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Salmond is risking so much for no gain at all

Another day, another assertion.

Alex Salmond chose St George's Day to say the relationship between Scotland and England would continue and even flourish if Scotland broke away from the United Kingdom. So there we have it, in a nutshell. Nationalists will encourage Scotland to press for a divorce from England, and the rest of the UK, and they will all be better friends once it goes through.

First question: why get divorced from your closest friend? According to the First Minister, if Scotland opts for independence there will be no acrimony, no fighting over the assets, no arguing over the debts or details of the border, the number of immigrants, edicts from the Bank of England or tuition fees. Who is Mr Salmond kidding? And even if he isn't, how does he know? If Scotland and England are such good friends, why deliberately try to shatter the relationship?

Forget, for a moment, that Mr Salmond is talking about two countries. Let's think about our own families and friends, the couples who have for one reason or another decided to go their separate ways. Some will manage well. The children are the priority. They deal with the hurt and disruption, the houseand the car, the dogs and the cats and, perhaps, some will be better friends at the end of the traumatic process. However, no counsellor or therapist in the land will tell you that divorce or separation does not have traumatic consequences and will often end in disappointment when the new state of affairs does not live up to expectations..

Mr Salmond hails England, Wales and Northern Ireland as Scotland's closest friends so it is ever more mystifying why he wants to jeopardise relationships. And he may be able to say authoritatively how much he would like England, Wales and Northern Ireland to remain Scotland's best friends but he cannot, with any credibility, say they will.

The other countries within the UK will decide whom they will have as their best friends. Lop-sided relationships are never the most fruitful or sustaining.

Increasingly Mr Salmond is trying to square two sides of the equation: that everything will change once Scotland has broken away but that nothing will change. Crossing the Border, he sought to assure business leaders that their employees would be allowed untrammelled journeys back and fore to work, whether or not their homes were n a different country. Would there be special border arrangements for locals? He doesn't say.

Mr Salmond's assurances embrace the currency, the BBC and the monarchy. Gun salutes celebrating royal birthdays would be as common a phenomenon in Scotland and, he maintains, Scotland will champion the north of England to balance the economic might of London. How is this going to happen?

The omens for Scotland are already worrying. Leading supermarkets in England have asked farmers in north-east Scotland, for example, how they could justify selling Scottish products (bacon, peas and potatoes to name but three) if there were any kind of backlash in England if the Union was rejected.

Also, no longer would they be able to make a virtue of buying or selling British, either in the UK or abroad. It is not enough to say that will not happen. The phone calls have been made.

This proposed divorced would be more easily understood if England, including the north of England, were Scotland's enemy. It isn't. The days of border raids ended centuries ago. Instead of hositilities and jealousies people shop on each side of the border, use the NHS wherever it is most convenient and travel easily to and from work and school. So what problem is separation trying to sort?

In an unsettled world should our leaders not try to cement relationships rather than rent them asunder? Mr Salmond is right to talk about a social union between the two countries. But he is prepared to undermine and even risk its future.

Many Scots have chosen to live in England because it is a tolerant, inclusive, welcoming country and they want the present arrangements to continue. A separate Scotland would have repercussions on both sides of the border. It is not for Mr Salmond to determine what they will be.

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