Scotland to become a ‘wind farm landscape’, warn planners

Scotland to become a ‘wind farm landscape’, warn planners

Scotland’s countryside will become a “wind farm landscape” as hundreds more turbines are built to meet the SNP’s radical green energy targets, the country’s most senior planning officials have warned.

In an extraordinary intervention, Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS) has told MSPs that 10 per cent of Ayrshire, for example, has already been made available for development to renewable power companies.

With “less sensitive sites” reaching saturation point, they predicted public opposition will increase as more planning applications are made to build wind farms on “familiar” and fragile landscapes.

“The cumulative effects of additional wind farms will change an otherwise unaltered local landscape into a ‘wind farm’ landscape,” they concluded.

In its submission to the Holyrood inquiry, Scottish National Heritage (SNH) warned the proposals cannot be achieved without “significant effect” on the country’s natural environment and protection for species like the golden eagle.

Should all the pending planning applications be approved, it said the effect would be to “considerably extend” the visibility of wind farms across Scotland’s countryside by narrowing the “gaps” between separate developments.

The analysis by SNH and senior council planners, who are responsible for handling the majority of applications, provides the most comprehensive insight yet into the impact of SNP’s plan for a green energy revolution.

They were published as it was confirmed Donald Trump will give evidence next month to the inquiry after promising to spend £10 million on campaign wind farms, which he said are destroying the landscape.
More on Donald Trump and wind farms
Alex Salmond has set a target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity requirements from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

Although there has been a rapid expansion in recent years – Fife Council has reported a 100-fold increase in renewable planning applications since 2004 – many rural communities are becoming increasing hostile to further development.

HoPS told the Scottish Parliament inquiry that growing opposition to wind farms “cannot be discounted simply in the national interest” of meeting the SNP targets.

“Large areas of Scotland are now subject to wind farm development visible from many vantage points over extensive distances,” the planning chiefs said in a written submission prior to giving oral evidence tomorrow (weds).

“As consented schemes are completed on less sensitive sites, it is clear that there will be an increasing scale of public concern being voiced as familiar and more sensitive landscapes may be altered by emerging development pressures.”

The planning chiefs said an increasing number of applications that appear on their desks are for “highly sensitive areas” or sites where there would be an “unacceptable” environmental impact.

Although some rural areas like national parks have extra protection from development, the planning chiefs said this does not apply to local beauty spots or “non-designated countryside”.

Single turbines or smaller clusters can cause “disproportionate” damage to the landscape compared to the power they generate, the officials warned.

However, local authorities are being “proactive” in finding local land on which wind farms can be built, with Ayrshire allocating the “equivalent to 10 per cent of the landward area.”

SNH, a quango that looks after Scotland’s natural environment, warned approving all the applications in the system would result in a “very significant change to both the diversity and distinctiveness of our landscapes.”

Although the SNP’s targets are technically feasible, its submission to the inquiry said approving all the current applications “would result in a reduction of some of the ‘gaps’ between current wind farm(s).”

“There can be no doubt that achieving 100 per cent will have some significant effects on our nature and landscapes,” it said, before recommending that further development is limited in some areas.

The quango warned councils are struggling to meet the demands placed on them by having to consider hundreds of extra renewable power applications and particularly their duty to draw up “spatial plans”.

These are supposed to be used to identify areas suitable for development, but SNH said there is “limited evidence” green energy companies refer to them before submitting a planning application.

It was confirmed yesterday that Mr Trump will give evidence to the inquiry, conducted by Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee, on April 25.

The US tycoon has been a vocal opponent of plans for a wind farm off the coast of this £750 million golf resort in Aberdeenshire and warned Mr Salmond he risks becoming known as “Mad Alex – the man who destroyed Scotland.”

A Scottish Executive spokesman said wind farms are only built where their impact is “acceptable” and unsuitable applications are rejected.

By , Scottish Political Editor The Telegraph

20 Mar 2012

Energy companies deliver independent Scotland power bill warning

Energy companies deliver independent Scotland power bill warning

Scottish households could be left with higher power bills after independence to fund subsidies for wind and wave farms, the country’s major energy companies and the Government have indicated.

The major energy companies have questioned how Scottish households could afford to subsidise green energy projects after separation

The major energy companies have questioned how Scottish households could afford to subsidise green energy projects after separation Photo: Alamy

The Association of Energy Producers, which includes five of the so-called ‘Big Six’ power firms, questioned whether Scottish consumers alone could afford to continue supporting renewable power schemes north of the Border.

Meanwhile, the UK Government announced it will review the current regime of subsidies if Scotland votes for separation and challenged Alex Salmond to spell out how he would meet this cost following independence.

The First Minister’s plan for a massive expansion of green power projects relies on households in the remainder of the UK continuing to subsidise the schemes after separation as part of a single energy market.

But the power companies raised doubts over whether the English and Welsh “would be prepared to meet the additional costs of such policies”, potentially leaving Scottish consumers to meet the entire cost.

According to calculations by one of the world’s largest energy consultants, the annual subsidy for Scottish projects will increase to £2 billion by the end of the decade, adding £194 to the average power bill.

The association also confirmed the independence referendum is causing economic uncertainty for investors, a situation it said will continue until the ballot is staged and details of Scotland’s energy market finalised.

In separate submissions to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, E. ON voiced fears over a separate Scotland joining the euro and the National Grid warned separation could create a “hiatus” in green energy projects.

The subsidy is currently added to all UK household power bills and the energy producers said a “key consideration” for investors is how this cost will be met following separation.

“While over a third of the financial support paid to renewables in the UK goes to projects in Scotland, only a tenth of the households in the UK are located in Scotland,” they said.

“This raises concerns about how the costs of support for renewables in Scotland would be recovered and met if Scotland was no longer part of the UK.”

The organisation suggested adopting a regime whereby households on both sides of the Border continue to share the “costs and benefits” of supporting green energy.

However, it said “difficulties” could arise over “the extent to which consumers would be prepared to meet the additional costs of such policies in the other country.” It questioned whether this arrangement was “desirable or practical”.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change confirmed Scottish separation would prompt a review of the current green energy subsidy regime and “energy prices and bills could be affected” north of the Border.

“There are concerns about how Scotland separated from the rest of the UK could afford the investment needed to support the level of deployment required to meet its very ambitious renewable targets, particularly if paid through a Scottish consumer base, but these are questions that the Scottish government needs to respond to,” its submission said.

SSE, formerly Scottish and Southern Energy, has already said the referendum is affecting its investment plans by creating “additional” risk. This placed pressure on Mr Salmond to bring forward his autumn 2014 timescale.

The producers’ association, which has just been rebranded Energy UK, also includes British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power and E. ON, delivered a similar warning.

“This uncertainty will last until the independence referendum and, in case of a vote in favour of change, until the details of the electricity market following independence have been finalised,” the energy producers said.

But a Scottish Executive spokesman dismissed the warnings. He said: “Scotland produces the cheapest renewable energy in these islands, and the reality is that the rest of the UK not only needs Scotland’s electricity to meet its own renewables targets but also to help keep the lights on south of the Border.”

By , Scottish Political Editor The Telegraph

12 Apr 2012

SNP ‘considers Nato policy change’

SNP ‘considers Nato policy change’

British troops serving with Nato in Afghanistan
The SNP has been opposed to Nato membership for more than 30 years

The SNP leadership is considering proposing a change to the party’s policy on Nato, BBC Scotland understands.

The party has been opposed to membership of the military alliance for more than 30 years.

But the next meeting of its National Council in June is expected to discuss whether an independent Scotland should remain in Nato.

The SNP would maintain its commitment to ditching nuclear weapons.

On Monday, the UK will conduct a military exercise with Nato allies off the west coast of Scotland.

Whether Scottish forces would continue to take part in such manoeuvres after independence now appears to be a live issue within the party.

Professor James Mitchell of Strathclyde University said his research suggested any proposal to remain part of Nato would get a fair hearing from the SNP membership.

He said: “The majority of members would support Scottish membership of Nato, but it has to be said that it is a bare majority and the strength of feeling on this is not great.

“In other words very few of the SNP’s members feel that this is a matter of great urgency and great importance”.

“If this in any way compromised the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance it wouldn’t even be countenanced”

Ewan Crawford Former SNP advisor

In a Holyrood motion to mark the 60th anniversary of the alliance, Nationalist MSP Jamie Hepburn said Nato was a destabilising factor in the West’s relationship with Russia, that it relied on the continued use of nuclear weapons, and that it serves no useful purpose in the modern world.

Two government ministers – Angela Constance and Aileen Campbell – were among those who supported the motion.

But the SNP provost of Stirling, Fergus Wood, wrote a letter to a national newspaper earlier this week in which he said he supported an independent Scotland retaining its Nato membership.

Ewan Crawford, a former special advisor to the SNP leadership, said a proposal to change the party’s policy on Nato was likely to be looked on more favourably by members than anything that would threaten its staunch anti-nuclear stance, which he said was “part of the SNP’s DNA”.

He told BBC Scotland: “Even although clearly this is a discussion that the leadership is having, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if this in any way compromised the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance it wouldn’t even be countenanced.

“The other point of course is that although the SNP is hostile to nuclear weapons, it wants to be international, it wants to join things.

“Therefore if they can join international communities, if they can engage in international cooperation without doing anything to overturn the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance, then clearly that’s something they are at the very least going to consider”.

The SNP currently advocates Scotland becoming a member of Partnership for Peace, like Sweden, Austria, Finland and Ireland, which allows bilateral cooperation between Nato and non-Nato countries.

The party’s policies are reviewed four times a year, with members proposing motions for debate. It is understood that no motion relating to Nato membership has yet been submitted.

An SNP spokesman said: “Anything that may happen in the future is mere speculation.

“If a motion is submitted it will be considered by the party’s Standing Orders and Agenda Committee who will decide if it goes forward for debate. This reflects the democratic processes at the heart of the SNP.”

Source:SNP considers NATO policy change 15th April 2012

Twelve unresolved questions on Scottish independence

Twelve unresolved questions on Scottish independence
By Andrew Black Political reporter, BBC Scotland
Unresolved questions There are many unresolved questions – from getting rid of Trident to what currency Scotland would use

As the country begins gearing up for a Scottish independence referendum, debate surrounding how Scotland would go forward alone has been heating up.

But what would happen with defence, economic policy and other areas, should independence happen?

Can you think of other key questions which need answering? Let us know by sending your suggestions to newsonlinescotland@bbc.co.uk and putting “independence questions” in the message field.

(Thanks for your suggestions so far, keep them coming in)

1) What would happen with Trident if Scotland dispenses with a nuclear deterrent?

Britain’s nuclear weapons system, made up of four submarines and based at the Faslane naval base, is strongly opposed by the Scottish government.

Westminster ministers have committed to replacing Trident – however, if Scotland became independent, the SNP would seek to see the removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

The timescale for such a move is unknown, and would involve having to search for a suitable, alternative location for the nuclear deterrent.

In addition, UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had said Scotland would need to bear some of the relocation costs.

In response, Alex Salmond has branded him “arrogant” after the UK government, as the first minister puts it, imposed weapons of mass destruction and their associated clean-up costs on Scotland for 50 years.

The other issue is the question of what would happen to staff working at Faslane, an important local employer, should Trident be relocated.

2) What currency would Scotland have?

As a pro-European party, the SNP favours joining the single currency, “when the conditions are right” – remember the former UK government’s five economic tests for signing up?

Current issues in the Eurozone mean one could hazard a guess that the conditions are probably not right at the moment, so, in the meantime, the SNP supports continued use of the pound.

Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling says there is precedent here – Panama uses the Dollar – but he also argues Scotland may essentially find itself in a position where its interest rates, through the Bank of England, are set by a foreign country.

In response, the SNP says the pound is a fully “convertible currency”, namely that it can be bought or sold without government restriction.

3) Who owns North Sea oil/gas and what happens to off-shore wind-power rights?

“It’s Scotland’s oil” is the long-held mantra of the SNP and, while it has sometimes been seen as more of a romantic declaration, expert opinion suggests it would be technically possible to designate Scottish waters as a specific area.

Like many other issues, resolving the issue would take a lot of complex negotiation – but there is a lot more to it than simple geography.

An independent Scotland could expect to have more than 80% of the UK’s oil and gas revenue, subject to negotiation with the Westminster government.

The offshore industry delivers huge sums of tax money to the Treasury – possibly as much as £54bn in the next six years – and wouldn’t be something it would be happy to give up lightly.

At the same time, Alex Salmond knows how much north sea oil could do for the Scottish economy – Norway’s oil-fuelled state pension fund hit the 3 trillion kroner (£324bn) mark in 2010.

Billions of barrels of oil have been pumped from the North Sea since the mid-70s and it is believed between 25 and 30 billion could still be recovered over the next 40 years.

Shetland, site of the strategically vital Sullom Voe terminal, already has its own oil fund.

During the 1970’s, a period of significant oil discoveries in the north sea, the UK government of the day did consider a suggestion to buy the north sea’s major fields from BP.

This was ruled out largely, it is said, because of concerns over state interference.

4) What happens to MPs in Scotland?

It is likely that Scottish MPs, of which there are currently 59, would become a thing of the past.

This is based on the logic that an independent Scotland would recognise Holyrood as its full, national parliament.

5) How much debt would Scotland take on?

There’s little doubt that Scotland would be expected to take on a share of UK national debt – the size of the share and the basis on which it should be calculated is up for discussion.

Alex Salmond would like it to be based either on a share of the UK’s GDP, or population, which could put the figure at some £80bn.

But there are other issues to consider.

The debt could be serviced issuing bonds. An independent Scotland – would need its own credit rating.

SNP ministers say the UK government’s own figures show that Scotland – whose budget is currently funded through a Treasury block grant – had a surplus of £19bn compared to the UK as a whole, between 1980 and 2009.

With no credit history, an independent Scotland may run into problems with the bond markets.

However, the SNP says it’s “entirely confident” Scotland could, taking into account its own assets and resources, secure a top credit rating.

6) Would there be a separate Scottish military?

Yes. Or at least that would be SNP strategy.

Alex Salmond says the make-up of a new “Scottish Defence Force” would comprise one naval base – namely Faslane sans-Trident – one air base and one mobile armed brigade.

It’s thought UK armed forces personnel would be given some kind of option on terms of joining the new service.

Like the Trident issue, this is also the subject of fierce debate, with UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond saying any plans to take British military units into a SDF would be “laughable”.

Mr Salmond said his suggested SDF configuration is based on the outcome of the UK defence review – which seems at odds with his previous campaign to retain all three of Scotland’s air force bases, amid the Westminster cuts.

7) What would happen to the BBC?

The future of the national institution that is the BBC in an independent Scotland is a grey area at the moment.

Taking the two extremes of what could happen – and there’s currently no serious suggestion that they could – BBC Scotland could remain as is, it could be replaced by a new public service broadcaster, or any eventual reforms could be somewhere in-between.

In the context of Scotland as part of the union, the SNP, which has long advocated the devolution of broadcasting powers to Scotland, had previously called for the set up of a new, digital channel.

8) What would happen to Scotland’s membership of the EU, the UN and IMF?

The debate in terms of these kinds of organisations has come down to what an independent Scotland’s starting position would be when it comes to membership talks.

Taking the European Union issue as an example, one school of thought is that an independent Scotland would have to start membership talks as a total outsider.

Indeed, it has also been suggested that what remains of the UK, post-independence, would also have to renegotiate EU membership.

Alex Salmond disagrees, and says Scotland would be able to begin talks on its EU status “from within”.

9) What would happen to Scotland’s membership of Nato?

The SNP supports Scotland’s withdrawal from Nato. However, in an independent Scotland the SNP might not be the party in government, so a Labour, Lib Dem or Tory government might choose to stay in.

10) Would there be border controls between Scotland and the rest of the UK?

There’s currently no suggestion of a closed border between Scotland and England, with associated immigration controls.

11) Would Scottish students be charged EU tuition rates, and vice versa?

The current, devolved Scottish government has taken the decision that no Scottish student studying at home will pay fees, either up-front or post-graduation, while students coming from other parts of the UK will pay charges.

SNP ministers are also currently trying to find a way to end the current position where EU students coming to Scotland have their fees paid.

12) What would happen to the pandas?

Don’t laugh – this has been asked as a serious question.

The two giant pandas resident at Edinburgh Zoo – the first to live in the UK for 17 years – came under an agreement with China.

Regardless of the constitutional path Scotland takes, it’s likely Tian Tian and Yang Guang, would remain under the 10-year agreement with the zoo.

UPDATE:SNP considers NATO policy change 16th July 2012

Source: BBC news item 25th January 2012

SNP considers Nato policy change

SNP considers Nato policy change

British troops serving with Nato in Afghanistan
The SNP has been opposed to Nato membership for more than 30 years

The Scottish National Party will debate reversing its long-standing opposition to membership of Nato at its annual conference in October.

The party, which has a strong anti-nuclear stance, has opposed being part of the military alliance for more than 30 years.

The issue will be put to delegates as part of a blueprint of how defence would look in an independent Scotland.

The SNP says 25 of 28 Nato member countries do not have nuclear weapons.

Should Scotland become independent after the referendum expected in autumn 2014, the SNP said it would remove the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons, based on the Clyde.

It would spend the “resulting savings” on a defence force of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel.

The SNP said that, after independence, Scotland would “inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato)” and would “remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland”.

The SNP currently advocates Scotland becoming a member of Partnership for Peace, like Sweden, Austria, Finland and Ireland, which allows bilateral cooperation between Nato and non-Nato countries.

It is understood the SNP leadership has already been considering changing the party’s policy on Nato.

Source:BBC news item 16th July 2012

Blair Jenkins named Yes Scotland chief

Blair Jenkins named Yes Scotland chief

Blair Jenkins
Blair Jenkins has spent much of his working life in journalism and the media

Former BBC news chief Blair Jenkins is to run the official campaign to gain independence for Scotland.

He has been named chief executive of the Yes Scotland group, ahead of the referendum expected in autumn 2014.

The campaign, Mr Jenkins said, would be run with “discipline and integrity”. He wants the debate to be free from “Punch ‘n’ Judy confrontations”.

The 55-year-old formerly served as head of news and current affairs for both BBC Scotland and STV.

Yes Scotland also announced the former Labour MP and independent MSP Dennis Canavan will chair its advisory board, with its membership and remit due to be announced in the next few days.

The appointment of Mr Jenkins came after the launch of Yes Scotland a few weeks ago.

Mr Jenkins said: “For more than 30 years, my professional life has been about impartial journalism.

“I’m not a member of any party and I’ve never engaged in any form of political activity – but this is just too important.

Who is Blair Jenkins?

Born in Elgin, Moray, and studied at Edinburgh University

1974: Becomes Aberdeen Evening Express trainee journalist

1980: Joins BBC News in London

1986: Moves to Scottish Television, becoming head of news four years later

2000: Appointed head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland

2006: Quits BBC

2008: Chairs Scottish government’s Broadcasting Commission

2010: Chairman of Scottish Digital Network Panel

2012: CEO, Yes Scotland

“This is a once-in-a lifetime campaign for me, personally, and for the people of Scotland.

“They will be asked to make the most important decision for the future of our nation in more than 300 years and I am totally committed to ensuring they have the best possible information to help them make the right choice.”

Mr Jenkins said Yes Scotland, to be headquartered in Glasgow, would be “represented and supported by people from across the political spectrum and none”, and “will not be dominated by party politics”.

He added: “I am determined the Yes campaign will be run with passion, discipline and integrity and our guiding principle will be to provide high quality information to the greatest number of Scots so that they can make an informed choice in 2014.

“Now that both sides have launched their campaigns, I sincerely hope we can have a sensible and mature debate free from Punch ‘n’ Judy confrontations – I want to run a campaign that all of Scotland can be proud of.”

Mr Jenkins, who is also a fellow of the Carnegie UK Trust, a visiting professor of Journalism at Strathclyde University and a governor of Glasgow School of Art, is stepping back from all his other commitments to focus on the Yes Scotland campaign.

The referendum is being held after the SNP’s landslide election win at last year’s Scottish elections.

Mr Canavan added: “I very much look forward to working with Blair Jenkins who has the skills, experience and commitment to meet the challenge ahead.”

Several senior executive positions in the Yes Scotland team are being advertised in the next few weeks.

Scottish Labour welcomed what they called “the first relaunch of the separation campaign”.

Source:BBC news report 15th July 2012

Clash over non-Scots donations

Clash over non-Scots donations

Blair Jenkins
Mr Jenkins made his comments on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme

The head of the official campaign for Scottish independence has challenged the pro-Union camp over their acceptance of donations from people living outside Scotland.

Blair Jenkins was named chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign last week.

He said the campaign would not accept donations of more than £500 from anyone not registered to vote in Scotland.

The pro-Union Better Together campaign said it would “absolutely” accept donations from elsewhere in the UK.

The launch of Yes Scotland was largely funded by £1m donations that were made to the SNP – which is playing a leading role in the campaign – from the late Scottish poet Edwin Morgan and Euromillions lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir.

But Mr Jenkins, a former head of news at BBC Scotland, said he was “absolutely determined” the vast majority of money spent by Yes Scotland would be raised directly by the campaign itself, and that it would be self-financed ahead of the referendum in 2014.

Donation rules

He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “There is evidence to suggest that most people in Scotland do feel quite strongly that the referendum campaign should be determined by the people who live in Scotland and who are going to make this decision.

“So what we said was we will not accept donations above £500 from anyone who was not a voter, who is not on the electoral register in Scotland, and I think that is a very important thing in terms of making sure that it is the people who are taking the decision in Scotland who are contributing to the campaign.

“I hope the No campaign will be as transparent about their funding, and who is backing them, as we intend to be.”

“We will not accept foreign donations but we do not regard the rest of the UK as foreign donations”

Richard Baker MSP
Better Together

His comments came after the SNP repeated its call for the anti-independence campaign to agree to voluntary donation rules ahead of the referendum.

The party released details of a YouGov opinion poll which suggested 53% of people in Scotland believed referendum donations should be controlled in this way, compared to 27% who disagree.

SNP campaign director Angus Robertson said that, until the anti-independence campaign agrees to voluntary rules on transparency, accusations would remain that it is being “flooded with money from outside Scotland”.

Mr Robertson said: “The No campaign is a Tory-led campaign – the last thing that people in Scotland want is for it to also be a Westminster Tory-funded campaign.”

Foreign donations

Scottish Labour MSP Richard Baker, one of the directors of Better Together, said the campaign would “absolutely” accept donations from elsewhere in the UK.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme he said: “What we said was that at the moment, because the SNP haven’t put forward the referendum bill yet, there are no rules yet governing donations.

“We have said that despite that, we will voluntarily abide by the appropriate legislation which is the Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, and that means we will not be accepting foreign donations, and will also be publishing on our website all donations above £7,500.

“So when Blair Jenkins talked about transparency in donations I am happy to agree with him on that and we will maintain the same level of transparency in terms our donations as well.”

He added: “We will not accept foreign donations but we do not regard the rest of the UK as foreign donations. We are fighting to keep the UK together
and 800,000 Scots live and work in the rest of the UK.”

Source:BBC news report 15th July 2012

Politicians clash over referendum question

Politicians clash over referendum question

Brian Taylor hosts a special debate on Scotland’s constitutional future

Figures from Scotland’s main political parties have clashed over the independence referendum during a televised BBC Scotland debate.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran and former Tory leader Annabel Goldie said people should be asked a single question in the 2014 referendum.

Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said that was her preference but there was also support for increased powers.

She denied a second question on the issue would be a “back-up” for the SNP.

The Scottish government says its preference is to ask voters one question on the ballot paper: “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?”

But the government, which is currently considering the responses to its consultation on Scotland’s future, also says there is a degree of public support for more powers short of independence.

Its opponents claim the strategy is a face-saving move for the SNP, if people voted “no” to independence.

Ms Hyslop told The Big Debate: Choosing Scotland’s Future programme, which also included independent MSP Margo MacDonald: “I want to see an independent Scotland.

image of Brian Taylor Analysis Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

It was on the telly – but the Big Debate I hosted this evening on BBC One Scotland bore all the classic characteristics which I have come to recognise and cherish from my weekly wireless outings.

A large, lively audience; an excellent panel; discursive conversation mingled with a rumbustious rammy.

Lots of issues arising: the future of welfare provision, either within the Union or under independence; the economy; a challenge to Labour over their alliance in this cause with the Conservatives; a challenge to the SNP over their strategy.

“I will vote ‘yes’, but I recognise that there are a large number of people in Scotland who might not want to have all those powers, that might want other powers.”

Challenged on the opposition’s claims over SNP backing for a second question, Ms Hyslop responded: “Not at all”.

“I am absolutely confident that we can get a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum in two years time,” adding: “This is about democracy, it’s not about party issues.”

Ms Curran argued: “There is a very distinct difference about how we stay in the partnership and how we develop that relationship and whether or not we leave it.

“If you want to leave it, that’s a very credible argument – put that argument.

“But if you want to stay, then be arguing about how we develop devolution – don’t confuse the two, because they’re very different journeys.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously suggested that more power will be devolved to Holyrood in the event of a vote against independence.

Miss Goldie said: “At the moment we’re in the United Kingdom – the person who wants to change that and have independence is (First Minister) Alex Salmond.

Referendum ‘mess’

“It’s a perfectly fair proposition, I don’t agree with it, but he’s entitled to make that argument.

“He should put that question, because you do need a referendum to go from where we are now to independence – you do not need a referendum to change, develop increase, empower, alter the powers of devolution.”

Ms MacDonald, who supports independence, said the SNP had “made a mess” of introducing the idea of the referendum, because of a lack of information on policies.

“The idea of having two questions addressing quite different constituencies and different jurisdictions – the only one that we can answer of ourself is the independence one,” she said.

She added: “We have now got an English political society that’s alerted to the notion of independence and devolution, and they will want to have a say if further powers are going to be devolved, so I don’t think we can say that they shouldn’t have.”

The politicians were also asked if the fortunes of Scotland’s national football team – which has failed to qualify for the World Cup and the European Championships since devolution in 1999 – might improve under independence.

Ms Hyslop responded: “If devolution hasn’t delivered it, let’s make sure that we can have an opportunity.”

A good team, said Ms Curran, came from hard work and talent, adding: “We don’t need to be independent to do that.”

Hibs fan Ms MacDonald said: “One thing we could do as an independent country, if we wanted to, we could say were going to stage the world or European championships.

“One thing we will not be doing though – if I’ve got anything to do with it – is staging the Olympics.”

Switching the sport to tennis, Miss Goldie said: “The young guy I’m rooting for at the moment is Andy Murray – and he needs our support right now.”

Source:BBC news report 15th July 2012

Experts to compose single question

Scottish independence: Experts to compose single question

Lord Sutherland, Matt Qvortrup and Ron Gould
[From left] Lord Sutherland, Matt Qvortrup and Ron Gould will look at framing a one-question referendum

A panel of experts has been appointed by the pro-union parties in Scotland to compose a single question for the referendum on independence.

The group includes academics Dr Matt Qvortrup and Lord Sutherland, along with elections expert Ron Gould.

They will draw up a question which will be submitted for testing to the Electoral Commission on behalf of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The Scottish government wants to hold the referendum in autumn 2014.

The pro-independence SNP had said it wanted a straight yes or no question, but it was open minded on whether a second, so-called “devo max” question, on more devolved powers to Holyrood should be posed.

Nationalist leader and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has already put on record that he intends to ask the country’s electorate: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

He also said that the Electoral Commission would test and scrutinise the final question.

The pro-unionist appointed panel will be chaired by Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, a former principal of Edinburgh University who chaired the Royal Commission on long-term care for older people, which laid the foundation for free elderly care in Scotland.

“The most important political question for over three centuries which now faces the Scottish people, concerns our constitutional relationship with other parts of the United Kingdom”

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

Prof Qvortrup is a referendum expert who is currently senior lecturer of comparative politics at Cranfield University’s Centre for International Security and Resilience.

Mr Gould is the former assistant chief electoral officer of Canada who has participated in more than 80 elections in 50 countries.

The panel will meet in the next few weeks with the aim of presenting a proposed question to the commission in the autumn.

Lord Sutherland said: “The most important political question for over three centuries which now faces the Scottish people, concerns our constitutional relationship with other parts of the United Kingdom.

“A referendum which proposes such a choice requires a clear, understandable, and unbiased question.

“To produce and vote upon such a question is the ultimate test of a mature democracy. For this to be done and seen to be done, it is essential to seek the help of the Electoral Commission. I enter this arena with a sense of humility and openness of mind.”

Mr Salmond announced last week that constitutional expert Prof Stephen Tierney would be advising him on how to ensure the referendum meets international standards.

The director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University said he would “provide independent, objective and publicly-available advice on international best practice in the conduct of referendums”.

Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems have invited Prof Tierney to join their group of experts.

Source:BBC news report

Scots government consultation views

Scottish independence: Scots government consultation attracts 26,000 views

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond announced his consultation in January
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More than 26,000 responses were received during the Scottish government’s consultation on an independence referendum.

The figure is higher than the 21,000 the SNP administration estimated on the closing day of the four-month consultation.

People were asked their views on plans to hold a referendum in autumn 2014.

The UK government also held a consultation on the issue which attracted nearly 3,000 responses.

During its two-month seeking of views, the Westminster administration said its responses showed strong levels of support for a single, clear question on independence.

The Scottish government has not yet detailed the nature of its responses but it said more than 160 organisations, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Electoral Commission, National Union of Students and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, had submitted views.

Many of those organisations have already published online what their opinions are.

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What did they say?

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is a fantastic response from the people of Scotland, with more than 26,000 contributions to the consultation – over 10 times the number that responded to the UK government’s consultation on the same issue.

“This positive level of response sends a clear signal that the people of Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament is the place to decide the terms and timing of the referendum – and that these should not be imposed by Westminster.

“The responses from organisations already been made public show a lively debate around issues such as whether there should be a second question on the ballot paper.

“They also show support for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. We set out our preferred question in the consultation document but have always said we would listen to the view expressed in the responses we received.”

Analysis of the consultation, which ended in May, will be completed and published by the government by the end of the summer.

Source:BBC News 15th July 2012