Today they announce their plans to get from a yes vote (which, with support for independence at 23% is not looking particularly likely to start with) to the day Scotland becomes an independent country.
The referendum takes place in around October next year. By March 2016, just 17 months later, they think they're going to have the apparatus of a new state in place. For heavens sake, it took over 10 months for West Germany to merely absorb East Germany in 1989-90 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a much more complex job to disengage all the things that are built into the UK's structures.It's taking 3 years to sort out the machinery to operate the Scotland Act passed last year. They reckon they'll have a new constitution in place, they'll have the international situation, including the EU sorted out, they'll have worked out how to operate the state pension - and will they tell us beforehand if what they will pay pensioners is as good as Steve Webb's system? Well, I doubt it. But that's beside the point. Their target is the crazy side of ambitious and as unrealistic as we've come to expect from the SNP. Willie Rennie agrees with me:
The SNP have hopelessly underestimated the scale and complexity of this. They would have to negotiate over 14,000 international treaties, a currency, the division of assets, membership of NATO and the host of international organisations.Secretary of State Mike Moore has a similar, slightly more verbose but equally robust, view:
"The Scottish Government should be concentrating on the substantive issues of the independence debate rather than endless distractions over process. Once again, they are devoting their energy to the picture-frame when they don’t have a painting to put in it.
We haven't even got a date for the referendum, let alone any detail on what independence would mean for people in areas like the economy, welfare, energy and financial services. People in Scotland appreciate the benefits of remaining part of the United Kingdom family and that is why they remain strongly opposed to independence.
We have already been setting out our views in public on the issue of the post-referendum process. We will spell out further thoughts on this process in our forthcoming analysis papers, including our first paper, in February. Once this has been published, we will be happy to discuss our paper with the Scottish Government.”
"To say they will bang all this through in just 16 months is absurd. This will give most people in Scotland the shivers and fuel suspicion that the SNP are just making it up as they go along
How will they have all the data on benefit claimants, pensioners, people on tax credits and those receiving child benefit sorted in such a short time? What about paying our income tax? How's that going to work.We'll need a separate passport office, driving license authority and driving test mechanism. How's that going to work? What happens to the civil servants who are currently employed by the UK Government? Even if the SNP employs them all, what about their pensions and continuous service?
The SNP can't tell us that an independent Scotland will be able to join the EU on exactly the same terms as we have at the moment. That's because it has to the other 27 member states to agree.
The SNP will also have to take Scotland's share of the UK deficit. They will no doubt want to get out of that. How will that be sorted?
In amongst all this there is to be a UK election in May 2015, in the middle of the negotiations.What happens in that instance? Does Scotland vote for MPs who will serve for just 10 months?
The SNP seem to think that if Scotland votes for independence, it would just issue its demands to the UK Government and get its way. That's not quite how it works. The settlement has to be fair to everyone.
There is no way the UK Government should get involved in negotiating these things in advance of the referendum. They can agree the process to be followed, as per the Electoral Commission's advice last week, but they shouldn't do the negotiating. Before the referendum is the time for both sides to make their case.
I find it interesting that having got one process story out of the way - the referendum itself - the SNP immediately open up another one, something which they will use to try and pick fights with Westminster to try to heighten their case.
I have a better idea for them - tell us what independence actually means, in practical terms, for all Scots.Set it out, tell us how it would work,how it would change our daily lives.
This period should be about vision, the sort of Scotland we want to see. I want to see a Scotland where people are free to make their own choices about their lives, where the state is the servant of the people, not the other way around, where people's human rights are respected, celebrated and valued, where poverty and homelessness are properly tackled, a Scotland which encourages creativity and enterprise, where protection of the environment is a key prioity, where children are valued and loved, where women and girls are respected and enjoy true equality. All of these things can be achieved within a federal UK as far as I'm concerned.
It seems to suit the SNP to stick the argument to process and the evil Westminster coalition. That's lazy and not what the people of Scotland require of them. I find it quite sad in a way - it's been 306 years since the Act of Union. They've had all that time, and they've been particularly active over the past half a century, to define exactly what an independent Scotland would look like. It looks like their vision is all froth and no substance.Given that the UK Government has a whole series of papers on the advantages of the union coming, the SNP and Yes Scotland will have to up their game. Don't just take my word for it. Jim Sillars, a former SNP MP had some direct words for them in an article in the Times at the weekend. He said:
I do not believe it’s possible to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote without having the bible — all the questions that are asked, all the answers that are needed — on the things that matter most to people.
Unless they sit down now and have the humility to reassess why it’s gone wrong, and then start making the necessary readjustments, then we’re in trouble. We’re going to lose.