01/05/2013 Newsnight Scotland


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As three soldiers died and another six are seriously injured in


Afghanistan, we looked at the dangers as Western troops prepare


to leave. Good evening. Today, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee


warned that Scottish independence could damage the international


standing of the rest of the UK and raises all sorts of unanswered


questions about Scotland. It is the latest in a long series of reports


emanating from Westminster or Whitehall, questioning the


consequences of a yes vote in the referendum. The nationalists may


have their rebuttals ready but for now seem constantly on the


defensive. Concerns are already being voiced that they need to get


off the back foot and start making headlines themselves. Another day,


another report on the perceived dangers of Scottish independence.


Today, Westminster's foreign affairs committee said a yes vote


could damage the reputation of the rest of the UK. The report's


publication provoked the usual response. There are some really


difficult foreign policy issues here, which have not been subject


to the kind of evidence and support that those arguing for independence


have been obliged to provide. would be better to address


fundamental strengths as opposed to worrying about size. As the


Independent's campaign continues. There has been a series of reports


concerned that bad things might happen to Scotland if the country


goes it alone. There is one from the foreign affairs committee. It


is about shipyards. The same committee warned ridding Scotland


of Trident nuclear weapons could be difficult and expensive. The UK


government has also had a go - suggesting an independent Scotland


would have to negotiate its weight in the world. Does this report get


to the crux of the debate? Last month, a committee criticised both


Scottish and UK government for failing to set up the post


referendum landscape, whichever way the vote goes. Does this mean pro-


independence campaigners are always on the back foot? On this series of


issues, it is the latest issue. Opponents have been able to take


pot shots at them. What is going to happen? There is not a clear answer


- a policy position coming back. It is the caricature of the point.


They say it is about much more bank committee reports. The yes campaign


is based on Scotland knowing what it takes to be an independent


country. It makes Scott and a fairer place. That is what people


love talking about on the streets. -- it makes Scotland. It is in


community halls, on the doorstep. That is how we will win a campaign.


Does the campaign for the union feel it needs to change the


approach? I have a positive vision of where I would like Scotland to


be. It is part of the United Kingdom. That is the best option


for Scotland. That is what a would seek to retain. I think we have to


make sure that the Scottish government wants to make the big


change and answer the questions everyone else is asking.


Scottish Government has a ready published a few independents


insights but the Big Bang is coming later this shared. The opponents of


SMP well continue to ask questions they say are not being answered. --


the SNP. I'm joined now from Edinburgh by the journalist and


commentator Lesley Riddoch and by Iain Macwhirter who writes for the


Herald. This latest report that it is part of a long line. You do feel


it is too quiet. It does seem to be a back foot problem. Every time


something is said, it does make it stand up IQ are feeding the rumour


by commenting on air - you are feeling the concern. -- it like you


are feeding the rumour. If you think about that, it is a very high


threshold. It does not tell you how many people are sitting in the same


position may have been for a while, which is mulling it over. When it


is that ever going to come? I have spoken to many nationalists tonight.


They are very much praising Alexander the arch strategist.


There is a tight and small group around him, who must know what


they're doing. Beyond that, there is an enormous amount of activity


at local level. One week=112 event Sky including nine public meetings


with 100 people at each. That is not reaching the undecided group -


those who are constantly asked their opinions in some poor opinion


polls. What do you think is going on? -- in some poor opinion polls.


The SNP wanted Independent he Germany. That seems to be a long


time ago. The danger for the SNP is the story is now gnats on the ramp


for pensions, NATO, you name it. - Bezunesh Bekele the nationalists.


It is -- the story is now up nationalists on the run for


pensions, NATO, you name it. They cleared the decks for the


referendum campaign. The opposition is running all over the decks. Alex


Salmond is very relaxed about this coverage. He does not think that


newspapers have the same resonance, the same significance. They are a


shadow of their former selves. Attention is focused on television.


He has been speaking to the new director-general of the BBC and


senior people in commercial television to try to get the ground


rules fixed for the way in which the campaign will be handled. Then


there will be a white paper in November when all the answers will


be out. Everyone is expecting that Alex Salmond will win it. There is


a mood music thing here. The more you let it go the other way, the


more you will let it catch up. Gordon Brown found after 2007, when


coverage changed dramatically, he was the defensive thereafter. John


Major discovered after the back-to- basics episode in 1994, it was


difficult for him to get traction in the media. The iron law of the


battle is that you have to get your story out with him the first 24


hours or the opposition story becomes conventional wisdom.


Something has gone badly wrong with the rebuttal energy the SMP used to


have. This is the Government. The SNP has the Scottish Government.


They command the front pages of the newspapers, bake only -- they own


the grid. Do you think there has been excessive caution? Take the


speech by George Osborne. He has said quite should Scotland vote for


independence, it would be unlikely to find a currency acceptable or


desirable. They come over as so desperate to have UK institutions


like sterling. Also the Bank of England. It is very easy for their


opponents. Do not vote for independence. That is true. Here we


are discussing there's any kind of curious and pondering Wade tonight.


-- discussing this in a kind of curious and pondering way tonight.


We need to find her what is going on. There is a slight uncertainty


as to who is leading this stance. I think, also... That is a problem as


well. To take the same example of currency, when the leader of the


yes campaign and the leader of the SNP are saying to different things


about the same issue and the SNP is trying to shock people Baker tapas


and when the head of the yes campaign is saying, that is the


last thing that will happen. There is a crossing of wires. If you were


to focus the same sort of critical energy on all members of the


British coalition at the moment, one of any policy but so were the,


you would find the same sort of dissonance. That is a difficult one


for the Yes camp. They both think they should be doing it. That is


not the real problem. If someone like George Osborne could come up


to Scotland and get a fair hearing, something is going seriously wrong.


Looking at this foreign affairs committee report! They're talking


about difficulties presented to the residual UK. The big problem for


the UK were to beat it would very likely lose its seat in the


Security Council of the United Nations and its status and position


in Europe. They have to take these things and turn it around. Exactly


the same with the pound. George Osborne cannot stop Scotland using


the pound if they want to use it. They can have a Scottish currency


against the pound as well. That is what countries like Denmark had


been doing. Today, three soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland


were killed in Helmand province. The deaths bring the number of service


personnel killed since operations began to 444.


At the soldiers base, flags were lowered for their comrades. 56


soldiers left six weeks ago for a tool to Afghanistan. Tonight, they


paid tribute to those who died. Samuel Flint from Blackpool was


described by his family as the life and soul of the party. He was from


the second Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Private Robert


Hetherington was 25, warning the United States, he was raised in


Scotland and was from a territorial Army Italian serving with two Scots.


The six wounded were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in


Birmingham under police escort this afternoon. The Prime Minister said


the deaths are a reminder of the high price Britain has paid to give


the country a chance of security in the future. It is important because


it is vital that the country does not become a haven for terrorists


began, terrorist that can threaten us in the UK. It is a reminder for


those families that have suffered. It has been said that the bomb was


aimed to inflict mass destruction. The men were travelling in a mast of


armoured vehicle, regarded as one as the safest. -- one of the safest.


Against this kind of great protection that troops are offered,


the enemies build bigger and bigger bombs, so there is a constant battle


against protection and the attack against that protection.


battalion has another five months in their two to go. The Ministry of


Defence says this highlights the threat against British personnel as


they hand over security operations to the Afghan troops. NATO forces


are due to withdraw by the end of the year from the area, but before


then, there are concerns that insurgencies will increase attacks


in the hope of achieving a propaganda coup by claiming to have


chased Western soldiers from their country.


We are joined by the foreign editor of the Sunday Herald David Pratt, he


has visited Afghanistan since they were occupied by the Russians, the


Soviets as they were called them. Let's try to paint a picture of what


it is like in that area of Afghanistan, NATO troops


withdrawing, but this is a small area where the conflict is


happening. The conflict is shifting at the moment, we are entering the


spring period known as the fighting season in Afghanistan. The Taliban


has announced they will launch a spring offensive, but that is


misleading, because fighting continues across Afghanistan all


through the year, but the weather impacts on as dramatically. In


Helmand read this bomb strike has taken place, the weather is less of


an inhibiting factor as it is in the mountainous regions where the


insurgents rely on supply routes and logistical routes that can be closed


off by the winter weather. It is restricted and it is intense in


Helmand at the moment, but I suspect that we will see a shift of


battlefield dynamics here, because as the coalition draws down, the


Afghan army will take responsibility more and more and something like 80%


of the forward operating bases, these small, exposed foldable bases


that the coalition troops occupied before, these are now being dozed


down or handed over to the Afghan army, so there would be a shift up


into the east of the country away from Helmand read this happened. It


will come as no consolation to the families and loved ones of those


killed, it actually comes at a time when the Taliban are focusing


attention on their own Afghan National Army rather than coalition


forces. There are large areas in Afghanistan where there is no


conflict. Yes, in the north-west, there may be sporadic clashes and


the odd incident, but certainly roadside bombs, to put things in


live, three British soldiers were tragically killed yesterday, but in


average, Afghan soldiers die every day from roadside bombs appearing


across the country. Coming back to this, the forces, with our forces


and the rest of the NATO forces, they will be out of there and


handing over to the Afghan army, their hope was that they could


provide security to stop the Taliban coming back. Is there a risk of a


civil war if the conflict is confined only to a few places, or


could it is turned very nasty? Speaking to Afghans that I have 4/2


decades, there is an underlying fear of a potential new Civil War. --


that I have known for over two decades. In the 1990s when the was a


terrible civil war in Afghanistan, when it was on and ethnic basis


between different tribes and warlords, we have created


independent militias now in the countries which are allied to


certain warlords and operate semiautonomous Lee in this way.


There is a real danger that many of these militias will seek to protect


their own positions. We could see a war that is not along ethnic lines


but along lines of independent militias and warlords protecting


vast profits made through drugs, private security firms that we help


to kind of create. It is very difficult to believe that most of


the people that people that are in favour of the Taliban are


fundamentalist and would like a theocratic states, there is a bit of


a conflict. Is it not an indictment of Western policy that in 12 years


we have not negotiated with these people and the government in


Afghanistan has not sorted this out? Yes, there are more than one


Taliban, there is more than one Taliban, the Pakistan Taliban, the


Afghan Taliban, there is a Taliban closer to Al-Qaeda that operate on a


localised basis. As is being an indictment of our policy there, yes,


we have failed quite miserably. If we look at the statistics,


politicians constantly say that we have increased education and


infrastructure and whatever, all of this is questionable. We are leaving


Afghanistan in a terrible mess and there is a serial possibility of a


terrible war. -- serious possibility of a civil war.


That available at the front pages, and tributes paid to these three


soldiers killed in Afghanistan. In the Scottish Daily Mail, again,


pictures of the three soldiers and the headline, you can see it there.


The Guardian, this is about the local elections. The daily


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