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Scotland’s leader brands Australian PM’s remarks on independence ‘foolish’

Scotland’s leader brands Australian PM’s remarks on independence ‘foolish’
Alex Salmond, the First Minister for Scotland, has said that comments by Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minster, that the world would not “be helped by an independent Scotland” are “foolish, hypocritical and offensive.”

Abbott who is on a visit to London told the Times newspaper that the decision on whether Scotland should be an independent country and break from the more than 300 year union with the rest of the UK, is “a matter for the Scots.”

He then said that it was “hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.”

“I think the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that cheer at the prospect are not the countries whose company one would like to keep,” he said.

Scottish voters will go to the polls on September 18 and will be asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The current Scottish government, which has been devolved from Westminster since 1999, believes the union is no longer fit for purpose, but the UK government opposes complete independence for Scotland and believes the countries of the United Kingdom are better together; voters south of the English-Scottish border do not have a say.

Alex Salmond jumped on Abbotts’ comments and told BBC Scotland they were hypocritical and “offensive to the Scottish people” considering the benefits Australia has got since becoming independent from Britain after the Second World War.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

"They are foolish, actually, because of the way he said it. To say the people of Scotland who supported independence weren't friends of freedom or justice, I mean, the independence process is about freedom and justice," he said.

He added that even the British government could recognize the need for a democratic vote on the issue and that the referendum was a “model of democratic conduct”.

The Scottish premiere also said that Abbott was gaffe prone and had put his foot in it, with his comments.

One of the PM's previous gaffes involved referring to Canada as Canadia during a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa in June.

Abbott is not the first international leader to voice his support for the ‘No’ or ‘Better Together’ campaign. US President Barack Obama said last month that he has a “deep interest” in making sure the United Kingdom remains “a strong, robust, united and effective partner.”

The Chinese premiere Li Keqiang has also voiced support for the UK.

A recent opinion poll for YouGov found that the No campaign is leading by 20 percent.