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Learning English - Words in the News
15 August, 2007 - Published 13:43 GMT
SNP advocates independent Scotland
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader

Scotland's National Party, the SNP, has set out plans for a referendum on independence from Britain. Sixty percent of Scotland's parliamentarians, though, oppose independence. This report from Jon Devitt:

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The leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, has long advocated independence but is also realistic. He holds the reins of power as First Minister in the Scottish parliament, but his party does not have a majority. So he can use his position to advocate major constitutional changes in the knowledge that the most radical proposals won't be accepted. Mr Salmond's strategy is to start, what he calls, a 'national conversation'.

SALMOND: 'Divergent views are the very essence of democracy; robust debate is part of what makes us Scottish. The exchanges, the premises and the debate must be passionate - how else could it be in Scotland? But let these contributions be based on fact, reason, logic, rather than smears, allegations or misinformation. Scotland deserves no less.'

From Mr Salmond's point of view this strategy rather neatly provides his opponents with a dilemma. The three main opposition parties all oppose independence, but they don't want to boycott a debate and there is support for some of the plans to increase the powers of the Scottish parliament which would form part of the discussions. Also, some of the SNP's opponents favour holding a referendum now when the opinion polls suggest support for independence is between thirty and forty per cent. A defeat for independence, they argue, would kill off the debate for a generation.

Jon Devitt, BBC

Listen to the words

has long advocated
has publicly argued for something or supported an idea for a long period of time

holds the reins of power
is very powerful

Divergent views
different opinions or points of view

central characteristic

robust debate
full and frank discussions

fact, reason, logic
statements that can be proved to be true

things said in public which are meant to hurt people or harm their reputations or which aren't true

when you have a difficult choice to make between two different things

to boycott
to agree to not do something (usually to show that you disagree with a rule, law or policy)

a referendum
a vote on a single issue, rather than a vote for a particular politician or party

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