BLOG: A Scottish Independence Day?

Alex Salmond’s musical taste is not a subject that dominates political discourse north of the Border. So I can’t say if the First Minister is a Bruce Springsteen fan.

Mr Salmond might, though, quite like the sentiments behind Springsteen’s song ‘Independence Day’.

Even though the subject it not Scottish politics, the lyrics “So, say goodbye it’s Independence Day….” might have a certain resonance for nationalists.

After all, the First Minister and his colleagues want to say goodbye to the United Kingdom.

It will all be very amicable, the Scottish National Party say. England will remain Scotland’s close friend and neighbour.

But Scotland will go her own way if the SNP government can persuade voters to move beyond devolution within the UK to independence. That process takes a significant step forward on Tuesday 26 November.

The SNP government in Scotland – which holds power in the devolved Holyrood parliament – publishes its White Paper on Independence that day.

It will be a substantial document, running to some 670 pages and 170,000 words. It even names Independence Day which is says will be Thursday 24 March 2016.

Coincidentally the SNP say this is the anniversary of the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Act of Union in 1707, when Scotland became one country with England and Wales.

What can we expect from this weighty tome on Tuesday? Two things for starters say the SNP.

First, the choices the SNP will negotiate with what would become the rest of the UK (known as rUK in constitutional jargon) if there were a Yes vote.

Second, the policy choices the SNP will consider if they are elected to be the first government of a newly independent Scotland.

By that they mean the ideas they say can be implemented to make Scotland, in their eyes, both a fairer and more prosperous nation.

What do those opposed to independence say to all of this?

Unsurprisingly, the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK is not impressed.

Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, who leads Better Together, says in a blog today the decision to name Independence Day is “presumptuous”.

The pro-UK camp, he says, do not take the voters for granted in this way.

Mr Darling adds that naming the day, in his view, shows that the SNP expect all the complex negotiations that would follow independence to be concluded in a year and a half.

This, the Better Together side, say is unrealistic to say the least.

They say that on everything from NATO membership to the EU to the new social security system - and much more - the negotiations after independence, were it to happen, could take much, much longer.

On Tuesday we can expect more detailed scrutiny from the pro-UK side, as they will have the 170,000 words to get their teeth into.

Equally the SNP, and the broader Yes for Scotland campaign, will now have what they will say is more meat on the independence bone.

The debate on independence has been going on in Scotland for many decades but from Tuesday it will intensify.

Although it is the product of the SNP government, there is a lot resting on this White Paper – for both sides of this argument.

You can find Alistair Darling's blog here.

And the Scottish Government's announcement here.

Watch this space for more blogs and analysis over the next few days.