You would think that if there was a political version of Mastermind that the SNP’s specialist subject would be independence. After all, it is their raison d’être.
But sitting in that big black chair and under the spotlight how much do the SNP actually know about their core policy?
Acting as John Humphries, Bernard Ponsonby did a pretty good job on Thursday night’s Inverclyde election debate at asking some of the key questions the SNP must answer if independence is going to be taken seriously.
For the believers in separation from the UK, the performance of SNP candidate Anne McLaughlin was not good.
Here is the transcript of the questioning:
Bernard Ponsonby: How many air bases would an independent Scotland have?
Anne McLaughlin: I know youare going to try and draw me on this but, you know, I mean, I can’t say because in an independent Scotland we would have to decide what we needed and it would depend on our needs were at the time.
BP: Well, if you want independence, you must have done some sort of audit about the size of a Scottish defence force, so how many bases would you need?
AMcL: You know I’ve got to tell you, I’ve not had a single person in Inverclyde, Bernard, asking me about air bases…
BP: That’s not why I’m asking, your party’s policy is for independence. How many air bases would you need?
AMcL: We will have as many as we need.
BP: How many is that?
AMcL: Well, we will have to see after independence.
BP: Would you have an aircraft carrier?
AMcL: We will have to see.
BP: Do you know?
AMcL: Well I’m certainly not a defence expert. I’m not an expert in defence.
BP: Your not an expert but you’re going to have to decide on these things. It’s the core policy of your party. You don’t know how many air bases you’re going to have so it’s perfectly possible, because you don’t know, that some might have to close?
AMcL: I think it’s unlikely…
BP: So that means you’ll have, what, at least three?
AMcL: No, er, em, I, I, I can’t say that. It depends what our country needs after independence.
BP: And you don’t know if you’ll need an aircraft carrier?
AMcL: Well, you know, I can’t claim to be an expert on aircraft carriers, no.
“Well, we will have to see after independence.” This is a phrase that will live long in the memory. Are we really willing to leave something as important as Scotland’s defence to chance? For the SNP not to have thought this through does suggest that arguments for independence may be rather flimsy.
What other issues are we going to leave until after independence? Scotland’s share of national debt? Membership of the EU? Etc etc etc
There will be a referendum. Independence is, maybe for the first time, a real possibility. On this showing the road ahead will be a dangerous one to navigate with Salmond and Co leading the way.
Anne McLaughlin and the SNP: countless passes, nul points