12/01/2012 Daily Politics


12/01/2012

Jo Coburn is in Westminster and Andrew Neil is at the Scottish Parliament. Guests include Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and former Met Police Commissioner Lord Blair.


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Transcript


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Good afternoon from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh where Alex

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Salmond is holding his first First Ministers' Questions of 2012.

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Inside the chamber everyone is agreed there should be a referendum

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:00:27.:00:27.

on Scottish independence. But they are anything but agreed on WHEN and

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exactly what question the Scottish It's a beautiful sunny day here in

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the Scottish capital, but there have been some pretty stormy scenes

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in the chamber behind me just up these steps. For First Minister

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Alex Salmond, sparring with the New Labour leader here in Scotland,

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Johanne Lamont, frankly it wasn't very pretty. I had to avert my eyes.

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She accused Mr Salmond of not wanting a referendum very quickly.

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She said there should be one sooner rather than later. She even accused

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the First Minister of lacking courage. It's not fair on Scotland

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now or the Scotland of the future for the timing of this referendum

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to be in the hands of one politician. A Now, the First

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Minister, Alex Salmond, has already told the Prime Minister, David

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Cameron, to butt out of all of this business of a referendum, to stop

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stirring, but we have been doing a bit of stirring ourselves. We sent

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Max out with "the mood Bob," of the Daily Politics to find out what

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people down south think of Scottish independence. Anyone else -

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Scotland? Should it be independent, yes or no? No! The Government says

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it must press ahead to controversial changes to the

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welfare reform which were defeated in the House of Lords last night.

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And we'll be delving into the relationship between the police and

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the media - are they too close for comfort?

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Yes, all that coming up in the next half hour. And with us for the

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duration is the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Ian,

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now Lord Blair. Welcome to the programme. Thank you very much.

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first this morning let's talk about welfare reform because last night

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the Government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over

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its plans to cut the cost of welfare. Labour and cross-bench

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peers defeated plans to means test and time limit payments to those

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recovering from serious illnesses such as cancer. Peers also

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overturned a plan to restrict young people with disabilities from

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claiming benefits. You, Ian, were one of them, weren't you? I was.

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What was the strength of the feeling like? I think the strength

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of the feeling was very considerable. I am a new boy in

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there, but I am told by the old hands it's a very, very long time

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since the Government has lost three divisions in a row and by

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significant margins. The Government has already said this morning -

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Christopher grailing has been out saying we're going to overturn

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those defeats, and you're wrong on this issue. Obviously, the

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Government has the right to put it back to the Commons and change it,

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but the mood of the Lords was summed up by the really marvellous

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Lord Patel, the obstetrician, who led the amendments, who said if

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we're going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then that is the kind of

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morality I cannot support. And the whole issue here is that the most

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vulnerable people - the people recovering from cancer, the people

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with long-term disabilities, are going to lose money in a

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significant way, to the extent of nearly �100 a week in some cases,

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and in particular this issue of what's called the Education Support

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Allowance. There is a suggestion that the people would be limited to

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just one year of that as from April, but also they're going to back date

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it, so if you have been on it for a year you're going to lose it on the

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first day. The Government no doubt made its case in the House of Lords

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today and has reiterated it saying actually they have made adequate

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provision for those people. The welfare reforms are the centrepiece

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of their policy plan, and if the defeats you put on the Government

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last night were to go ahead, it would cost between �1.5 and �2

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billion that has to be claimed somewhere. That is an important

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issue. Hugely important, but those figures, as I understand them,

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relate to absolutely everybody taking the maximum period they

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could possibly do. One of the instances is, for instance, cancer

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patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and so on - wented

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that period extended beyond one year. Everybody who knows anything

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at it says that most people want to go back to work as soon as possible.

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It's part of the therapy, but some can't. This is an issue that no

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doubt will come back. Stay with us. We're going to return to Edinburgh

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and Andrew Neil who is at the Holyrood Parliament. Thanks. All

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the headlines in the coverage for this in London and Edinburgh have

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been dominateded by the process, when will the referendum be? Should

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there be more than one question, an interim question between status quo

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and independence? Who should look after the referendum? Should it be

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the Electoral Commission or so on? When we were today offered an

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interview with Scotland's Finance Minister, John Swinney, I thought

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we'd park the process for a minute and ask a bit of substance about

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what an independent Scotland would look like in his view, so I began

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by asking him, what would the currency be if Scotland was

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independent? It would be sterling. We have made it clear that would be

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the currency we'd inherit, inherit those arrangements from the United

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Kingdom. That is the basis on which we would plan independence. There

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is a debate to be had about the European central currency, but we

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have set out we'd only ever go into a single currency if the economic

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conditions were correct and if the people of Scotland voted for that

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in a referendum, and the economic conditions in our opinion most

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definitely are not correct for that at this time, so sterling would be

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the currency... So Bank of England - the Bank of England would set an

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independent Scotland's interest rates? We would have to operate in

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that fashion if that was the operation of the Bank of England...

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So interest rates would be set by London? The key proposition that

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would be different about independence in that context is

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that a Scottish Government would be able to pursue its own fiscal

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policy which would enable an independent Scotland to take

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significantly more decisions than can ever be taken today about

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ensuring that we have the economic conditions and interventions that

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are appropriate for the needs and the aspirations of the Scottish

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economy. That's fiscal policy, but you wouldn't control your own

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interest rates or money supply? You couldn't print your own money, is

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that right? But what we would be... Is that right? The Bank of England

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would be able to take decisions... Yeah, the Bank of England would

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take decisions about a country in which it was not part and didn't

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care about. But obviously, if it was operating - if the currency was

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part of the jurisdiction of the Bank of England, if that was part

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of the agreement and approach that we took, then the Bank of England

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would operate in a fashion that was appropriate to those economic

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circumstances, but what we would also be able to do - and this is a

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crucial point, Andrew - there would be a separate distinction about

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fiscal policy that would be able to be taken forward about a Scottish

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Government which would give us significantly more economic

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influence and leverage than we have at the present time, and... That's

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not what I am asking about. Would - the Bank of England would also

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control how much you could borrow, correct? Well, the Bank of England

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- the Scottish Government would determine what degree of borrowing

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it was able to take forward. the Bank of England would have to

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have a say-so to that. It would have to do so within a sustainable

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climate and framework. Set by the Bank of England. That's where you

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have to take into account the fact that we have both - there is a

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debate about monetary policy and also fiscal policy because what

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fiscal policy enables you to do is to create a more prosperous set of

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conditions and deliver a greater degree of growth. I understand that

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an independent Scotland sets its own tax. No. I would like you to

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answer this question. Would the Bank of England control how much

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you could borrow? Let me complete this point - what's important about

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fiscal policy is it can influence the amount of growth you can

:08:53.:08:57.

deliver in the economy, which is clearly a fact of the influences -

:08:57.:09:02.

the degree of borrowing that is required to be undertaken soo. You

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would have to apply to join the European Union. No, we wouldn't.

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But Scotland isn't a part of the you'reene union. We're clearly a

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part of it today. We inherit the obligations of the United Kingdom...

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Do you have guidance from Brussels you wouldn't have to rejoin? If you

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look at some... Have you had guidance from Brussels? If you look

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at the most distinguished opinion on this suffered offered by one of

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the secretaries of the European Commission, if you look at a report

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by Eamon Gallagher - the treaty obligations of the United Kingdom

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and being already a member of the European Union... Sure. The Royal

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Bank of Scotland - 83% owned by the UK taxpayer. Who would own it after

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independence? That would obviously be part of the dialogue that would

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have to take place between the United Kingdom Government... Would

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you take it over? Clearly, we would have an interest in the ownership

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of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but it would be part of a negotiation

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between the Scottish Government and UK... But is it the policy of the

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Scottish Nationalists the Royal Bank of Scotland should become a

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wholly owned Scottish bank again? What it should become in our

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aspiration is a privately owned bank, and we'd want to encourage

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the bank as soon as it is efficiently able to do so to become

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a privately owned bank. That is what it should be. I understand

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that. For the foreseeable future, it doesn't look like it's happening.

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It's owned by the state at the moment. Will the Scottish state

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take it over? The UK Government has disposed of its interests in

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Northern Rock. What's the answer to my question? Will the Scottish

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state take over the Royal Bank of Scotland? My to answer you is

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twofold. One is the fact that the Scottish Government would negotiate

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that with the United Kingdom Government, what the ongoing

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arrangements were. Secondly, we would have the aspiration, just

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like the UK Government has, to return the Royal Bank of Scotland

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to its proper place within the private sector which I think will

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happen soon. In the interim, will you take over its toxic assets as

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well? That's part of the interests the UK has within the Royal Bank of

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Scotland. It has to be properly negotiated between the two

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governments. What's important is the Royal Bank of Scotland is on a

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journey to get back into private ownership. We'd want to encourage

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that. That was John Swinney talking to the SNP earlier on. A lot of

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people in England and Wales think Scottish independence is as much

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matter for them as the people of Scotland. We sent Max out with the

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mood box to see what the people of London thought. It's an ancient

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political debate - independence for Scotland - should we hold our

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Scottish brothers and sisters to our bosom in a United Kingdom of

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Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or should Scotland be unhitched and

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pushed out into the North Atlantic? That's the question - do we want an

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Scotland - should it be independent? Yes or no? Pop a poll

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in the box? No. OK. No, no, no. Half my roots are Scottish and half

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English, so I don't wish to divide my allegiances. I voted no.

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voted no. Great. I was going to vote yes.

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Because I think it would be a good idea that we wouldn't have to pay

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for their National Health. think they should pay for their own

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National Health? I definitely do. Do you think the English People

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should get a vote on Scottish independence? With Scottish genes,

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yes. You voted no. Why is that? think a Act of Union was correct in

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1707. Would you vote to make Scotland independent? Yes, I would

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do. It's because you love Scotland? I love Scotland. I love the

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Scottish people. We have only been at it half an hour, and it's very

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evenly matched between yes and no, but what lots and lots of people

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are saying is there should be a third box which says it's up to the

:13:07.:13:12.

Scottish people. Ultimately, politically, it needs

:13:12.:13:16.

to be Scotland's decision, but I don't think it's realistic. Keep

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together. I kind of want them to be independent, so it shows them how

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isolating it is to be alone. aren't we getting a vote as well?

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Why do you think we should get a vote in England? I think it affects

:13:28.:13:33.

England as well as Scotland. We should get a vote too. Are you

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French? Should it be independent or not? Lieb, OK.

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I am conflicted here because the only reason the Tories are giving

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us independence is so there are less Labour MPs in Parliament.

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that the only reason? I am bloody sure that's the reason. Is it

:13:53.:13:58.

Andrew Neil? Yeah, yeah. If only you said, in which case... You're

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going to vote no. Right. Time is up - lots of people voting. The yeses

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are just about ahead after an hour- and-a-half. My two favourite

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comments have been, firstly, what on earth are you doing asking this

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question in London, you burke? The second, which is the box for

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rebuilding Hadrian's Wall? LAUGHTER

:14:22.:14:28.

That's very funny. Evenly split there as well. I am joined by Lord

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Foulkes, and, of course, Ian Blair is with us too. Does it take two to

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separate, as we heard some people saying here? I think that is very

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good point. There is a legitimate English interest. I am in favour of

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a federal system. I want to see devolution to England. Don't put

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any other options forward, please! I thought it was very interesting,

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Andrew's interview with John Swinney. You can see why they don't

:14:53.:14:56.

want an earlier referendum. He couldn't answer the question on

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currency, on RBS, on European membership. He didn't even get on

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to the army, Navy and air force. There are so many unanswered

:15:03.:15:08.

questions. That is the point. It has been about the process - or a

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large part of the discussion has been about the process. Once we get

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into the substance of it, it may be more difficult in terms of

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presenting an argument as far as the SNP is concerned, is that your

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view? Yes. I think they want to delay it as much as possible.

:15:25.:15:29.

give them more time? Yes, to work up their arguments. I am also

:15:29.:15:33.

worried they're trying to fix the referendum because what is

:15:33.:15:35.

absolutely vital is that the Electoral Commission must run it,

:15:35.:15:39.

an independent body. That's same all over the world. Electoral

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Commissions do that. What they want to do is run it themselves - decide

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the timing... They would argue they confounded expectations last year,

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and they won, and they won very decisively in those elections, and

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one might say as a result partly of Labour's failure in Scotland. Do

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you accept Labour hasn't performed well in Scotland and has allowed

:16:00.:16:04.

Alex Salmond and the SNP to perform as well as it snas I think that's

:16:04.:16:08.

inevitably a conclusion you're right to draw.

:16:08.:16:15.

But he got 45% of the vote. They talk about an overwhelming mandate.

:16:15.:16:18.

45% is not overwhelming. They have always made their position clear.

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We have said that they have got a right for a referendum to be

:16:23.:16:29.

conducted. We have accepted that. What was said by Michael Moore in

:16:29.:16:31.

the Commons yesterday quite rightly is they don't have the legal

:16:31.:16:35.

ability to do it. We can give them the power to do that, but it must

:16:35.:16:41.

be done fairly. There was a statesman-like agreement in the

:16:41.:16:45.

House of Commons yesterday between David Cameron and Ed Miliband

:16:45.:16:47.

yesterday over the future of Scotland and Scottish independence.

:16:47.:16:50.

Do you agree that the Prime Minister could end up being the

:16:50.:17:00.
:17:00.:17:04.

best recruiting sergeant for an That's quite possible. I think

:17:04.:17:07.

there are voices coming forward now, from all over the United Kingdom,

:17:07.:17:13.

saying this is a bigger issue than just about Scotland. There was a

:17:13.:17:17.

very good article in the Telegraph yesterday about the nature of

:17:17.:17:21.

British identity, that actually the Scots and the English and the Irish

:17:21.:17:27.

and the Welsh have developed an identity which is a force for good

:17:27.:17:31.

p -- in the world. Do you think it was a mistake for some of Labour's

:17:31.:17:36.

big beasts from, Scotland, to come down to Westminster? Have they

:17:36.:17:41.

ignored and forgotten it? No, we live up there. We are active in

:17:41.:17:45.

Scottish politic. We have to be active in British politics as well.

:17:45.:17:48.

We are Scottish, blish, we are European. That is the -- British,

:17:48.:17:53.

we are European. That is the modern way to look at it. To talk about

:17:53.:17:58.

hundreds of years is really turning the clock back in a ridiculous way.

:17:58.:18:03.

Let's go back to Edinburgh now. Here in Edinburgh I am joined by

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two of the finest of Her Majesty's press core here in the Holyrood

:18:12.:18:21.

Parliament, Lorraine Davidson from The Times and Alan Cochrane.

:18:21.:18:25.

If the Scottish nationalists, if this Parliament goes ahead with a

:18:25.:18:30.

referendum, on its own terms, would it immediately be challenged in the

:18:30.:18:34.

courts? I think it will be. That will mean the referendum is held up,

:18:34.:18:40.

possibly, for years, beyond Alex Salmond's term in power. You will

:18:40.:18:44.

then have some sort of civil movement, where people are saying,

:18:44.:18:48.

didn't we vote for this? Isn't it our democratic right? All that will

:18:48.:18:53.

amount to a lot of frustration and anger in Scotland. David Cameron's

:18:53.:18:58.

offer to Alex Salmond, is despite all of Alex Salmond's bluster, a

:18:58.:19:02.

very attractive one to him. If he wants to put his once in a lifetime

:19:02.:19:06.

opportunity to the people of Scotland. If fear a referendum, if

:19:06.:19:10.

he does not negotiate with London would be unconstitutional, because

:19:10.:19:16.

it is a reserved power of the Scotland Roit Act. That is for all

:19:16.:19:26.
:19:26.:19:28.

the bluster and Mr Cameron being -- that is for doing a deal? There are

:19:28.:19:33.

two Alex Salmond could do a deal on now. He could do a deal about the

:19:33.:19:38.

16 year olds voting. He has to have an independent overseeing of the

:19:39.:19:45.

referendum. He cannot apoint three pals to say, "That is fine, on you

:19:45.:19:54.

go." It has George Reid. One of the founders of modernism.

:19:54.:19:58.

This explains why he's trying to kick the referendum into 2014, why

:19:58.:20:03.

he wants more than one question. If there was a simple - do you want to

:20:03.:20:09.

be independent or don't you? Yes or no? If that was held now, the Scots

:20:09.:20:14.

would probably vote "no", am I right? It is running around one-

:20:14.:20:20.

third of Scots. It has been as long as that. It has always been around

:20:20.:20:24.

one-third. There's no great momentum behind demand for

:20:25.:20:28.

independence. It's a high-risk strategy. If he gos to the people

:20:28.:20:33.

with that and he loses it, they cannot come back with that question.

:20:33.:20:37.

He wants a consolation prize. He wants to come away and say people

:20:37.:20:40.

in Scotland have demonstrated what they want is sweeping new powers

:20:40.:20:46.

for the Parliament. Then he can go to party and say, all we have to do

:20:46.:20:48.

now is the final piece of the jigsaw.

:20:48.:20:54.

Is he frightened he would lose it if it went now and it was a simple

:20:54.:20:59.

yes or no question? Yes. Otherwise we would have had the referendum.

:20:59.:21:02.

We've been talking about independence since you and I were

:21:02.:21:07.

boys. That was not yesterday. is at least ten years ago. I have

:21:07.:21:13.

been back in Scotland for 17 years. It has been in the agenda and

:21:13.:21:17.

newspapers for every day of those 17 years. Alex wants another three

:21:17.:21:23.

years. What is left to discuss? Alan Cochrane has offered to take

:21:23.:21:29.

us for lunch. You never turn an offer down like that from Mr

:21:29.:21:32.

Cochrane. It's all right for some. See you

:21:32.:21:36.

next week. Is the relationship between the police and media too

:21:36.:21:40.

cosy? Last week a report found the close relationship between parts of

:21:40.:21:43.

Scotland Yard and the media had caused serious harm. We will get

:21:43.:21:47.

the thoughts of our guess of the day in a moment. He used to be in

:21:47.:21:57.
:21:57.:22:00.

charge of the Metropolitan Police. Welcome to the Red Lion. It is one

:22:00.:22:05.

of my Westminster locals. If I was a crime reporter it is the sort of

:22:05.:22:09.

place I might sink a jar or three with some of my Scotland Yard

:22:09.:22:13.

contacts N the wake of the phone hacking scandal that could be a

:22:13.:22:17.

thing of the past. Socialising and flirting between journalism coppers,

:22:17.:22:27.

a bit of a no, no. Elizabeth Filkin has devised a new set of rules.

:22:27.:22:34.

Very briefly, clearer guidelines on briefings and more transparency are

:22:34.:22:38.

in. Cosy chats, leaking to your favourite journalists, they are out.

:22:38.:22:42.

They are likely to be adopted by other police forces as well. Will

:22:42.:22:46.

they work? It is really important that the newspapers and police

:22:46.:22:50.

establish a much clearer line between what is incorrect and what

:22:50.:22:53.

is correct. For instance, I don't think they should be wining and

:22:53.:22:59.

dining. They should have meetings, maybe a coffee, but not a bottle of

:22:59.:23:02.

champagne. Without that informal contact can we find out what is

:23:02.:23:06.

really going on? She talks about openness and transparency in her

:23:06.:23:10.

report. At the same time, she talks about threatening ordinary officers

:23:10.:23:15.

with criminal investigations and the sack if they have informal

:23:15.:23:18.

conversations with journalists they trust. That seems to be closing

:23:18.:23:22.

down an avenue for police officers who have concerns about racism,

:23:23.:23:25.

malpractice to talk to journalists they trust and to get that

:23:25.:23:30.

information out there. Now, she would say that perhaps. What about

:23:30.:23:35.

a veteran of some of Britain's toughest murder cases? Has anyone

:23:35.:23:40.

over a couple of pints got more out of you than you intended to say?

:23:40.:23:45.

find that hysterical. No way. I am sure if you spoke to most, they

:23:45.:23:49.

will say never go for a drink with Sue, I will drink them under the

:23:49.:23:52.

table, as will many of my colleagues. We've had a trusting

:23:52.:23:57.

relationship. I think for the sake of one or two people who have

:23:57.:24:02.

behaved or perceived to behave inappropriately with the media it

:24:02.:24:07.

is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. One of the former commissioners,

:24:07.:24:11.

when he was faced a scandal he told officers to be open and talk to the

:24:11.:24:15.

media, talk to other people about their concerns. He thought shining

:24:15.:24:18.

a light on a scandal was better than covering things up. It is a

:24:18.:24:22.

thought. With the police and media both facing huge pressure to reform,

:24:22.:24:27.

is this drinking-up time and a last chance salon?

:24:27.:24:34.

Of course, Ian Blair is here. Let's pick up on the wining and dining

:24:34.:24:39.

issue. Will in the end, a report end up closing communications

:24:39.:24:42.

between the police and media? Communications that are in the

:24:42.:24:47.

words of the detective in that film and also the crime reporter, a good

:24:47.:24:53.

thing? I think Elizabeth Filkin has fired a bun der blast at this.

:24:53.:24:58.

There are two or thing things going on. You have the relationship for -

:24:58.:25:03.

let me stop for a second, it may appear that I may appear in front

:25:03.:25:06.

of the Leveson Inquiry to talk about this.

:25:06.:25:13.

Of course. There is an issue between senior officers and

:25:13.:25:18.

journalists. That will have an examination. That's the wining and

:25:18.:25:22.

dining thing. That was too much about.... There is a suggestion it

:25:22.:25:27.

was becoming a bit frequent. Then at the really difficult end of the

:25:27.:25:31.

scale you clearly have got a small number of police officers and a

:25:32.:25:34.

small number of journalists who are prepared to exchange information

:25:34.:25:38.

for money. That is illegal. The people involved, on both sides,

:25:38.:25:41.

should be arrested and, if the evidence is there, should be

:25:41.:25:46.

charged and put before the courts. It's the middle bit that Sue Hill

:25:46.:25:51.

was talking about. I am with Robert. I think we should

:25:51.:25:55.

have a really open relationship with the press inside the police.

:25:55.:25:58.

We should meet journalists, we should talk. We should not give

:25:58.:26:02.

away matters which are confidential. But we should have a situation in

:26:02.:26:09.

which a police officer, who feels something is wrong, as soon as any

:26:09.:26:13.

other whistleblower should be in that situation. Is it difficult to

:26:13.:26:18.

control those relationships if alcohol is involved? Elizabeth says

:26:18.:26:23.

alcohol and journalists don't mix, avoid flirtation. It sound relick

:26:23.:26:32.

douse. Surely you are -- ridiculous, surely you are grown ups. It's a

:26:32.:26:38.

long time since I have been in the position of being a middle-ranking

:26:38.:26:42.

or junior officer. I don't recall a situation in which people were

:26:42.:26:46.

getting drunk together. These are conversations that need to happen,

:26:46.:26:53.

the same way as conversations need to happen between other parts of

:26:53.:26:57.

the state with journalism. That is what a free press is there. There

:26:57.:27:01.

should be a clear code of conduct and people should stick by it.

:27:01.:27:05.

There is a code of conduct. As you say, financial transactions are

:27:05.:27:10.

illegal any way. How can you really stop these things happening? Well,

:27:10.:27:16.

the question is, what are we trying to stop? I hope leveson will find a

:27:16.:27:20.

distinction between the elements wrapped up in this conversation.

:27:20.:27:23.

What about the links with politicians? It's not just about

:27:23.:27:26.

the media. You talked about officers, particularly at the top

:27:26.:27:32.

level. Is that relationship also too cosy? You will no doubt be

:27:32.:27:37.

asked about that too?. I think it is inevitable. The Metropolitan

:27:37.:27:41.

Police deals with the most difficult inquiries. It deals with

:27:41.:27:44.

the protection of the Royal Family and counter-terrorism. Are we going

:27:44.:27:47.

to say the commissioner is not going to speak to the Home

:27:47.:27:51.

Secretary about that. That is inevitable. The relationship

:27:51.:27:55.

between journalists and police officers will continue. In the end,

:27:55.:28:03.

will anything fundamentally change as a result of the Leveson Inquiry?

:28:03.:28:08.

I think, I really do hope some things will change. It did become,

:28:08.:28:14.

in my view looking back, a too cosy relationship between some senior

:28:14.:28:19.

officers and some journalists and editors. I think that has to be, at

:28:19.:28:24.

least clearer - I think is the right description. I am with Robert

:28:24.:28:30.

Mark. We should shine a clear light T publication of diaries by senior

:28:30.:28:34.

police officers - I don't mean memoirs - I mean the daily diary,

:28:34.:28:39.

it seems to me really important. have time for you to pick one of

:28:39.:28:43.

these out of the big mug. This is the winner of the Guess The Year.

:28:43.:28:51.

Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn have the latest political news, interviews and debate.

Andrew Neil presents from the Scottish Parliament and is joined by John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Secretary. Jo Coburn is in Westminster where she's joined by Lord Blair, the former Met Police Commissioner. They'll discuss the relationship between the police and the media, and last night's government defeat in the Lords over the welfare reform bill.


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