The tragedy completely overshadowed Alex Salmond's promulgation at the nearby Glasgow Science Centre of the White Paper, "Scotland's Future" on the previous Tuesday, promoting his bid for a "Yes" vote for Scottish Independence in 2014's Referendum. A weekend in which the papers could argue both sides, was understandably lost in the aftermath of such an unpredictable catastrophe. The debate is once again gaining news coverage.
Just suppose that all the opinion polls are wrong in predicting a "No" to Independence in next year's 18 September Independence Referendum. Just suppose that so confidant are the "No's" of victory, that a little too much complacency sets in and, in not bothering to go to the polling stations on the day, the "Yes" campaigners scrape a narrow margin victory! Just suppose there's a 1948 President Truman/contender Thomas Dewey moment with Alex Salmond holding up a newspaper headlined "Darling Defeats Salmond" wrongly anticipating a Darling victory. Discarding the newspaper, Mr Salmond then holds up his White Paper of 26 November 2013, "Scotland's Future" and confirms that formal Independence will happen on 24 March 2016.
Something a little similar has happened in the past with, in the case of Mr Dewey, his running a lacklustre campaign and assuming that the Democrats were more split than they really were.
Mr Darling will not have the luxury of a split Scottish National vote, which, though more broadly left-wing, has support to varying degrees across party lines. He is however, able to take comfort in the fact that support for Independence simply is not large enough and the difference to be closed, too big to achieve in the time left.
Many people suspect that Mr Salmond is aware of this and would really have preferred a later Referendum date, maybe in the next Westminster Parliament when, if Britain's Budget Deficit is to be eliminated and whichever main Union party is in power, likely tax increases and budget cuts will make life that little bit harder for the majority of people and Mr Salmond's promise of a brighter future, at least for those living in Scotland, more attractive.
Mr Salmond has predicted that if the voters reject Independence then Scotland will likely face "...the severest cuts in political history..."
Roughly, 35 per cent of the Scottish electorate have continually expressed in opinion surveys their approval for Independence. Fifty per cent have indicated that they will vote against, which leaves the undecided 15 per cent. It was vital that Mr Salmond's White Paper would change the minds of some against Independence and bring aboard the majority of those who have not yet made their minds up.
Ever the populist politician, Mr Salmond knows he has to win over more women voters, who, by a big majority will vote "No". Some polls suggest only a quarter of women support Independence. No surprise then that one of the most eye-catching pledges was to promise that all three and four-year-olds will be entitled to 1,140 hours each year of free child care.
His opponents lost no time in pointing out that Scotland presently lags behind England in such provision and that child care is already a devolved issue within the remit of the Scottish Parliament.
Apart from the help for working mothers, Scotland's pensioners - about 510,000 of Scotland's 5.3 million people are over 65 - were guaranteed in 2016 a flat rate state pension of £160 per week and thereafter it would be "triple locked", rising annually by 2.5 per cent or the rise in earnings or the rate of inflation, whichever rate is the largest of the three.
Eligibility for the pension would not rise beyond 66 years of age in 2020 according to Mr Salmond in line with current UK legislation. There would, however, be no further increase with Scottish independence. The rest of the UK will see the pension age rise to 67 by 2028 and Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons on 05 December, set out proposals to raise it again to 68 by 2035 and 69 by the late 2040s.
Other proposals of the White paper included the abolition of the so-called "bedroom tax" as well as any further use of the Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments system, currently being trialled in the Inverness area. Corporation tax will be reduced by three per cent, the Royal Mail in Scotland will be re-nationalised but the Queen will still be Head of State despite the Scottish National Party having a strong republican element.
Precisely where the tax revenues are going to come from to pay for "Scotland's Future" were all rather vague and critics, not all political opponents by any means, estimated that the underfunding of the proposals put forward in the White Paper at anywhere between £3 billion and £9 billion.
What with keeping the pound sterling, staying in the European Union, keeping most of the BBC, the Queen and as above, deficit financing, not forgetting Scottish passports but no mention of imposing border controls, some might be forgiven for asking why all the bother?
On all these matters no consultations have taken place with the various authorities involved and Mr Salmond has simply assumed that all parties will raise no objections, "reason" and "logic" enough to prove the "Yes" campaign's case.
As to automatic membership of the EU, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain was certainly not in agreement. For political reasons of his own with regard to Catalonia, a region with a strong break away element, he warned the Scots to be "realistic", hinting that Spain would veto Scotland's automatic EU membership. Mr Rajoy said:
"It is clear to me that a region which asks for independence from a state within the European Union will be left outside the EU."
In many respects as important as the EU to an independent Scotland is the relationship with NATO. A major inconsistency in Scottish National policy is its "explicit ban on nuclear weapons being based on Scottish territory" and its demand of the removal of Britain's Trident nuclear submarine fleet from its Clyde base by 2020. Yet an independent Scotland we are told, will seek to join NATO.
To insist upon the removal of the new United Kingdom's nuclear submarine fleet and the exclusion of nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships of member states of the very organisation an independent Scotland, we are told, will apply to be a part of, is ludicrous. Put simply, to ban your allies' armed forces, irrespective of what tactical support they carry, is an unfriendly act.
A bit of a conundrum with a party that supports unilateral nuclear disarmament whilst the (rest of) the UK, France and USA will retain sizeable nuclear capability with no intention of relinquishing any. The problem would be for the future independent Scotland, not the current members of NATO.
Some suggest that with the loss of the Royal Navy's Clyde base it could no longer retain Trident and in effect, Britain would lose its nuclear strike capability. Not so, though most inconvenient and expensive if the Navy wanted to still use the deep North Channel to get its submarines speedily into the North Atlantic - the Clyde's greatest advantage - they could build a base in Cumbria for example.
Other consequences would likely arise.
In February 1985, the USS Buchanan, a guided missile destroyer, was refused a port visit request by New Zealand on the grounds that the ship might be carrying nuclear depth charges. More than likely, the captain of the ship was asked whether or not he was carrying such weapons and no captain of an American (or British) warship will disclose his ship's tactical capabilities. As a result, the United States suspended its treaty obligations (ANZUS) with New Zealand.
Although in September 2012 the USA has allowed New Zealand Navy ships to visit its "military and Coast Guard facilities around the world" the Defense Department has no intention of renewing any treaty with New Zealand and the country has lost much goodwill as well as trade.
An independent Scotland which insisted on the closure of its waters to the Royal Navy's surface ships and submarines could hardly expect shipyard orders to build them!
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