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Record View: Number's up for Nats over price of split.

WOULD you agree to buy a house before you had any idea of the price? Would you buy a car if you didn't have a clue how much it would cost to run?

Of course not.

But, incredibly, Alex Salmond wants you to support his campaign for independence before he is prepared to discuss the hard economic realities.

Yesterday, despite mounting pressure, he again dismissed questions on the cost of breaking up Britain.

The SNP will now delay their economic case for independence until July.

That is two months after the election.

By then, Salmond could be in Bute House drawing up plans for a referendum - and plotting how to win it.

The reasons for the delay are clear.

If the SNP were to update their economic policies today they would have to admit that Scotland is in the red.

Last month it emerged that less oil will be coming out of the North Sea than previously thought.

And - even using the SNP's own controversial calculations - that means Scotland would lose more from leaving the Union than it would gain from taking control of North Sea oil.

That is something they cannot admit before the election.

If Scotland is in the red, the Nats' fantasy of saving billions of pounds of oil cash is smashed.

Money would have to be found to plug the gaps, meaning higher taxes or cuts in services.

Salmond has been asked repeatedly about this problem but has simply refused to discuss it.

He may think that's clever campaigning, but it won't wash with voters.

People can see when someone is trying it on. Salmond is a master at that, and he was at it all day yesterday.

He was less than frank when he boastfully read out a personal tribute from Labour supporter Brian Dempsey.

No mention that Dempsey praised other leaders. Or that he says he will vote Labour. Or that he will be campaigning for a Labour candidate.

The result, an unseemly squabble.

Not good if you are trying to look like a First Minister-in-waiting, Alex.

And it wasn't the only time he was caught out.

At the same meeting, he gleefully quoted Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander as saying he was "disappointed" with the country's economic growth.

Salmond conveniently ignored the fact that Alexander was talking about growth over the last 30 years, including two recessions under the Tories.

What Alexander really said was that the Scottish economy has grown every year for the last 10 years, growth is speeding up and more Scots are in work than ever before under Labour.

Salmond claims no one believes a word Labour say.

But it is becoming increasingly hard to believe a word he says. He is behaving like a dodgy salesman, not a statesman. He thinks he can spin and get away with it. But he can't.

He thinks he can avoid the tough questions till after polling day. But they won't go away.

Labour dubbed yesterday the SNP's Black Friday. It was certainly the day when Salmond revealed his true colours.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 21, 2007
Previous Article:OUT THE FRYING PAN, INTO FIRE FOR BLAIR; He admits Labour facing 'toughest time' - then cops hand over cash for honours report.
Next Article:VOTE NOW ..PAY LATER; ELECTION 2007.. Salmond can't tell you the cost of his plans until after the Holyrood election COUNTDOWN TO MAY 3rd.

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