Economics of Independence Westminster Mismanagement

Help! I’m a Secretary of State for Scotland get me out of here

Written by Michael Gray

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 12.11.53.pngLast night witnessed another devastating defeat for the No campaign in public debate.

On Scotland Tonight Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon debated independence with the latest Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael.

The debate itself signified the new momentum behind the Yes Campaign following the publication of the Scottish Government White Paper earlier this week.

Even Unionist commentators like Fraser Nelson of the Spectator called the debate as a walkover for Nicola Sturgeon: “Hate to say it, but better-prepared and terrier-like Nicola Sturgeon won that”, he tweeted.

A number of points were drawn out that signify a change in the campaign as a whole. As Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp from Business for Scotland said on the day of the White Paper launch, “There are now more unanswered questions with a No vote.”

That is why the momentum has shifted in the independence campaign.

A number of examples were mentioned on Scotland Tonight.

No vote uncertainties

With the Tory Government and UKIP squaring up to the European Union, will the UK remain a member of the EU after 2014?

With Westminster politicians threatening to uproot the Barnett formula and cut Scottish funding by £4 billion, how secure are Scottish finances after a No vote?

Can Scotland trust Westminster to deliver any further devolution?

Is 100,000 extra children in poverty a price worth paying for continuing with Westminster’s social and economic policies?

Will Scotland get the government its people vote for in the 2015 general election?

Movement towards a Yes vote

With this shift in the debate it’s no wonder there are more and more examples of a switch to Yes at events across the country.

Business for Scotland recently highlighted three recent local votes where Yes won 66% to 33%. Since then Yes have won student debates in Glasgow, Napier and Heriot Watt. In Perth there was an incredible increase among young voters from 18% to 46% ‘Yes’ after only one hour.

This demonstrates why David Cameron remains feart of debating Scotland’s future with Alex Salmond.

Tony Banks, Chairperson of Balhousie Care Group, said that “If there is a positive case to be made for Scotland remaining in the Union it should be articulated by the UK Prime Minister who, after all, is supposed to represent Scotland as much as the rest of the UK.  Likewise, the First Minister should be offered a UK-wide platform to make his case to Britain.”

The growing uncertainty over these basic questions will put further pressure on the No Campaign, especially in the business community.

Yet the greatest issue for the No Campaign is the lack of vision and ambition for Scotland. Increasing it is the Yes Campaign who have published strategies to make Scotland a more prosperous, competitive and equal society.


As this gulf in ambition grows and the lack of evidence from the No Campaign is scrutinised, Scotland’s trajectory is set towards a ‘Yes’ vote next September.

Join Business for Scotland – Read More

Further reading:

10 facts about Scotland’s oil and independence 

Revealed: The ACCOUNTING TRICK that Hides Scotland’s Wealth

Defence in an independent Scotland: spend less, get more

About the author

Michael Gray

Michael is Head of Research with Business for Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Glasgow, he has carried out a series of interviews with academics, politicians and the public in Denmark, Iceland and Ireland. Michael's on twitter @GrayInGlasgow.


  • He has absolutely no grasp of his brief. He’s spent practically all of his time as Scottish Secretary in various TV and radio studios telling all who’ll listen that Scotland can’t survive without England’s cash, when he should have been reading and understanding. Nicola’s questions were all about Scotland’s place in the UK and he had no answer to any of them. At the end, it was all he could do not to burst into tears and run greetin for his mammy,

  • as i approach sixty & was involved in the last independance debate @ carlton terrace,trailer & gave my last pound to enroll my son andrew a keen supporter, now i see every dirty trick, by westminster all over again & it will get a lot worse, i fear i will be cheated once,again by, labour,lib/dem & torys, and therfore not see an independant scotland in my lifetime,i can only pass the batton on to my son.

  • It was a landslide in terms of debating, she ran rings around him, but she did so by asking questions that one person is nae in a position to answer. She has the higher ground by being able to write a wishlist, which I find it unlikely that they’ll manage to deliver on. She answered glibly to any questions asked, and yet still failed to answer any of the key questions as to what independence will bring

  • Putting aside the independence debate for a minute, does anyone seriously think for one moment that the display of serious lack of debating skill and knowledge by the current SOS in that debate and again on tonights question time is a good thing?

    This man is currently representing Scotland in Cabinet! I am hoping some of the cleaners in Downing Street are Scottish as they will have a better chance of negotiating positive outcomes for Scotland with the Cabinet than this guy has.

    With regards independence I hope he does not get sacked as he is a walking talking recruitment campaign for the yes vote and I will put up with the 10 months of damage he is doing to Scotland prior to the vote in return for democracy for Scotland from Sept onwards.

  • Well done Nicola, especially as she has to work through the sexist attitudes of male political commentators – Bossyboots indeed, that was a well prepared, intelligent performance from a very articulate woman. I for one would much rather live in an aspirational Scotland than in a “we cannae dae that” one.

  • Great article, Michael. You really get to the heart of the problem with the ‘No’ campaign. I don’t think we got one straight answer from them, never mind a positive vision for our future. And absolutely loved your title!

  • Yet another accomplished performance by Nicola, she must be wondering who she’ll sweep aside next. I think the point at which Carmichael was begging for the intervention of Rhona, and Nicola asking if you couldn’t hold his own, summed up the debate. Yes camp strong, positive and willing to answer to the best of their ability ( without any prenegotions ) no camp not willing to answer any questions and concentrating on anything negative.

    I look forward to the next offering from no camp, that’s sarwar, Moore and Carmichael all dealt.

  • Aww you got to feel sorry for the guy! Nicola is so clued up, and fighting fit….he stood no chance. The ‘No’ Campaign has no reasonable explanations as to why we should stay part of the union. They’re trying to paint a portrait of a ‘wee happy family’ but we all know, we are far from that! Can I remind people….Alex Salmond is an Economist and can count…lol! He knows the Scottish figures, and knows what we contributes and spends. He is not the only person who believes in the Scottish people and he can take us forward. All the other parties have done, are keep the poor poor and keep the rich rich!! Enough of a Labour conservative, labour labour, conservative government! Its boring!!

  • David Cameron must be laughing all the way. He refuses to come to Scotland for a debate with Alex Salmond but he gets the Labour Party and the Libdems to do his dirty work for him. The ‘Nae’ campaign has no vision for Scotland’s future. The YES campaign has a positive vision. Well done Nicola.

    • This is nothing to do with David Cameron!!! Why do you all insist on the wrong debate. This is a vote about Scotland for the Scottish people – the person he needs to debate is Alistair Darling but he refuses to do that.
      Also the Yes campaign may have a positive vision but if it’s anything like the White Paper it’s a fairy-tale! Alex Salmond makes claims he can’t possibly back up and some that have been openly refuted!
      I would love an Independent Scotland but I want an accurate game plan before I vote Yes!

      • Independence, is Independence at any cost. You either want Independence or you don’t. No ifs buts whys or wherefores. It’s a yes or no.

  • This was an articulate and accurate summary of the debate.If it had been a boxing match the referee would have stopped the fight after two minutes and spared Alistair Carmichael alias “Secretary of State for Scotland”any further punishment.

  • Carmichael may well be the YES campaign’s best asset, after this performance!

    Well done Ms Sturgeon.

  • Alistair Carmichael was “scuppered” from the start of the debate. With very little “positive ammunition”, it was going to be a one horse race with Carmichael bringing up the rear. The last ten minuyes of the debate, saw this guy on the ropes wishing that someone nearby would throw the towel in for him.Unfortunately for Alistair, there was no reprieve and he was knocked into submission by the verbal salvos being fired from the mouth of a very passionate Nicola Sturgeon. YES campaign wins by a knockout!

    • What do you expect, Sturgeon is practically the author of the White paper she has been working on it for months, because of that she has a comprehensive knowledge of what is inside (Which personally I think is a lot of supposition)and she is a full on debater. Carmichael had probably a day or two to take in a 670 page document. And he is relatively new to the job. And this is his first time opposing her on screen. and it didn’t help with Rona (Who I thought was being particularly biased)when she throw in irrelevant old hat questions about the Scottish office and his position as (Almost saying he wasn’t in a position to be Scottish Secretary)a member of a party that wasn’t voted by the Scottish people when he was clearly voted in by Orkney and Shetland to be a member of the UK government. You get my drift I think it was a learning ground for him and I don’t think she would get away with it again. I’m not saying he couldn’t have done better but cut him some slack it was a bit of a lions den he was thrown into.

      • Ian.

        One of the the No Campaigns main messages seems to be that “Scotland’s Future” has nothing new in it – so what did he not have time to prepare for?

        I for one don’t think that a nation should ever get a government it doesn’t vote for – his answer was basically “tough you are not a nation so you did get the one you voted for”!

        His job as SoS for Scotland is about doing what is best for Scotland and it is clearly in Scotland’s interests to have an official confirmation from the EU on membership but the EU won’t respond to Scotland’s government just to the official member state – in other words the UK / SoS has to ask. Surely you would agree he is not doing his job and is therefor not correctly representing the people of Scotland by deliberately creating uncertainty for his own political gain?

        Now ask yourself if he / Westminster really think the answer the EU would give would be the one they want then why don’t they ask? I think it is because they know the answer will suit the YES campaign and not them.

      • The trouble with your comment Ian is the Nicola didn’t ask Carmichael anything whatsoever about the White Paper. All the questions she asked him started with the formula “In the event of a No vote, what will the UK Govt …”

        The blustering fool couldn’t answer a single question. It certainly doesn’t bode well for Scotland’s representation in the UK Cabinet.

        • In that case either there is no vision/plan/answer – in which case Westminster have no policies for Scotland, or they don’t want to tell us because the plans will actually make things worse and bolster the yes vote. Either way the no campaign has spent a year telling us there’s insufficient information but have provided nothing themselves – by the way status quo is complete nonsense as all governments seek to change things according to their agenda and Westminster will do the same if we vote no.

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