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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Call for 'Clarity' On Independence

A senior Liberal Democrat has accused First Minister Alex Salmond of backing away from the key SNP policy for full independence.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the Advocate General and former deputy first minister, said Mr Salmond will stop short of the aim and settle instead for maximum powers within the UK.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, Lord Wallace said: "The First Minister is a very forceful character and someone who in spite of all the rhetoric about independence actually knows on which side the bread is buttered and therefore will push for maximum powers but stop short.

"I wouldn't say he was a feartie but he's got his head screwed on the right way."

He called for "clarity" on what independence means and an early referendum, and compared Mr Salmond with Jordi Pujol, a Catalonian politician who settled for devolved powers within the Spanish state.

Lord Wallace's provocative claim follows interventions from other senior Lib Dem MPs in recent days. Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the SNP has questions to answer on areas such as currency, bank regulation, EU membership and defence after independence.

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, another Scottish Lib Dem MP, said the country's deficit would have been the largest in Europe, according to the gap between taxes raised and what was spent in 2009-10.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "The First Minister is totally committed to independence, as are growing numbers of people in Scotland, and we will give people that chance to choose independence in the referendum we have promised.

"Jim Wallace's problem is that he didn't even manage to be Scotland's Jordi Pujol when he had the chance. With every week that passes his party seem to be retreating further and further from their supposed policy of more powers for Scotland's national Parliament - and instead are acting as a front for a Tory Government Scotland didn't vote for.

"The Lib Dems now sound like the Scottish Tories did in the 1990s, and it is having exactly the same result on their level of support."

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