Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and First Minister, yesterday proposed that Scotland could become independent even if independence wasn't voters' first choice.
Alex Salmond (MSP and MP) - who is under fire for costing taxpayers the equivalent of £26,000 for each of the six visits he has made to the Commons in the last year - is proposing that voters could rank independence alongside the status quo and an option for more powers for Holyrood in a three option referendum.
Annabel Goldie, Leader of Scotland's Conservatives, dismissed the ideas as "tripe":
“This is tripe – the wild words of a panicking man. Alex Salmond is clutching at straws for his minority whim. It may have escaped his notice but you don’t have a referendum to preserve the status quo – devolution is the status quo... Salmond’s proposal is born out of a recognition that independence is a minority view held by a minority party. His so-called ‘National Conversation’ has no Parliamentary mandate and is a one-party, one-country initiative. By contrast the Constitutional Commission is independently chaired, cross-party, cross-border and has Parliamentary authority.”
Mr Salmond's announcement came a day after Scotland's other main parties announced that Sir Kenneth Calman would chair their wide-ranging new inquiry into new powers for the Scottish Parliament. A majority of MSPs have approved the inquiry. Part of its remit will be the financial settlement - the so-called Barnett formula - that Scotland enjoys with the rest of the United Kingdom. There is strong support within the Tory grassroots for a review of the formula. Four-fifths support a "fairer" settlement for the English taxpayer. On his blog yesterday Nick Robinson suggested that scrapping the Barnett formula may have the same electrifying effect of George Osborne's abolition of inheritance tax for non-millionaires. That is why, speculates Mr Robinson, Labour may pre-empt Tory moves later this year.