The Mumsnet Scottish Referendum debate: key questions and answers
With polls indicating that the Scottish Referendum result is too close to call, Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling took to Mumsnet to answer your questions, in the last debate before the Referendum on 18 September. Here's what they had to say
Q. Roseformeplease: What will happen to my mortgage and the value of my property in the event of independence? These vital issues affecting ordinary voters have not really been addressed. And I am not a wealthy person, but an ordinary school teacher in a Scottish state school who has had enough to worry about this year with the massive pressure of Curriculum for Excellence.
A. Alistair Darling: I keep being asked this question, it's obviously a big worry for families. The short answer is that it all depends on the currency we use. And we still don't know, with eight days to go. Mr Salmond's floated the daft idea of a Scottish pound. Scotland could use yen, roubles or – as Panama does – the dollar. But a separate Scottish pound would stand alone. The Governor of the Bank of England told us that a currency union with indy Scotland is 'incompatible with sovereignty'. In other words you wouldn't be independent if you did it. So it will mean higher interest rates. Scotland would effectively be starting from scratch with no credit record. Currency also affects how much money we have for public services – like your school. We'd face massive cuts and huge uncertainly. We don't have to take these risks. We can keep the pound – by staying a partner in the UK, with all the strength and stability that comes with it.
A. Alex Salmond: Alistair and I had this debate two weeks ago, where I outlined both the options that an independent would have and why keeping the pound was best. His admission that no one can stop us using sterling is at variance with Better Together's leaflets which make the opposite claim, which I have to assume will now be immediately withdrawn. The Governor of the Bank of England is on the record many times as saying he has not taken a position on whether or not there should be a monetary union, but will implement whatever is agreed between the politicians and therefore to cite him as a campaigner on one side is quite wrong - almost as bad as the false claims made about Her Majesty the Queen - and is a sign of nervousness at the heart of the no campaign. The point to really look at is clause 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement, signed by the Prime Minister and myself, which says that both sides will accept the results and then operate in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The best interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are a common sense agreement on a common currency.
Q. Mythreeknights: For Alex Salmond: I just don't understand how you can feel confident leading this country if there is no guarantee that we can keep the pound, if you plan to default on national debt, and the majority of financial institutions insist there will be massive economic troubles ahead. How can you be confident against such critical certainty from a number of economic experts? How can you reassure me that Scotland will not enter a long period of austerity and recession?
A. Alex Salmond: I think one of the crucial points of this campaign was the exchange on this matter during the BBC televised debate of two weeks ago when I explained not just the policy options available to Scotland but why our arguments of a common sense agreement on a common currency, sharing both assets and liabilities is best both Scotland and the rest of the UK.
There are plenty of economic experts, including the economic Nobel laureates James Mirrlees and Joseph Stiglitz, who have backed that position but more importantly all the evidence is that a majority of the people of Scotland support that common sense view. Alistair Darling's admission during the debate that "of course we could keep the pound" merely stated the obvious that you cannot be stopped by anyone from using an internationally tradeable currency but the agreement on a common currency would be best for everyone.
A. Alistair Darling [to Alex Salmond]: Oh dear. Of course Scotland can use the pound. Like Panama uses the dollar. We could also use the yen, the rouble or the dollar. The crucial point is that it would be somebody else's currency, leaving us with no control over interest rates. On top of that, countries like Panama or Hong Kong have to hold huge reserves in case they run out of money. It's no accident that these countries have minimal public services. Nothing like what we already have here. Crucially, Scotland would have no central bank. That would cost us tens of thousands of jobs in the financial services industry. If this really is Alex's Plan B, it is mad.
A. Alex Salmond: Alistair, I think by now you would have realised that with almost 3,000 Scottish businesses supporting Business for Scotland, with some of Scotland's greatest wealth-creators on board, you would have realised that scaremongering tactics are not working for you. It would be nice if you could bring yourself to accept, like even David Cameron has, that Scotland could be a prosperous and successful independent country.
We're engaged in a political debate but one thing is clear that more and more Scots are not prepared to accept tactics such as telling us that we're not entitled to use our own currency and also the idea that the Westminster parties would appropriate the financial assets of the Bank of England without realising that inevitably means getting stuck with all the enormous liabilities that you and George Osborne accumulated over these last six years is hardly balanced or appropriate.
Finally, Alistair, it seems passing strange that you didn't manage to think of these things during the debate we had on BBC two weeks ago! Unfortunately for the no campaign, lots of people saw the debate, evaluated the arguments and are acting appropriately.
Q. Tori23: Alex Salmond, you are being infinitely frustrating - Alistair Darling did say you can use the pound but not in a currency union, this is a different issue. Please stop quoting selectively and credit us with more intelligence.
A. Alex Salmond: My point is that Better Together's leaflets make the opposite claim and I therefore would expect them to be withdrawn given the statement made by Alistair Darling. The argument for a common currency is based on the common sense argument that England is Scotland's biggest export market and Scotland is England's second biggest export market after the USA. It would therefore be in both countries' interests to share financial assets and liabilities in a sensible and cooperative way - a new partnership based on equality.
Q. Polonium: For Alistair Darling: Do you think it's fair that Scotland has more self determination, more rights AND enjoys the rights and responsibilities that come from being part of the union? Why can't Scotland just be part of the union on the same terms as the rest of us? It's wealthier than the North East and Cornwall and many other parts of the UK.
A. Alistair Darling: I agree - Scotland gets a very good deal from the union but we also give a lot back. Scottish innovation, our shared history, all the economics that go with being a partner in a bigger UK, the partnership works for both sides. We should work with our neighbours not throw stones at them.
Q. Weatherall: Mr Darling - wouldn't refusing a currency union be 'throwing stones at our neighbours'?
A. Alistair Darling: A currency union would be bad for Scotland. It would mean our budgets would not be decided in Scotland but would have to be agreed in London by the Bank of England and the rest of the UK's treasury (by then a foreign country). That's what happens in the Eurozone. Every country's budget has to be approved by the European Commission. It wouldn't work for the rest of the UK either. A currency union means underwriting the other members' banks which it wouldn't then regulate. As the governor of the Bank of England has said, currency unions work where there is economic union and a banking union - which then lead to a political union. That's what happens now in the UK, in the US and in Canada. The Eurozone as we have seen isn't working. Not least because they can't provide a backstop by transferring money to countries that are struggling. Jim Sillars, former deputy leader of the SNP, has described the currency union plan as "stupidity on stilts". He's right on that one.
On the economy:
Q. SkateLife: As a small business owner, I'd like to hear how independence would change my business. VAT and rates? The recession has almost wiped us out, Westminster plans more cuts and consumer spending is still down. How do you plan to help small businesses cope and move forward in an independent Scotland.
A. Alistair Darling: I'm sorry about the struggle you've been facing. A separate Scotland will mean there will be different tax rates and a Scottish equivalent of HMRC. Red tape which never goes away will be different in England and Scotland which would add to costs. While the nationalists propose to cut Corporation Tax for the big companies, they've made no such plans for smaller ones. On top of that, if oil revenues were to drop again, as they did last year, a Scottish government might need to come looking for more taxes to cover the black hole. The reason I believe we're better as a partner in the UK is because being part of something bigger means you can deal with a drop in such as oil revenues and spread the cost and the risks across a population of 63 million, not just 5 million.
A. Alex Salmond: I think most people would share your concern about the economic policy from Westminster towards small businesses and the complications of the tax system as implemented by HMRC. In Scotland, with the one significant tax power we have over business at the present moment, we implemented a small business bonus which has benefited 80,000 small businesses with either the elimination or a reduction in their business rates. Above all, this was simple to apply for and had a take up of almost 100%. We would seek, once we have the powers to move towards further tax simplification, to benefit small businesses, which are the source of the greater part of employment creation. Finally, successive Westminster chancellors have promised much in this area and delivered virtually nothing. At least the small business bonus has been delivered and sets a template for further beneficial change to come once we have the powers to do so.
Q. Frankblackswife: Question for Alex Salmond: What confidence can you give me and my family in the event of an independent Scotland. We are higher rate tax payers, mortgage holders and my husband is a business owner (60+ % turnover from UK based companies). We don't and never have claimed benefits - we don't seem to fit in your demographic.
A. Alex Salmond: Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world - richer per head than countries like France, Japan and indeed the UK. In fact, over the past five years Scotland would have been £8.3 billion better off as an independent country – so there is no need for an independent Scotland to increase taxes.
Independence is a tremendous opportunity for businesses in Scotland – for the first time we will be able to set an economic policy which puts Scotland first.
Just today it was revealed that 300 businesses men and women – from single-employee businesses right up to Jim McColl, one of Scotland's biggest job creators, and most recently saviour of the Ferguson's shipyard – have now signed an open letter backing independence.
Finally, in an independent Scotland mortgage rates will continue to be based on the interest rate set by the Bank of England, which in a Sterling Area will be exactly the same for Scotland as for the rest of the UK, just as it is now.
Q. GillianFortWilliam: To both: How many years do you estimate it will take before an independent Scotland will have an equivalent GDP (or sense of returning prosperity if you will) as we have today? Please take into account that it has taken around seven years from the last economic upheaval in 2007/8 to get to today's status quo. So how many years? 10, 15 to 20, more than 20? Please substantiate your answers.
A. Alistair Darling: Thanks for your question, Gillian. Short answer is nobody knows - and that's not a risk I'm prepared to take. The last thing we need now is years more instability and austerity. We don't need to take the risk when we can stay a partner in the UK with all the security and stability that gives us.
Q. Crumblemum: According to independent Institute of Fiscal studies, Scotland is likely to face bigger cuts after independence if it's to balance the books. Mr Salmond, you've been running on "save public services" ticket that implies higher public spending. But you're not going to be able to raise public spending, are you?
A. Alex Salmond: But the head of the IFS has stated that Scotland would be a prosperous country as an independent state and the calculations so beloved of Better Together depend on a fifty-year forecast of the Scottish population only increasing by 4%, compared to 20% for the rest of the United Kingdom. In fact, we've managed more than that in the 15 years since the Scottish Parliament started!
Any Scottish Government will wish to welcome people of skill from wherever they come from as well as creating opportunity for the tens of thousands of young people who currently leave Scotland each and every year. In fact, the IFS forecast gives us a glimpse into the future marked out for us by the Westminster system. I would prefer that we take responsibility to meet the demographic challenge and change Scotland for the better.
Q. JimMurphysHump: Alistair Darling: What do we have already that we wouldn't have in an independent Scotland? Not just idle threats like xyz is 'at risk' which is just scaremongering. What actual thing can it be categorically stated would go if Scotland votes Yes?
My sister received a BT leaflet the other day suggesting there would be fewer law jobs (?) and that Glastonbury would no longer be accessible to Scots. Adding this to the "we cant use the pound" and Tesco supermarket prices fiascos it's difficult to believe anything Better Together tell us. So, can you provide us with an answer to what we would actually, definitely lose if we vote Yes?
A. Alistair Darling: I'm sorry to say I can give you one loss announced just today. Standard Life, the Edinburgh pensions company, have said that if there is a Yes vote they are making plans right now to move business down south.
Another example - we spend £1,200 more for every Scot on health, schools and other vital public services. If we leave the UK, we lose that. It's not just me saying that - but independent experts. If I saw you step out in front of a bus and I shouted a warning, would that be scaremongering, would it?
Q. Venusandmars: Mr Darling, Luckily I did my research before coming on this thread, and I read properly the statement from Standard Life with regards to their contingency planning - which is exactly what any sensible organisation would be expected to do. Unless there is another more recent statement which is no yet in the public domain. I'm a 'no thanks' voter, but very to see that kind of incorrect response.
A. Alistair Darling: Hello venusandmars. Sorry but we're at crossed purposes here. Let me clear it up. David Nish, the CEO of Standard Life, issued a statement today (10 Sep). He says the company is planning for new companies in England to which they can transfer parts of their business. He also says that there is uncertainty around a range of issues over separation, including the currency, membership of the EU, regulation and consumer protection.
You might also want to have a look at what oil expert Sir Ian Wood has said today - that the nationalists have misled Scotland on oil. Both BP and Shell said today it would be best to stay in the UK. This is not my verdict - it's employers. Why risk jobs with a Yes vote when real change is coming with a No vote?
Q. noeggspleasewerebritish: Alex Salmond - in the event of a Yes vote, what do you think will be the three biggest challenges facing Scotland? And how do you plan to respond to them?
A. Alex Salmond: I think the biggest economic challenge facing all European countries is the balance between working age and elderly population. We intend to tackle that by creating the environment where many of the 30,000 young people who leave Scotland each and every year can have the potential for employment to fit their qualifications in their own country. We also wish to welcome skilled workers and students from other countries who want to experience Scottish education and work with their talents for a time in Scotland.
I think the biggest challenge facing the world is to square up to the environmental certainty that we cannot go on abusing this planet without grave consequences of disruption and occasional tragedy in the developed world and sustained climatic disaster in the less developed world. Thus, our proposal and policy of a climate justice fund is one which I hope will be followed by many other developed countries.
Challenge number three is the social challenge of creating not just a prosperous economy but a more just society. There is a real yearning for a policy programme which provides that crucial balance in holding communities together.
Q. niceguy2: Alex Salmond: Last month one of the most respected industrialists in Scotland, Sir Ian Wood accused you of exaggerating the amount of revenue from North Sea oil by up to 60%.
In light of this, do you still stand by your figures or is Sir Ian merely scaremongering like those who claimed Scotland would have to reapply to join the EU and NATO?
A. Alex Salmond: You'll also know that Ian Wood's estimate of 16.5 billion barrels is more than 60% higher than the OBR's suggestion of 10 billion barrels. The Scottish government has always used the industry body Oil and Gas UK estimate of up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas remaining and noticeably that was backed again this morning by Prof Alex Kemp, the foremost expert in this field and the only one with a comprehensive field model at the University of Aberdeen. Alex pointed out that he expected the development of up to a hundred as yet undeveloped fields.
It should be said that Ian Wood's estimate would imply a wholesale value of one trillion pounds sterling over the next thirty-five years or so - that is one thousand, thousand million, which sounds to me like an asset of substantial proportions. If the government revenue from that is say 20% that suggests an average tax take of around £6 billion per year, more than £1,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. Most countries would consider that an amazing advantage, not a dreadful curse as the no campaign consistently suggest. However, the real wealth of Scotland does not lie in the North Sea or in the waters around the country, where we'll be developing hydrocarbons for the next 50-100 years, it lies in the wit and ingenuity of the Scottish people, who are perfectly able to make this country both more prosperous and more fair.
On the EU, you'll have noted that it's all gone quiet from the No campaign over the past few weeks, probably for the very obvious reason that the incoming President of the Commission has said that he will respect the referendum process of Scotland and the former President of the Parliament said in Edinburgh yesterday that 18 months was perfectly viable to negotiate Scotland's continuing membership of the EU - an international body founded on democratic values. I suppose the common sense of this would rest on four numbers: 1, 20, 25 and 60. One is our percentage of the EU's population, 20 is our percentage share of the European Union's fish stocks, 25 is the percentage estimated of offshore marine renewable energy and 60 is the percentage of the European Union's conventional oil reserves. It seems hardly likely that a country with these ratios will be anything other than welcome in the wider European family.
Finally, I thought the fact that the last UK Ambassador to NATO, Dame Mariot Leslie, who retired only this year has stated firmly that of course Scotland would be welcome in that organisation was a rather telling contribution - don't you?
Q. Kasino72: I'd like to ask Mr Darling, if the oil is running out as quickly as BT claims, where is the UK plan B? The Lords removed the Scottish government's renewables obligation and Westminster has abandoned its post-2020 renewables targets. Is the Westminster approach to dwindling fossil fuel reserves the same as to this referendum - pretend it isn't happening and then panic at the last minute?
A. Alistair Darling: Oil revenues are about 2% of the UK's tax base. Although oil revenues have been declining that can be dealt with within the UK budget. On renewables, the Scottish industry relies on a UK subsidy from the bills of all payers to make it work. Lose that and jobs are at risk and electricity prices would rise.
Q. DrMalcolmTuckerWhosMistress: For Alex Salmond: You're keen to fight child poverty, and introduce free childcare. Why then did you introduce free prescriptions to all instead of putting the money back into both of these things? Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay for prescriptions. Same goes for pensioners and bus passes. Small drop in the ocean to some, but it appears that you're already willing and happy to waste money on things that the Westminster government are, despite protesting how different the SNP are.
A. Alex Salmond: Thanks for your question. I agree that fighting child poverty and more free childcare is vital. That's why we are making school meals free to all P1 to P3 pupils and have extended by almost half the number of nursery hours children get.
But we want to do much more and that needs control of the tax and benefit system. That's one of the great opportunities of independence. For example, by having control of both sides of the balance sheet, we can reinvest the revenues from increased numbers of women in work into increasing childcare. Right now that money goes to Westminster.
Q. Franmat: For Alex Salmond: Many promises have been made re free childcare provision, education etc. If there is a yes vote, will we not then have to vote in a new government? How, then, can you make promises which your successor may not be happy to honour? It is like the Tories trying to commit the Labour party to a Conservative manifesto.
A. Alex Salmond: Hi, Fran. You're quite right to say that the real point about independence is that the people of Scotland will choose their own government in the spring of 2016. The White Paper makes that very clear. However, we thought it was important to spell out some of the policies that we would like to see if we were fortunate enough to be chosen by the people. Hence our ideas for a radical expansion of childcare which carries so much support and enthusiasm and would take provision in Scotland to levels only really seen in Scandinavia.
Q. SneezySnuffaroo: Mr Salmond, I am concerned about your eventual plans to roll out what will effectively be full time childcare to all babies/children from age one until school. While I understand your motivations to encourage women back to work (and that many families do not have the financial choice of a "stay at home" parent), it seems like a huge amount of time for such a small child to be away from a primary care giver (mum or dad, or even a grandparent).
Please can you explain what research you conducted/advice you sought into the effects such childcare arrangements could have on the development of very young babies/children, and what the findings were.
I would hate to think that Scotland was trading off the early development of it's young for the sake of it's economy.
A. Alex Salmond: Thanks for your question. There is a great deal of academic research into the benefits of high quality childcare, not least the Growing up in Scotland study here in Scotland.
That said, the childcare is not compulsory and each family must decide what works best for them. Our plan for the equivalent of 30 hours a week – matching the time children spend in primary school – gives families the choice of childcare that too many simply can't afford right now.
Q. Bananaboat: Mr Salmond, in the second debate you talked about a Tory-led plan to privatise the NHS in Scotland which has apparently chimed with voters and boosted the Yes campaign's popularity. But the NHS is wholly devolved in Scotland and the Tories have no influence in the Scottish government. Can you explain?
A. Alex Salmond: The difficulty is, while the administration of the NHS is fully devolved, the finance is dependent on decisions made at Westminster. For example, the UK government recently decided to ignore the independent pay review and give nurses and other workers and increase in pay. In Scotland, we made the decision to honour that obligation. That cost around £30 million. Because there was no finance from Westminster to pay for the increase, we had to find it out of other budgets, which was very difficult. That provides an example of why anything under the current system, which impacts on NHS public finance in England has an immediate knock-on effect in Scotland. Thus, privatisation and charging in the NHS south of the border will put great pressure on our public health service in Scotland unless we control both sides of the balance sheet and the finance as well as the administration of our public National Health Service.
There's an excellent article from Professor Alison Pollock, which was in the Sunday Herald a week past Sunday, which is well worth a look.
A. Alistair Darling: The NHS is completely devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Prime Minister can't privatise it. The First Minister could. Actually, he's spent more than a hundred million pounds on private provision in the last few years. He might not mention that too often. What matters is that health care is free at the point of need. Not only does the Scottish Parliament have complete control over health policy, but from 2016 it will have power to raise money to spend more on the health service, if it wants to do that. In other words, you can have the changes we need to guarantee health spending under devolution, within the UK. You don't need to break up the country to do that. Frightening people on health, cancer patients, the elderly and vulnerable, is despicable.
On reasons for voting:
Q. deeedeee: Mr Salmond and Mr Darling: Many Yes voters are not voting for SNP policies, but are voting for the chance for a more representative parliament with more Green MSPs and the emergence of other left leaning organisations like the Common Weal. How do you intend to involve these new voices in plans for constitutional change in the event of a Yes vote or more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote?
A. Alistair Darling: Thanks for the question. The three non-nationalist parties have signed up to a process that will mean consultation with voluntary organisations, churches, community groups and many others. This is too big a decision for politicians alone.
Q. ItsAllGoingToBeFine: Mr Darling. It has been stated that in the event of a No vote many new powers are guaranteed to be devolved to Scots. As devo-max would have been the preferred option for most can you state: exactly what these new powers are; exactly how they can be guaranteed when there is no new legislation being passed through parliament regarding this, and even if there was, no guarantee it would be passed.
A. Alistair Darling: All three of the parties that may form a government after the next general election have guaranteed a timetable for the new raft of powers. These include further power over income tax and welfare, which covers housing benefit so we can get rid of the iniquitous bedroom tax. We already have a Scottish Parliament with powers over education and health. So instead of years of wrangling over separation, we can have legislation underway from day one after the referendum.
Q. WildThong: Mr Salmond, what will be the SNP position on retaining the Royal Family even after the current Queen? I ask as I was assured by one of your campaigners that Queen Elizabeth would be the last crowned Windsor in Scotland.
A. Alex Salmond: As we've seen this morning in the statement from Buckingham Palace, the bizarre claims that Her Majesty the Queen was anything other than neutral in this debate have been explicitly and firmly put to rest. Of course, as the BBC royal correspondent pointed out last night make there is the historical fact that Scotland and England had over 100 years as independent countries with the same monarchs. Our proposal is to reverse the Westminster parliamentary union not the union of the crowns, which pre-dated it.
Interestingly enough, the opinion poll at the weekend, which provoked so much panic in the No campaign also showed a resounding majority of Scots who wish to continue with Her Majesty the Queen as Queen of Scots, as her ancestors were. We should also remember that Her Majesty is Queen of 16 countries and realms, not just this one, as well as being Head of the Commonwealth of 71 countries and territories. This point is not likely to be lost in Scotland, where we have just enjoyed the most successful Commonwealth Games in history.
Q. prettybird: To Alistair Darling: Can you explain why we're "better together"? I haven't been able to find any concrete examples other than "we're bigger and can share the risk" - yet there are plenty of countries of similar (and smaller) population and GDP which are successful. My Danish relatives don't understand what the issue is (and indeed are quite insulted by the implication). I understand the "feeling British" argument - and indeed, in 1979 I would have voted No for that reason - but not the wording "Better Together".
I've always felt Scottish - but my sense of Britishness has diminished over the years - to the extent of being ashamed of some of the things that the UK state has associated us with. So, why are we Better Together in simple terms?
A. Alistair Darling: Hi prettybird. Three examples: more jobs; energy prices are lower than they would otherwise be; higher public spending on schools and hospitals and other public services and the price of the weekly shop is less here than it is in most smaller countries. It's common sense.
Q. daisyfraser: What is to be done about Yes campaigners patrolling the streets of Scotland bullying and intimidating No campaigners since it looks as if this activity may actually be frightening people into voting Yes and is highly divisive whatever the outcome?
A. Alex Salmond: Hi, Daisy. The polls at the weekend, which caused so much consternation in the No campaign, also asked people if they thought the campaign was being conducted in a way which did Scotland credit and good. By a majority of almost five-to-one on both sides of the campaign, people thought this was a great thing for Scotland.
That has been my experience as I've gone round the country and spoken to communities, energised and empowered by this referendum process. Obviously, any bad behaviour on either side should be deprecated and I always do whether it be online or offline, but it would be entirely wrong to suggest whatever some newspapers have claimed that this is any way typical of the 99% of campaigners who are having a enlightening and joyous political campaign.
Q. SomeSunnySunday: I am almost certainly a Yes voter, but have concerns relating to how narrow a margin whichever side wins is likely to win by. We're probably looking at something like a 49/51% of voters split (which obviously when taking into account turnout will probably equate to less than half of the actual electorate voting for the "winning" campaign).
In comparable situations there has almost always been overwhelming public support for independence. How do you plan to address around half of the electorate feeling disenfranchised? To my mind, this will be more of an issue if there is a Yes vote (as there is then no going back) than if there is a No vote (as we could always re-run the referendum in years to come), and it does deter me from voting Yes (as I'd really like a Yes win with an overwhelming majority).
A. Alistair Darling: Hello, the vote could well be tight. Every one of us still to vote could tip the result either way. And as you say, whatever the result there will a lot of very disappointed people. But on 19 September we will all have to work together, accept the result and do what is best for Scotland. You're right, too, that if we do vote to separate there is no going back. This is forever.
Q. NoRoomForALittleOne: I can't actually vote, even though this affects me being English and living in England, but my husband is Scottish so why can't he vote just because he lives in England? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way.) It does change things for us as a family. For instance, do we have to apply for our children to have dual-citizenship and different passports if Scotland becomes independent?
A. Alex Salmond: I would have loved to have had a broader franchise but it was agreed between both governments that we should use the same franchise as in the 1997 referendum and the Scottish elections because it would have been difficult to fairly define any other electorate except on the basis of residence. There are two exceptions to this, that is members of Her Majesty's Forces or people on Crown Service who have to work where they are sent and therefore have the right to vote.
It is the thing that caused me most difficulty in trying to get to a position which was fair. The Scottish citizenship offer is set out on page 273 of the White Paper, "Scotland's Future", and you will see from that you'll be able to reassure both your husband and children from these proposals.
Q. SquidgyMummy: Hello Mr Salmond, How long will it take from the time of a postive Yes vote to the practical implementation of a new country, eg new passports, border controls, etc?
A. Alex Salmond: There really won't be border controls any more than there are right now with Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands as part of the Common Travel Area - that was just another of the scare stories the No camp have run. In fairness, they disowned this one within hours over the weekend, so I think we can be certain now on this point.
Following a vote for independence in the referendum, a realistic independence date is 24 March 2016. This will allow time for the preparations necessary for the Scottish Parliament to take on the new powers of independence.
Q. wwbuffydo: Can I ask both Alex and Alistair why it's more important to rescue a family in Glasgow from needing a foodbank than doing the same for a family in Manchester? I don't want to stop poverty in my back yard, I want to stop it altogether, and that is why I think that nationalism is fundamentally a selfish and divisive movement.
A. Alistair Darling: A very good question. Thank you. All of us should be equally concerned about child poverty no matter where that child lives in the UK. Surely our humanity and sense of justice means that we should strive to eradicate child poverty throughout the whole of the UK? Our concerns shouldn't stop at the border. Solidarity and working with our neighbours is fundamental to my political beliefs.
A. Alex Salmond: I care, as I'm sure you do, about poverty and inequality all over this planet and do whatever I can in any way I can to mitigate its effects and help. However, each of us also has a particular responsibility to do what we can about unfairness in our own country and Scotland is a country not a county; a nation, not a region. Many of us think that nation has the right to elect a government of our choice at each and every election. I believe passionately that any such government will choose not to participate in illegal wars, will choose not to waste billions on nuclear weapons and will choose not to allow society to be so unequal that tens of thousands of our fellow citizens can't afford to feed their families and the wages they earn or because of the gaping holes which are opening in the social security system particularly affecting those with disability.
Responsible self-government is of course the foundation of true internationalism and the independence we seek is progressive for the social fabric of Scotland and the way in which we seek it is an exemplar internationally.
Wonderful question on which to finish. Good-bye and good luck!
Alistair Darling: This has been great. Thank you so much for all of the questions and the replies. I'm back off on the campaign trail now with my Tunnock's teacake in my pocket. Best wishes to you all.
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