ALAS, the likelihood of Alex Salmond downing a pint of ‘heavy’ in the Jaggy Thistle next summer is growing more remote than the Loch Ness Monster popping into the celebrated Mallorca hostelry for a deep-fried Mars Bar marinated in Glenfiddich.
I’d even venture to say the independence-minded Scottish National Party chieftain will shun Spanish soil forever…even the mere mention of a paella will leave him gagging.
To quote Scotland’s great poet, Robbie Burns, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley’ (Sassenach translation: ‘The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry’).
Because, just when Salmond was leading his tartan army on a charge to end 300 years of Union with the United Kingdom, along comes Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to rain on his parade.
At the risk of sounding contemptuous of the Scots perfectly reasonable entitlement to vote in a plebiscite on their future next September, you could almost say the man from Madrid has thrown a Spaniard into the works.
Rajoy warned, ‘It is clear to me that a region which asks for independence from a state within the European Union will be left outside the EU. It is good thing the Scottish people know this, along with other Europeans.’
Rubbing salt into the Celtic secessionists wounds, he said that EU treaties only apply to states that have agreed and ratified them, not ‘regions’ of member states embarking on ‘solo adventures (where) the destination is unknown.’
Not that it’s any consolation to cheeky chappie Salmond, I don’t think Rajoy could care a half-baked haggis about Scotland splitting from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And – given the on-going aggro over Gibraltar – truth be told, anything seen to be giving the UK a bloody nose would be greeted with a crescendo of olés from the majority of Spaniards.
No, Rajoy was unsubtly cautioning Catalan and Basque nationalists not to bother imitating the SNP’s lead in demanding break-away statelets of their own.
That, though, is not the worst of worries for the man who would be Laird of Scots, because Salmond was rather relying on keeping the good, old GB£ as he preferred currency (even those weird, Scottish tenners most English shopkeepers won’t touch with a Highland caber).
That pipedream was spelt out in the SNP’s 670-page, pro-independence White Paper last month – only to be met by a rejoinder from the Bank of England amounting to: ‘You can stick that up your kilt, Ally; there’s no way we’ll be your lender of last resort.’
In fact, quite how much the SNP manifesto will weigh on the minds of voters is anyone’s guess. My bet is most canny Scots, whether they declare ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ in the referendum, would roll it up and use it as a faggot to warm the fire.
That might also help cast some light and closer scrutiny on Salmond’s vision of a liberated, real-time Brigadoon, since it smacks more of aspiration than actual fact.
For instance, among other goodies, he promises 30 hours of free childcare per week for all bairns of three and four years (worth £4,600 and available now, if he were minded to do so); an end to Westminster’s pernicious ‘bedroom tax’; and a Scottish broadcasting service to replace the BBC (och aye to that, if they take the grating Kirsty Wark with them).
Alistair Darling, leader of the cross-party, Better Together ‘No’ campaign, called the pledges ‘cynical’. The former UK finance minister also challenges Salmond’s arithmetic and questions the SNP’s ability to deliver on time, on cost and if at all.
The crux of the debate, however, will hinge on whether Scots vote with their emotions or wallets. And despite their reputations for being Bravehearts, the ones I know all take this fanciful stuff with a large dose of pragmatism.
A Scot I spoke to the other day predicted witheringly, ‘We’ll end up being crushed by far-Left socialism, the English forever doomed to be ruled by Tories.’
So far, this isn’t reflected in the latest opinion surveys, indicating 47% of Scots wish the Union to continue against 38% who don’t, with 15% undecided.
However, that will change, especially with so many ‘don’t-know’ votes at stake and Salmond tilting balloting rules in his favour.
For instance, Caledonians living south of Hadrian’s Wall – who could boost the turn-out by 16% – can’t take part, though 400,000 non-native Scots resident in Scotland, can.
And Salmond’s cunning plan sees the franchise extended to 17-year-olds, even if the saltire cross of St. Andrew can’t be traced in acne across their bonny cheeks.
To me, there’s a slight whiff of gerrymandering in some of this, particularly that ban on expats having a say. Presumably the SNP reckons they’re now such Anglicised wimps they’d opt to remain part of the Union rather than risk being deported on the next train to Auchtermurty by Nigerian-born members of the UK Border Agency.
However, Ivor Knox, whose company, Panelbase, carried out the poll, gives a hint of what may come to pass when he says: ‘If patriotism and national pride were the key issues, [the] Yes [vote] would win hands down. They aren’t…Scots remain unconvinced independence would bring economic benefits.’
Contrarily, there’s no reason why Scotland can’t survive as a stand-alone nation, given its people’s tenacity, creativity and £30-billion a year income from North Sea oil/gas, though this is a finite resource and already dwindling.
And, despite having a population of around only five million, it certainly wouldn’t be the smallest nation on the planet. Plus, you have to admire any people who’ve sired the inventors of TV, the telephone, Tarmac and single-malt whisky, among other notable, life-enhancers.
Hence, there’s all to play for, so – to borrow an expression from one of Scotland’s favourite sons, no less a personage than Sir Alex Ferguson – it’s ‘twitchy bum time’.
However, there’s one, sure-fire way the SNP can deliver victory: include English voters in the referendum, because 66% of them would be delighted to see Scotland take the high road to freedom.
Just a wee thought, Ally.