Scotland politics

Former Salmond adviser says current case for Scots independence 'is dead'

Alex Bell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alex Bell argued the SNP's "Yes" model was "broken beyond repair"

A one-time adviser to former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has written an online blog saying the current case for an independent Scotland "is dead".

Alex Bell, who was Mr Salmond's head of policy for three years, believed the SNP's model was "broken beyond repair".

The party hit back by pointing to opinion polls suggesting growing support for independence.

However, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the Rattle.Scot article was a "powerful condemnation".

Mr Bell claimed the economic case presented during the referendum - which took place on 18 September last year - was based on wishful thinking.

He suggested the current SNP leadership knew this but continued to lead a "morally dubious" government which opposed Tory cuts without any credible alternative.

In response, the SNP said its continuing case for "self-government for Scotland" was being backed by a growing number of Scots who were angry that the UK government "has not delivered on their vow of more powers".

The people of Scotland voted against Scottish independence by 55% to 45%.

Writing on current affairs blog Rattle.Scot, Mr Bell said: "The SNP's model of independence is broken beyond repair. The party should either build a new one or stop offering it as an alternative to Tory cuts.

"The campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death.

"The idea that you could have a Scotland with high public spending, low taxes, a stable economy and reasonable government debt was wishful a year ago - now it is deluded."

It is "debatable" whether a separate Scotland could maintain British levels of spending, he added.

Mr Bell suggested Scotland's long-serving Finance Secretary John Swinney would be "unfit for the job" if he does not understand these obstacles "so we must assume these bright people know that the old model, once optimistic, is now dead".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The people of Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45%

Mr Bell went on: "The fact is a gap exists - Scotland does not earn enough to pay for its current level of spending. Once you accept that, you acknowledge that the SNP's model is broken."

He added:

  • Scotland would have to tax or cut to bridge the gap
  • pay the substantial independence transition costs
  • meet its additional anti-austerity spending pledges
  • borrowing would be complicated by the higher interest rates and low market confidence afforded to new states

Mr Bell said that it was "reasonable to assume that all these obstacles can be overcome, but it is stupid to deny they exist".

The SNP spokesman said: "In the year since the referendum, every opinion poll conducted on the matter has shown an increase in support for independence, with some putting Yes ahead.

"This is due to the widespread anger that the UK government has not delivered on their vow of more powers for Scotland - but also because the SNP continues to make the case for self-government for Scotland, and demonstrate a strong track record in office."

'Propaganda machine'

Scottish Labour's Jackie Baillie said the "extraordinary intervention" came from a man who was "at the heart of the SNP's campaign for separation".

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said the online piece was confirmation that the "SNP is merely a propaganda machine which hopes it can trick people into thinking it is a competent government".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Immoral fools with no credible alternative is a powerful condemnation from someone who knows the SNP leadership well."