1. ITV Report

Peter MacMahon's thoughts on the White Paper

ITV Border's Political Editor Peter MacMahon Photo: ITV News Border

This was not a White Paper as political anoraks like me would recognise it.

As the perceptive Prof David Bell of Stirling University has said to us it was more of a political manifesto.

He’s right. Well, he is partly right.

Some of the 650-page document looks at the detailed constitutional issues which independence raises.

That is as it should be. After all this is a radical proposal from the Scottish National party.

Voters have a right to know how it will all work. Or how the SNP say it would work. Pro-UK campaigners say it wouldn’t – work that is.

So there is plenty of detail on dividing the debt, on defence, on currency.

All of it is contested by the three main unionist parties – Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems – but it is there.

But there is more. There are policies in here that the SNP says it would implement if Scotland votes Yes and if the party is elected to run the first independent government of Scotland.

Alert readers will realise there are two ‘ifs’ in that sentence.

Some opposition parties have said that the politically impartial civil service which drafted the document should have had nothing to do with this kind of thing.

SNP ministers reply that it is perfectly correct for them to do so as they are a government with a mandate to seek independence.

They should not only be saying they want it but what they would do with independence if they achieve it.

So what have we got?

With some interesting policy positions.

Better childcare to help women into work and strengthen the economy.

Abolition of the “bedroom tax” and halting Universal Credit benefit reform.

On defence Trident would be removed from the Clyde within the term of the firs independent parliament.

Think about that. That means at least seven years.

On taxation there would be the “first steps” towards a fairer taxation system though there is little more detail on that.

Now the opposition say that in all of these areas – and many more – the SNP is not being straight with the Scottish people.

They say that some policies – for example childcare – could be implemented now with the powers SNP ministers have.

Others they say are simply a wish-list that has not properly been costed.

So where does that leave us? Well, Alex Salmond was at his most self-confident and managerial in the launch of the White Paper today.

It was also clear that he and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon, who we plan to interview on Lookaround tonight, wanted to reassure voters.

The title of the White Paper is ‘Scotland’s Future: your guide to an independent Scotland. A deliberate user-friendly and non-threatening title.

The opposition parties and the Better Together umbrella campaign group say that whatever the SNP says, their plans do not add up constitutionally or economically.

Which leaves us where? Well, still having the debate.

But certainly with a whole lot more material to base that debate on.

We will be dissecting this White Paper for a fair while yet.

Stay with us. You never know what we might find.

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