LONDON — Even as Scotland’s separatist leader kicked off his party’s independence campaign Saturday, he also floated a compromise option which would fall short of his cherished goal of full separation from the United Kingdom.
It’s a proposal that’s been described as “Independence Lite” — something which would give Scots control of all their affairs except foreign policy and defense, which would still be run out of London. First Minister Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, gave an ambiguous endorsement. On the one hand he called it a “legitimate proposal,” on the other hand he told supporters gathered for a party conference in the city of Inverness on Saturday that the move was “not enough.”
So why propose it?
Scottish independence is a central goal of Salmond’s Party, which received a big boost in May when the nationalists won an unprecedented majority in Scotland’s parliament.
But while many Scots support the nationalists, a significant number still baulk at a full divorce from England, to which it was attached by the Act of Union more than 300 years ago. Survey figures vary, but in recent years most have suggested that fewer than half of all Scottish voters would choose independence in a straight “yes or no” referendum.
Given that Salmond’s party has pledged to put the question of independence to the public within the next few years, commentators have suggested that having a middle option might be a way of winning more power away from London — and salvaging a political victory — even if most Scots rejected full independence.
In his speech to party stalwarts, Salmond made his preferred option clear, warning Scots that if they chose the middle road they could still be on the hook for Britain’s military adventures.
“We could still be forced to spill blood in illegal wars like Iraq, and Scotland would still be excluded from the Councils of Europe and the world,” he said.
Scotland already enjoys broad autonomy in domestic matters such as justice, education, housing and health.