Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In full: Willie Rennie's speech in Holyrood independence referendum debate - Scotland is unique and the stakes are high

Willie Rennie and the recently ennobled Jeremy Purvis wer ein fine form today.  Jeremy whipped Pete Wishart's backside on Politics Scotland this afternoon, pointing out that it isn't that long since the SNP were talking about banishing all vestiges of the British state. Of course, in order not to scare too many horses, they are pledging to keep the pound and the Queen now.

Purvis added that the only differences between the National Conversation document produced a few years ago and the White Paper is where the SNP disagrees with its previous position, for example on membership of NATO.

He simply asked why we would want to create barriers in a union that was working and in which we were playing our part. 

And then Willie Rennie just knocked Alex Salmond out of the park in the independence debate at Holyrood this afternoon. 

It's not that Alistair Darling has done a bad job or said anything particularly wrong over the past 24 hours. He can't help it if he comes across a bit like a head-teacher who's moonlighting as an undertaker. The pro-UK case needs smiles and optimism and normal language and humour and passion to go alongside the boring bits. Purvis and Rennie delivered all of that today. Here's Willie's opening speech from the debate in full. 

It is day two of the happy clappy sect – nationalists for the white paper. Starry eyed optimism.  Worshipping the god of positivity. Alex Salmond – the patron saint of blind optimism.
I loved the optimism on childcare.  It’s what I have been asking the First Minister to endorse week after week after week after week.  But only when it can aid his campaign for independence does he listen.
They are letting down a generation of young people if they don’t act now with the powers of devolution they once trumpeted but now deride.
The childcare package was one part of a wider offer that insisted there would be no downsides to independence.
In the white paper there was not one single example of anything that may even be slightly difficult.
This omission is quite striking.
It makes you wonder why all states in the world are not immediately breaking up based on the compelling case put forward yesterday. Perhaps now the white paper is out the independence revolution will engulf the world.
I can’t think of any examples of modern, successful countries that have broken themselves up.
The former soviet bloc nations or the war torn countries of Africa were hardly modern, successful countries with much to lose. Hardly examples for a modern, successful Scotland to follow.
The Scottish independence movement is not normal.
So Scotland is unique and the stakes are high.
And yesterday’s white paper didn’t move us on.  It didn’t reduce the risk. It didn’t help answer the serious questions raised about this colossal step.
The First Minister said that Scotland is better prepared for independence than any other country in the world.
But being prepared normally means being prepared for all eventualities.
So let’s look at some of the possibilities.  I want to establish if the SNP have even considered what happens if their assertions about what will happen – don’t.
What if the remainder of the UK says we can’t use the pound as part of a currency union?  Is there a back up plan?
What happens if we form a fiscal pact with the UK but they insist we can’t borrow or spend any more?
What happens to the Clyde if the MOD orders go elsewhere?
What happens to funding of our Universities if the UK funding dries up?
What happens if the UK doesn’t want to buy our energy?
These are serious and reasonable questions that most people would have hoped the SNP would answer in the white paper. But none of these reasonable options have even been considered – and they are not sharing them with us.
The SNP believe they are right on everything and everyone else is wrong.
It’s based on an assumption that the UK will agree to every single demand from a newly independent Scotland.
The SNP believe that people in the UK will take orders from us even though we will have spent three years condemning them before declaring we want to be independent from them.
If we slam the door in their face they may just lock it from the other side.
And that is just the UK.
The SNP expect other countries of the EU and NATO will take our instructions too. It seems as if Scotland will be a new super power.
At least the SNP have admitted that membership of the European Union will not be automatic. But that opens up many more questions:
What if other EU countries make it difficult to join?  We know that many have their own separatist movements that they oppose.
I am not sure if putative Foreign Secretary Angus Robertson has delivered his instructions to Germany, Spain, Italy or France.
And whether he or any of the Government’s ministers has had any answers, views or responses to those orders.
So what if just one of the 27 countries of the EU says we can join the EU but that there will be no rebate?
What if just one insists that we join Schengen and have open borders with the EU?
What if one says we can join but only if we start on the path to the Euro?
It just takes one to say no and Scotland could be out in the cold or forced to agree to conditions they have previously rejected.
Because independence is a colossal step that is not normal we need the answers to these serious but reasonable questions.
Perhaps the SNP can use today to start answering.

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