U.S. will not stand in way of Scottish independence - Salmond

NEW YORK Sat Apr 5, 2014 2:21am BST

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond smiles as he attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in Scotland January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond smiles as he attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in Scotland January 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Russell Cheyne

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The leader of Scotland's separatist movement predicted on Friday that the United States would not try to stand in the way of the breakup of Britain, Washington's staunchest ally for decades, if Scots vote for independence at a referendum this year.

Instead, the Obama administration could use the reasonably orderly debate in Britain about Scotland's future as an example to other countries facing constitutional crises, said Alex Salmond, the separatist leader who heads the Scottish National Party and who is Scotland's first minister.

"I don't foresee pressure. I don't think that is what the United States would want to do," Salmond told Reuters. "There are certain principles involved here. One is the principle of self determination. Secondly, the principle of a consented and peaceful process."

Pro-independence campaigners have long lagged in opinion polls behind supporters of maintaining Scotland's 307-year-old union with England. But Salmond's nationalists have closed the poll gap slightly ahead of the vote in September.

A March 20 poll showed that around 40 percent of Scots plan to vote for independence in this year's referendum while 45 percent intended to vote against it.

Such surveys have begun to be noticed by U.S. policymakers, who had previously presumed the unionists would win easily, said Heather Conley, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

Salmond said U.S. government officials had made public comments holding up the Scottish referendum process as an example of how to air separatist sentiment, as opposed to the abruptness of the recent Crimean referendum held in the shadow of Russian troops.

Russia's annexation of Crimea has not been recognized by the United States.

"The referendum in Scotland is an agreed, consensual, democratic, consented process," said Salmond, who was visiting New York to promote Scottish business and culture. "Who knows? It might become a template for how the world should conduct these matters."

Debate over Scotland has been mostly civil, and the British government of Prime Minister David Cameron agrees with holding the referendum but it strongly opposes the independence campaign and warns that Salmond's idea that Scotland could keep using the British pound after independence is badly flawed.

NATO, NUCLEAR SUBS

In the United States, government officials have started to worry about the possible dissolution of traditional ally Britain and plans by Salmond to throw Britain's Trident nuclear submarine fleet out of the Faslane naval base in western Scotland.

"The main questions on the U.S. side have so far been on the security front. On the idea of what's going to happen on the nuclear deterrent because obviously the U.S. has a large vested interest in the nuclear submarine capacity," said Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington.

Salmond said U.S. officials had been balanced on the Scotland issue so far. "America, through the administration, has quite rightly adopted a platform of studied neutrality," he said.

A veteran of the British parliament in London as well as the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh set up in 1999, Salmond was a strong critic of Britain's role in the Iraq war.

He acknowledged that while the debate over Scottish independence has been mostly constructive, there has been an explosion of online abuse between backers of union with England and Scottish nationalist "cyber-nats," who launched a campaign against singer David Bowie for calling on Scotland at a music award ceremony not to break away.

Salmond urged an end to the online bitterness.

"You say, 'Right look. Everyone raise your game. Do what you should do. Let's live up to this debate,'" he said.

He said claims that Scotland's more than 5 million people would suffer economically under independence are "just a hotchpotch, a ragbag of fears, smears, scare stories, some of them ridiculous, some of them with the attempt to be credible."

Companies and business groups have warned that Scotland could lose jobs if it splits from Britain, but Salmond's campaign received a boost last week when The Guardian newspaper quoted an unnamed British minister as acknowledging that London would eventually agree to let Scotland use the sterling currency if it became independent.

(Reporting by Alistair Bell; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Comments (5)
mgb500 wrote:
What Scotland does, is of no concern of the interfering Yanks! If they don’t like the result of the vote, will they invade and impose a Yank puppet government a la Afghanistan/Iraq etc?

It’s about time the rest of the world told Obama et al to vacate the area- they are NOT rulers of the world!

Apr 05, 2014 6:13am BST  --  Report as abuse
ScotFree1320 wrote:
Unfortunately the reporter & editor appear to let their own views taint what could otherwise be a good, balanced report, and perjorative phrases such as ‘separatist movement’, ‘breakup of Britain,’ ‘splits from Britain’ and ‘separatist leader’ give away that position. It also talks about ‘Salmond’s Nationalists closing the poll gap.’ Let me offer a correction for these: ‘Indepencence movement,’ ‘indepencence of Scotland,’ ‘gains independence,’ ‘leader of the SNP.’ And it’s not Salmnd’s Nationalists who are closing the poll gap but the Yes Scotland Campaign, of which the SNP are a part along with the Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialists and other political and non-political organisations.

“Salmond’s idea that Scotland could keep using the British pound after independence is badly flawed.” How can he stop it? The pound is an internationally tradeable currency which anyone can use. The question is, will there be a currency union? The answer lies in this question: Can the rest of the UK’s economy cope with the market reaction to a drop of £50bn – £75bn in balance of payments while losing 8.7% of its population and 9.5% of its productivity?

Even the Financial Times, which has to report objectively due to its sophisticated readership and reputation in the City, says that a Currency Union would be best for all of Britain [http://archive.is/tM3zh].

The talk of Cyber-Nats is also perjorative because it supposes that only the independence side are guilty of abuse, which is patently not true. Cyber-Brits also exist and are equally – if not more – vile. Some examples here (don’t go here if you are easily offended): http://wingsoverscotland.com/my-cyber-shame.

Some businesses, business groups and politicians are indeed warning of impending disaster, but these are the same ones who warned that Scotland would become a ‘high tax ghetto’ [http://archive.is/sneZr] during the devolution campaign in 1997, and that the economic case for Devolution had not been made [http://bit.ly/1kyej7N]. Others are reported by a compliant or lazy media as saying they’ll move out of Scotland when in actual fact they said no such thing [http://bit.ly/1cpDdBJ]. Indeed, Standard Life just bought Ignis Asset Management, a Glasgow-based company, which scotches that myth [http://bit.ly/1sk9LqR].

An independent Scotland could have a very bright future. It would almost certainly achieve a AAA rating: Standard and Poor said as much, while taking into account only onshore activities [http://bit.ly/1kyf8NQ]. With power brought home to Edinburgh, Scotland’s elected representatives will make up 100% of the parliament, as oppsed to 4% at the moment in the London parliament. This will give us the opportunity to transform the economy [http://bit.ly/1hPuwoP], to get rid of Trident weapons of mass destruction, to reduce social inequality, to end a situation where in our largest city 40% of children are brought up in poverty, to provide more jobs and opportunities for all.

All these are impossible under London rule. In the event of a No vote, Scotland’s 8.7% of the population will once again be ignored, the block grant will be cut further and the oil wealth will continue to flow to London and be spent there on vanity items (olympics) and ‘British Strategic’ projects which Scotland sees no benefit from (London Sewer upgrade, London Crossrail, HS2).

Vote YES for Scotland!

Apr 05, 2014 10:29am BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
I’m amazed that Cameron hasn’t asked for more USAF warplanes and NATO tanks to be based close to the borders, just in case the Scottish Independence War goes ‘hot’.

We need Patriots against those ballistic Picts surely, as they (Jocks) might decide to invade the whole of eastern England with laser guided, tossing caber throwers?

Apr 05, 2014 12:07pm BST  --  Report as abuse
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