is doomed to fail for him. How can you have a currency union without the approval of all countries and of course the central bank? Would the Bank of England still be the bastion of the Scottish economy? Would the treasury bail out Scottish banks?
This is exactly the reason that Salmond has proposed ‘Devolution Max’ – full fiscal autonomy – as a third ‘option’ on referendum ballot papers. Although the inclusion of this option would almost certainly rule out the prospect of a ‘yes’ vote for independence, he knows full well that Devo-Max would be overwhelmingly popular, and would be at least better than the current situation for Scotland, even if not his complete dream of independence.
And so I fear that his proposals to keep the Queen (and the Pound) are merely there to calm Scots down, to encourage them to vote for independence, and to reassure them that independence won’t lead to a too-big, risky change to the status of Scotland.