LONDON – Breaking up is supposed to be hard to do – but Britain’s government confirmed Tuesday it would happily offer Scotland the powers it needs to sever centuries-old ties to England.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s government said it would sweep away legal hurdles to allow the Scots a vote on whether their country should become independent for the first time since the 18th Century Act of Union, which united Scotland with England to create Great Britain.
But in return, Cameron – who opposes any breakup of the United Kingdom, which also includes Wales and Northern Ireland – is urging Scotland to make its intentions clear “sooner rather than later.” He claims investors are becoming increasingly wary of Scottish leader Alex Salmond’s plans to delay a vote for several years, damaging Britain’s economy.
Salmond, head of Scotland’s semiautonomous government, has long championed independence to allow the country greater control over lucrative oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea.
His separatist Scottish National Party insists that winning autonomy over tax and spending policies – powers the Scottish government doesn’t presently have – would help replicate the economic success of neighbors like Norway, which has used its energy riches to fund state pensions.
Salmond insisted that Cameron should not take any role in setting out the timetable for the crucial referendum.
“We are not going to be stampeded and dragooned by a Tory prime minister in London,” he said.
The Scottish Government said autumn 2014 was its preferred date for a vote on the country’s constitutional future, with Salmond saying the timeframe is desirable because “this is the biggest decision Scotland has made for 300 years.”