Scottish National Party Suicide Note
Alex Salmond comes clean about the first 100 days of SNP rule, if it happens, come the May 2007 elections. He revealed at the SNP party conference that he intends to pick fights with Westminster on a number of fronts when he becomes First Minister, if he wins the election in May.
At a recent round of poorly attended SNP business meetings across Scotland, it was obvious that Jim Mather - Economic Guru, Model Politico, had little understanding of the existing political structure of the European Union and its grasp over UK government. At one meeting in particular attended by just a handful of mystified business people from the Highlands of Scotland, he exampled the success of Norway as a reason for staying in the EU after devolution from the UK.
He clearly demonstrated he did not realise that the main relationship Norway had with Europe was with the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement and also as a 1960 Member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and as a sensible country had opted out of the straight-jacket constraints of full EU membership.
Following the rejection of EU membership by the population of Norway in the referendum of 1994, the then government declared that there would be no new initiative in this respect for at least ten years, and the Stoltenberg-government, which took office on 17 October 2005, has stated that it will not apply for Norwegian EU-membership during its term in office.
Jim Mather also appeared to be in need of a calculator as the true cost of administering and controlling Scotland after independence had escaped his cost list spread sheet.
The SNP leader has now published a programme for government for the first 100 days of an SNP administration.
The document detailed what the SNP would demand from Westminster and amazingly comes just a short while after main sponsor Tom Farmer, of Kwik Fit fame urged caution and counselled a need for the SNP Party to prove its ability to govern in the eye of the public for a few years prior to going for separation from the UK.
The list includes handing over control of North Sea oil and gas reserves to Scotland, giving the Executive power over all firearms legislation, getting back £40 million in benefits, and putting the Scottish Executive in charge of all fisheries negotiations with Europe. The UK government has objected to all these issues in the past and would inevitably do so again.
This would lead to a series of confrontations between the governments in Edinburgh and London - a development that, it appears, Mr Salmond would be looking forward to.
It is now clear that Mr Salmond's tactic is to provoke disputes with the Labour government at Westminster, drawing attention to what he sees as the limitations of the devolution settlement and giving him the chance to push the case for independence.
"I want a more mature relationship with the government of the UK - a relationship of equals," Mr Salmond said.
His determination to publish a white paper on an independence referendum within his first 100 days in office was well known.
But this is the first time the SNP leader has announced his more immediate plans to cause conflict with Westminster.
Mr Salmond gave a speech to the SNP conference in Glasgow insisting he was ready to work with a Gordon Brown-led administration in London on a number of areas, including "green energy" and "action on poverty".
But he also made it clear that he was willing to fight Westminster as well. He said: "As First Minister, I shall co-operate on all these matters [environment and poverty] and many more. It is in Scotland's interests, and it is also our recognition that we must build credibility as a government, and in government, as we seek to take Scotland forward.
"However, a line has to be drawn. We cannot have a majority of Scottish MPs voting against new weapons of mass destruction and that vote ignored by Westminster."
The replacement of Trident was the one issue flagged up by Mr Salmond in his speech as a source of conflict between Westminster and Holyrood but it became clear later, with the publication of the programme for government, that there are many other issues which Mr Salmond wants to challenge London on.
Labour seemed delighted with the SNP's announcement because Labour leaders have been warning for months that an SNP administration would lead to incessant conflict with Westminster - and now the party leader has all but admitted it.
Andy Kerr, for Labour, said the document proved that the SNP would deliver "constitutional conflict".
The SNP's document stated: "An early priority of an SNP government will be to begin discussions with the UK government on options for the transfer of responsibility for our oil and gas resources to the Scottish Parliament."
It had always been known that an SNP administration would look to get control of oil and gas resources, but only under independence.
It is now clear that Mr Salmond wants to start the fight over control of oil revenues the moment he gets into Bute House.
The document also stated: "One of the first acts of the SNP in government will be to demand urgent meetings with the UK government so we can recover the £40 million in attendance allowance lost as a result of the Department of Work and Pensions response to the introduction of free personal care."
This £40 million has been in dispute between the Executive and Westminster ever since the introduction of free care for the elderly, but the UK government has refused to budge. There is no indication it would change its position for an SNP-led administration.
The government programme document also stated that an SNP Executive would "begin early negotiations with Westminster" to transfer responsibility for firearms to Holyrood, allowing the Scottish Parliament to take tougher action on airguns.
The SNP also wants to make Scotland's civil service independent of Whitehall and put Scottish ministers in charge of the UK's fisheries negotiations with Europe.
Under the SNP plans, within 100 days Scottish ministers would also begin meetings with Westminster and the European Commission to press for the creation of a European renewable and low-carbon energy research centre to be based in Scotland, and ideally in Aberdeen.
Firm targets promised on cutting carbon emissions
AN SNP administration at Holyrood would introduce a climate change bill setting mandatory targets for cutting carbon emissions of 3 per cent a year, delegates heard yesterday.
The pledge came from Richard Lochhead, the SNP's environment spokesman, who said that Scotland could go "much, much further" than Westminster's current plans for tackling climate change.
He said: "We must not and will not move forward at a snail's pace, but instead lead Europe's response to global warming."
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's Holyrood leader, told the conference on Saturday that a Nationalist administration would pioneer a "carbon offset" scheme, under which the environmental impact of each policy would be assessed and offset elsewhere.
"So our commitment to a new Forth road crossing will go hand in hand with increased investment in our railway," she said.
Yesterday, Mr Lochhead said an SNP administration would have a target of cutting emissions by a minimum of 80 per cent by 2050, and create a post of climate change minister.
"Our bill will also introduce a range of measures to promote renewable and clean technology and measures to promote energy efficiency."
An SNP administration would also install microrenewable energy forms, such as roof turbines or solar panels, on government buildings and hospitals, and in every school in Scotland.
Green campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the speech.
Its parliamentary officer, Chas Booth, said: "We warmly welcome the commitment to year-on-year cuts, which sets the benchmark that the other big parties must rise to."
SNP seem to need a magic wand for Mr Salmond's policies, and a calculator for Jim Mather to make the SNP's costs add up,
* Scottish National Party: http://www.snp.org/