Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Not a bad day for the SNP government, not at all

Please don't anyone think that this was a bad day for the SNP government.

The resignation of two MSPs over NATO, the admission that thousands has been wasted on hiding non-existent advice on EU membership, the revelation that the second querstion consultation came out two to one - it does all amount to a "Meltdown Tuesday" in headlines.

But all this damage has been self-inflicted, no one laid a finger on the SNP today, although Labour MEP Catherine Stiler can crack open a bottle of something bubbly for asking the EU question in the first place. No, for the opposition today was  mostly a case of go for lunch and watch it all disintegrate.

Wait until the scrutiny really starts, wait until the concentrated firepower of every other party and every pro-UK politician and policymaker comes to bear on the case for independence in 2014.

There will be a lot worse days than this to come, when Ministers will have to start making a watertight case for independence or fold like cardboard coffee cups.

I was taken aback at how flimsy the economic argument for the £500 "independence dividend" was at last weekend's conference (and how senior party figures would rather run a mile than spend time discussing it). The figures were dismantled in a few minutes by the opposition, and even by more experienced journalists weary of their repetition.

But now Salmond's assertion that Scotland would be a full member of the EU, outwith the Euro currency and without Schengen border controls, has been fatally undermined. He doesn't know, he has no advice to back up his claims. So what about his claims on defence, on the Bank of England, and on every other worry he needs to ease before convincing a majority they'd be better off going it alone?

Propaganda has its place, both sides will employ stats to suit their purposes, but you can't make up policy  on something as important as the European Union on the back of an envelope and then hope you can bluster through to win the day.

We deserve better than this. If something stunning doesn't come out of the Scottish Government White Paper on independence next year (why do we have to wait that long?) then today will not be seen as bad day at all for the SNP government, not by a long chalk.

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