Nothing has changed as a result of today’s White Paper. There is nothing that we found out today that we didn’t already know. Yesterday Alex Salmond’s case for breaking up the UK was based on assertions. Today it is still based on assertions.
The simple fact is that the nationalists have ducked the opportunity to answer any of the big questions about our country’s future. They promised us facts. What they have given us is a wish list with no prices attached.
If this White Paper was going to be credible, it had to address the fundamental issues that people are concerned about. They didn’t. We still don’t know what currency we use if we vote to go it alone. We don’t know who would set our mortgage rates. We don’t know by how much taxes would have to go up. We don’t know how secure our pensions and benefits would be in an independent Scotland.
What we heard today were endless assertions from Alex Salmond that if we vote for independence then he would get us everything we want from every negotiation he entered into. Every country, every organisation and every institution would simply roll over and accede to Salmond’s demands. It is nonsense.
They told us today that childcare was at the heart of their plans. However, they do not need independence to change childcare in Scotland. When pressed on this policy at their launch, the Deputy First Minister said something utterly astonishing. She said that the Scottish Government did not want to improve childcare now, that they didn’t want women to be able to go back to work now, because it would mean that the tax they would then pay would go to the UK Treasury.
This beggars belief. The Treasury is our treasury. It is not a body in some foreign country. The money that it raises is spent right across the entire United Kingdom. Public spending in Scotland is over £1200 per year higher than it is in the rest of the UK.
With so much uncertainty and unanswered questions about the cost of independence, leaving the UK would be a huge leap in the dark – especially when we know that devolution works for Scotland. We can have the best of both worlds – a strong Scottish Parliament with the strength and opportunity of being part of a bigger United Kingdom.
Alistair Darling is leader of the Better Together campaign and former Chancellor of the Exchequer.