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Yes voters beware: coercion and hypocrisy are alive and well in the EU and the UK

It's what we in the business call a hiding to nothing.

Having been kicked in the currencies by George Osborne last week and beaten around the head by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who said at the weekend that it was "almost impossible" for Scotland to join the EU, First Minister Alex Salmond was left trying to behave as if nothing had happened. Move along now; nothing to see. Keep calm and carry on.

Repeatedly told: "no you can't", Mr Salmond said Scots would emulate Barack Obama and say: "yes we can". "Pragmatism" would win out in the UK and in the EU.

But his speech in Aberdeen was drowned by catcalls and jeers from almost the entire UK media, even its normally eurosceptic sections, that had suddenly discovered something about the EU it actually liked. It can be extremely nasty to Scotland. Mr Barroso compared Scotland to Kosovo, a small, landlocked, war-torn country with a wrecked economy, profound ethnic divisions that is not only not a member of the EU (which Scotland is) but hasn't even applied to join. Scots have been citizens of the EU since 1993.

Mr Barroso went on to say that Spain would take its fishing boats out of Scottish waters, Brussels would hand back Scotland's contribution to the EU budget, and Scotland would be forced to become a benighted, shunned and impoverished land like, er, Norway, one of the wealthiest countries in the world (also not a member of the EU). And Scots are beginning to realise why. Unelected President Barroso has clearly forgotten that the founding principle of the EU is the right of nations to self determination.

He will presumably now assure Vladimir Putin that it is almost impossible for Ukraine to join the EU; except that Europe has been desperate to attract the former communist republic, like all those other former members of the Soviet empire that were waved through - such as Bulgaria in 2007, with its impeccable human rights record, its vibrant market economy, its admirable treatment of minority ethnic communities and its business-friendly cosa nostra.

Mr Salmond said commonsense would prevail after the referendum, all evidence to the contrary. He said that English businesses would resent paying a "George Tax" of hundreds of millions of pounds by having to change currency at the border; that, if the UK refused Scotland a share of the assets, it could hardly expect Scotland to shoulder the liabilities of UK debt, around £120bn. Perhaps Mr Osborne regards that as a price worth paying for keeping Scotland in its place.

Scots have had a harsh lesson in power politics this week: hypocrisy and coercion are alive and well in the EU and the UK.

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