Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has used a major speech in Edinburgh to say that the Scottish Government must start telling Scots what they mean by independence.
Speaking at the David Hume Institute, Mr Moore listed six of the many questions on independence that Scots are entitled to know the answers to long before any referendum takes place.
Mr Moore said there was no rise in support for independence but that rather than ignore the challenge, “we should take it on”.
He said the Scottish Government had been “uncharacteristically shy in setting out exactly what independence would involve and what it would cost.”
The six questions set by the Secretary of State for the Scottish Government to answer are:
What regulation would be applied to our banks and financial services and who would enforce it?
Which currency would Scotland adopt and how could entry and influence be guaranteed?
How would membership of international organisations - including the EU - be assured?
What will be our defence posture and the configuration of our armed forces?
How many billions would we inherit in pension liabilities and who would pay for future pensions?
How much would independence cost: what is the bottom line?
Michael Moore said there were also many organisational questions that still needed to be answered on what the referendum question would be, when it would be asked and who would run the referendum.
The Scottish Secretary used his speech to spell out the benefits that the Scotland Bill will bring to devolution. He called on the Scottish Government to focus more on using devolved powers and obsess less about the powers they don’t have. Mr Moore also said that the constitutional change requires people to engage and build consensus.
Speaking to the David Hume Institute, Michael Moore said:
“Among the Scottish people, independence remains very much a minority pursuit. In 1999, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that 27% of Scots wanted Scotland to separate from the UK. In 2009, that percentage was unchanged.
“And no opinion poll before or since has shown a majority of Scots in favour. The same survey shows that in both 1999 and 2009 support for a devolved Scotland within the UK hovered at around 60%.
“Whatever factors played a part in May’s election result it was not a rise in support for Scottish independence. That is not to say we should ignore the challenge. On the contrary, we should take it on.
“So when the Scottish Government does come forward with its referendum proposals, there will need to be proper scrutiny. From politicians yes - but also from business, from civil society, from all groups and individuals with an interest in Scotland’s future.
“What question will they ask? How many questions will there be? How will the campaign be conducted? And those are only the organisational aspects.
“They must also answer the substantive questions about what they mean by independence. They have been uncharacteristically shy in setting out exactly what independence would involve and what it would cost.
“The Scottish Government has unbounded enthusiasm for talking about its Six Demands of the Scotland Bill. But here are just six of the many questions for them on what an independent Scotland would look like.
Six specific questions, in six areas of key importance, that the Scottish Government must answer.
“What regulation would be applied to our banks and financial services and who would enforce it?
“Which currency would Scotland adopt and how could entry and influence be guaranteed?
“How would membership of international organisations - including the EU - be assured?
“What will be our defence posture and the configuration of our armed forces?
“How many billions would we inherit in pension liabilities and who would pay for future pensions?
“And above all - over all - how much would independence cost: what is the bottom line?
“The questions keep coming, the implications keep emerging and the imperative to answer keeps growing.
“Until the Scottish Government sets things out, the Scottish people are being asked to take a punt. But our future cannot be taken on trust; it’s just too important.
“The politics of assertion can’t pass the test - we need and deserve the detailed arguments. And soon. The real risk for Scotland is that the uncertainty caused by delay undermines public confidence in the Scottish Government’s intentions and saps investor confidence when it comes to deciding where - that is in which country - jobs should be based.”
You can read the full speech here.