By Lynn Malone
Nationalist MSP Annabelle Ewing has poured scorn on claims made in a speech by Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore - accusing the Lib Dem MP of "aping the language of the Tories."
Mr Moore, who is spearheading the UK Government's anti-independence campaign, accused the SNP of "creatively" redefining independence and warned that leaving the UK would entail major risks.
In a speech given at the Wallace Suite of Dunfermline's Carnegie Conference Centre, he said: "We've looked carefully at the Scottish Government's overarching arguments and their approach, and you have to give them credit for some creative thinking about what independence means. I have always taken it to mean a separate country making its way in the world, choosing new and different policy paths, which the proponents of independence have argued are necessary.
"The simple truth is, if we break up the United Kingdom, we will have turned our backs on our shared interests, so that we can instead develop separate interests. Doing things differently and creating differences is at the heart of separating Scotland from the rest of the UK."
But the views of the Liberal Democrat minister, have been branded "extreme" by Miss Ewing who said: "In aping the language of the Tories, Mr Moore's speech comes perilously close to rejecting the very concept of Scottish interests - which logically would invalidate the case for a devolved Scottish Parliament, never mind independence. It is an extreme form of Unionism which the majority of people in Scotland - not just independence supporters - will find off-putting.
"Independence means having the powers we need in Scotland and a new relationship of equality with our friends and neighbours south of the border, including sharing arrangements where that makes sense - such as currency and head of state. That is the best of both worlds."
Mr Moore has previously argued that having two parliaments that allowed Scotland to pursue different policy paths in key areas was a strength of the Union.
Speaking to MSN News earlier this year he said: "We have our own parliament in Edinburgh which can decide the key issues about health and education, but we're also part of the UK and so we have MPs like me here at Westminster who can make decisions and influence the decisions on tax and position on world and Foreign Affairs or on defence."
Ms Ewing said gaining independence would ensure protection against disastrous policies like the Bedroom Tax being imposed on Scotland.
She added: "Michael Moore's party is now on four per cent of the vote in Scotland - that is what climbing into bed with the Tories has done to the Lib Dems - and just one of the ways people and families will gain from independence is because we won't have Tory-led governments at Westminster imposing disastrous policies on Scotland against our will. These include the Bedroom Tax - which 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against - and George Osborne's failed austerity agenda, with a slashing of infrastructure spending."
Responsing to claims by Mr Moore that border posts would be built between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, Ms Ewing said:
"This is more nonsense from Project Fear - not only does the UK share a Common Travel Area with the Republic Ireland, which sets its own immigration policy, but the UK is actually deepening the Common Travel Area with Ireland by even developing common visas. While Mr Moore is peddling silly scares at Scotland, his own government is pursuing the exact opposite policy towards Ireland - no wonder people are beginning to laugh at Project Fear.
"Scotland will be in the Common Travel Area involving the UK, Ireland, the Channel Isles and Isle of Man - not the Schengen area - and why on earth would any Westminster government want to inconvenience its own citizens by having it any other way?
"A Yes vote for independence means completing Scotland's home rule journey, so that we have the political and economic powers in Scotland to take the decisions that are right for Scotland. Leaving decisions in the hands of Westminster is what is causing real upheaval to tens of thousands of families and vulnerable people in Scotland right now, though unfair measures such as benefits cuts for hard-working families, while the tax for millionaires is cut.
"We know that for every one of the last 30 years Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK - we are wealthy enough to be a fairer country, but all we ever get from Project Fear is negativity about Scotland."