THE SNP is starting to win the argument over independence because it is governing well, an SNP minister claimed yesterday.
Mike Russell, the environment minister, was responding to a poll that showed greater backing for independence than for the Union.
The TNS System Three opinion poll found 41 per cent of Scots wanted the SNP government to negotiate an independence settlement, compared to 40 per cent who are opposed to breaking up the UK. Speaking on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, Mr Russell said more people would come round to independence the longer the SNP was in government in Scotland.
He said: "What we have seen in the last 12 months is a steady swing towards the idea of independence.
But as these figures show, even that 41% is 5 or 6 points less than what the idea of Scottish independence was polling for the 6 months prior to last May’s election (when perversely the rise in the SNP vote was accompanied by a fall in those favouring secession).
Which leads onto Salmond’s, conveniently-timed article in the Sunday Times yesterday where he was asked to outline the benefits of independence for Scotland.
Stripping away the flowery rhetoric and the irrelevant political attacks on Labour, we’re left with:
1.It is by becoming independent that nations can maximise their influence in our interdependent world.
For Scotland, independence would give us a voice and votes in the European Union, where we have many vital interests at stake
It is by no means certain that an independent Scotland would gain automatic entry to the EU, but if it did- with similar sized populations, it would exert roughly the same influence as Slovakia and the Baltic countries and with such a weak presence, would those "vital interests" be better or worse defended than they are now presently in a European Union which is increasingly following policies on regional rather than national basis anyway?
2....also enable us to act on our instincts for internationalism, emulating the success of other small countries, such as Ireland and the Scandinavian nations.
On many issues, such as tackling climate change, developing renewable technology, or ridding our planet of weapons of mass destruction, it is very clear that the Scottish contribution would be more progressive than the response of governments in London, past and present.
Those "instincts for internationalism" mean what exactly? Getting plaudits off the Iranian mullahs? What has the Republic of Ireland actually achieved in the way of climate change? What progress has Denmark made in ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction? In contrast, the UK is a major player on the world stage, a player who's listened to and so, a player who potentially can achieve real results in such areas.
3.When Gordon Brown implies that issues such as avian flu or foot and mouth are capable of only a British solution, the subtext is that he wants to take powers back from Scotland to London as part of the constitutional commission, or review, or working party - a scheme over which Downing Street has clearly asserted total control.
Salmond isn't arguing here surely that Avian flu and foot and mouth respect land borders? Whatever his subliminal motivations, Brown is right on this- such issues are capable only of a British solution.
4.Westminster's unreasonable behaviour now encompasses threatening to withhold council tax benefit, trying to block local income tax, refusing to apply Barnett consequentials properly to prison spending and Olympic regeneration funding in London, and demanding payment from Tayside and Fife constabularies for security at the G8 and St Andrews summits.
OK, finally, the financial argument. Interesting though, that Salmond has concentrated on the negatives of the present situation instead of presenting the economic positives of independence- which are what exactly?
Less income tax? Better pensions? Improved health provision? Alex's strangely silent on those type of questions.
5.Independence also means the maintenance of the social union between Scotland and England, and the other nations of these islands, based on a 21st-century relationship of equality.
The SNP's commitment to the Queen remaining as our shared head of state - just as she is head of state of 15 other Commonwealth countries - symbolises that social union between our nations.
So he’s arguing that separation, with its inevitable bitterness and heartbreak, would actually strengthen the bonds which already exist between the countries of the UK? The SNP's commitment to the Queen remaining as head of Scotland, whilst an intriguing policy for a Celtic nationalist party to hold, would be of little relevance and help in such a scenario.
If you'd like to ask Alex Salmond personally his answer to any of these questions, BBC Scotland is offering you the opportunity here.