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Turbulence over independence

The leadership of Yes Scotland will not be in a hurry to repeat the experience of last week's campaigning, but the period did end more positively for the Nationalist cause than it had begun.

After Standard Life's announcement on Thursday that it could move some operations south in the event of a referendum Yes vote and RBS's warning that independence could have negative impacts on its business, there was some good cheer for pro-independence supporters yesterday when a senior French Conservative accused the UK Government, along with Spain, of pressuring European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso into talking down Scotland's chances of joining the EU.

Two weeks ago, Mr Barroso declared that it would be "difficult, if not impossible" for an independent Scotland to join the EU. Mme Joelle Garriaud-Maylam called those remarks inappropriate and not credible. She acknowledged that some EU countries that had concerns about independence movements within their own borders would not seek to ease Scotland's accession, but questioned whether these would trump the practical considerations of excluding Scotland from the EU. She spoke as former Czech president Vaclav Klaus accused the EU of arrogance to suggest Scotland could not be a member.

A second fillip to Yes Scotland came from the head of British Airways' parent company, Willie Walsh, who said independence could be positive for BA since the SNP had pledged to reduce and possibly abolish air passenger duty. Neither of these interventions is decisive, but they will be trumpeted by Yes Scotland all the same.

So where does that leave voters? Unfortunately, it probably leaves them more confused than ever. Those trying to weigh up how to vote want facts and certainties on which to base their decision; instead, they are faced with claim and counter-claim. They are left struggling to distinguish when a debating point is critical and when it has been overspun.

It is happening in one area after another. The three main UK parties have firmly declared that they would not support a currency union, but the First Minister counters that they are bluffing and declines to discuss a Plan B. What are voters to think?

The Scottish Government suggests that an independent Scotland would make a seamless transition into the EU, but one voice after another has strongly questioned that assumption. Writing in The Herald today, Baroness Williams notes that opting out of joining the euro or the Schengen agreement would not be straightforward for Scotland. Is Mr Barroso right that EU entry would be difficult, if not impossible? That is probably overstating it, yet there is good reason to doubt the Scottish Government's view that it would be swift and trouble-free.

Faced with such a minefield of conflicting opinions, the credibility and trustworthiness of those expressing them will become ever more vital to voters as September approaches.

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