Salmond sets out vision for Scotland

The Scottish independence debate has reached a historic milestone with the publishing of the Yes campaign's manifesto. Matthew Partridge reports.

Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has launched his manifesto for an independent Scotland, in the form of a 670-page White Paper. "Short of Braveheart-like passages", says the Financial Times, this is "a highly detailed technocratic treatise designed to reassure the fearful".

The main message is that "whatever the result of next September's referendum, much will remain the same north of the border". Scotland will keep both the monarchy and the pound, while there are a few "fiscal goodies" on top, in the form of post-independence business tax cuts and increased spending.

This paper is "a milestone in the referendum debate", says The Scotsman. Salmond and the other authors "are to be commended for their diligence". It provides "answers aplenty for those with questions about independence". "Every pub in Scotland should have a copy, for the judicious ending of saloon bar arguments between now and polling day."

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While there are questions about some of its assumptions, the paper "is a gauntlet thrown down to the parties in the Better Together campaign, and to ministers in the United Kingdom government".

Rubbish, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. The economic model outlined is "heavy on optimism, if not fantasy". As well as ignoring the fiscal impact of the ending of transfers from the rest of the UK, Salmond unwisely promises "crude budgetary give-aways".

Combined with a common currency and shared pension liabilities, this independence blueprint is "a recipe for Greek-style disaster", with "brief euphoria followed by budgetary crisis, retrenchment and austerity" and a "slow and painful" subsequent recovery.

Whatever the document says about the future, writes Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph, disentangling the two nations will be "hellish and self-flayingly painful". They are woven together by "a cat's cradle of intricate legal and political ties".

To set up post-independence arrangements, Holyrood will require the cooperation of a number of institutions, from the Bank of England to Britain's diplomatic corps, none of which have any incentive to make things easy for Scotland.

This creates "endless opportunities for confusion and bickering" by both sides. Overall, it is clear that "divorce will diminish us both".

This may be true, says The Spectator's Alex Massie. But whatever the strengths and flaws of the blueprint, the very act of publishing it means that "an idea once unthinkable is utterly thinkable".

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon have made independence look more like "a sober, sensible calculation of the national interest", rather than "a romantic romp in the heather".

While voters may decide that, "the SNP's vision is too good to be entirely credible", the fact is that, "this is a long, long game and it may not be settled even by a No' vote next September".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri