From Jessie J to Plan B

Alex Salmond

‘It’s all about the money, money, money …’ so the great political philosopher, Jessie J, tells us – and in the debate over Scottish independence she couldn’t be more right.

Three weeks ago the Nationalist government launched its much-vaunted white paper on independence, 18 months after Alex Salmond had launched his campaign for separation. Throughout those 18 months, whenever a concern was raised, every Nationalist activist, politician and even government minister had claimed the white paper would give cast-iron guarantees to allay any and all worries. But when it came to the actual event, their manifesto for breaking up the UK couldn’t even give us a guarantee over what money we would use in a separate Scotland.

Salmond and his party have decided that in the event of separation they would want Scotland to continue to use the pound in a eurozone-style currency union with the rest of the UK. He has adopted this position despite previously describing the pound as ‘a millstone around our necks’. Salmond has also overlooked the views of other senior Nationalists, with the head of the Yes campaign backing a separate Scottish currency and perhaps even euro membership. However, in a rare show of unity, the chancellor and the shadow chancellor both agreed that a currency union between a separate Scotland and the rest of the UK would be unlikely to happen. So when it came to the currency, the white paper had to silence the critics and assure the faithful. Would there be a surprise alternative plan?

In the run-up to their white paper manifesto launch it became clear that currency would become the defining issue. A week before the launch, Colin McKay, Head of the Scottish Government Strategy Unit, blew the Nationalist currency claims out of the water, saying: ‘We cannot assert as an a priori fact we can achieve a currency union with the UK.’

Then came an intervention from our Celtic cousins, only a few days before the white paper’s unveiling. Labour’s Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, travelled to Edinburgh to make the case for the United Kingdom, reminding us that, despite what the Nationalists might want, the referendum is not England versus Scotland but rather the future of four nations and that of the world’s most successful union. The following day’s papers were dominated by the first minister’s speech and specifically his vocal objection to a eurozone-style currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, another voice adding to the chorus of experts and key figures who all agreed that the Nationalist currency policy wasn’t going to work and therefore wasn’t going to happen.

So, amid great fanfare and to the assembled world’s media, Salmond launched his white paper. He had claimed the document would echo down the ages but in reality it seemed to be the product of the Nationalists’ own echo chamber. It turned out to be more like an Scottish National party manifesto than an independence blueprint, the headline pledge of improved childcare being an issue that they currently control with the powers of the Scottish parliament. And when it came time to face the cameras every Nationalist was to face the same question: ‘And what about the currency?’ There was no alternative in the white paper; the same discredited Eurozone-style plan had to be trotted out each and every time.

So, without the fundamental economic building block, the white paper went from great expectations to just another Nationalist work of fiction.

Seems that when it comes to the currency maybe the Nationalists should have switched off the Jessie J and looked out the Plan B …

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Ross MacRae is communications officer at the Better Together campaign and writes the Better Together column for Progress

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Photo: Ewan McIntosh

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  • Richard MacKinnon

    The debate on Scotland’s future is debased by articles such as this.
    After the referendum next September Scotland will still be part of the EU and the UK. If we vote Yes it will be then that discusion over currency union and EU membership will take place. The rUK will be more than willing to share the £ with Scotland. Why, because there is a shared debt of £1.5T (rung up by a recent Labour chancellor, remember, the one with the moral compass) to split up of which Scotland will take its share.
    Unionists in Scotland that are interested in the debate including Ross MacCrae know all this. But instead of debating the real issues, for example what an independent Scottish foreign policy should be , or what we should do with the Trident savings, the debate is dragged down into scaremongering sideshows like currency and EU membership.
    Its easy to scare people that are already scared, Labour has been doing that in Scotland for too long now. But the Scottish people have woken up to that tactic. If the Labour Party still thinks it can run Scotland from Westminster and put Labour Party interests ahead of Scotland’s interests it is mistaken.
    Labour should do what is right and support Scottish independence. OK Labour may lose a few MPs in the short term but over time an independent Scotland would become an example of how a properous small European country should be governed, and that Labour helped to shape.
    Independence for Scotland within the EU makes sense. The question is, is the Labour Party big enough to acknowledge it.

  • Eric McLean

    “The question is, is the Labour Party big enough to acknowledge it.”

    On their last fifty year track record, highly unlikely.

    Scottish Labour MPs have only one aim… to stay on the gravy train.

  • Richard MacKinnon

    Exactly Eric. And when you challenge the logic of the unionist argument posted by their communications officers, researchers and 2nd class ticket holders on the gravy train the silence is defeaning.
    Take this article as an example, Ross MacRae thinks ridicule and then the usual dose of scaremongering is a contribution to the debate.
    Ever the optimist I will try again, maybe a contribution from a labour supporter from down south, but please can we start the debate in 2014 from an agreed postion; that Scotland has the potential to be a wealthy small European state if it wants to be.

  • Eric McLean

    Richard, its an interesting base.

    Is there anyone out there in Labour Camp that is willing to start from the premise that “…Scotland has the potential to be a wealthy small European state…” ?

    You’d think that some of these PR men and Spin docs (Labour and Tory) would have wised up by this time, that you have to start from a basis of truth before you can have a sensible debate.

    Or perhaps it doesn’t matter, they only intend to frighten the majority of the populace with neither the intellect or the memory to understand what Westminster did to Scotland over the past fifty years?

    Here is one gem out of dozens.

    “In 1973, Ted Heath ‘sold out’ the fishing industry in order to gain
    entry into the EEC. The then EEC, Common Fishery Policy allowed member states to gain equal access to waters of its members. This meant that larger countries, particularly Spain and France, got access to the richer fishing waters around Scotland.
    The direct cost to Scotland was the loss of thousands of jobs and many communities. But worse, the lose of the opportunity to modernise and grow an industry vital to it’s economy.”

    If the residents of Scotland turn down this generational opportunity, then perhaps we really are ‘too stupid’

    Perhaps we should make a long list of these ‘Westminster hegemonic moments’ to remind people what a NO vote really means.

  • Richard MacKinnon

    Eric, There are dozens of examples where Scotland’s interests have been put second to the UKs and especially the interensts of the South East of England’s over the years. We all know now that ministers in the Callaghan government surpressed the McCrone Report, but I only read recently that the big oil companies have been refused licences to develop off shore oil fields in the Firth of Clyde between Mull of Kintyre, SE Scotland and south of Arran. The reason – The Ministry of Defence objected. Why – because oil platforms are obstacles to nuclear subs.
    I am trying to keep calm now but it is difficult. Eric, what was the name of the fishing boat (I think it sailed out of Carradale) went down with all the crew, west of Arran maybe 25/30 years ago. Perfect conditions, no explanation. MOD refused to say whether any submarines were in the area because the information would compromise ‘national’ security.
    Unionists politicians of all colours dont get it (and Labour should note they are by choice ‘all’ in it, Better Together with the Tory’s; a fact etched deep in the Scottish psyche), Scotland has changed over the last 10 years. Europe has changed over the 60 years and that is part of the equation. There is a new confidence that will not be surpressed, Scotland expects its politicians to take charge of our own decisions. We want the same as all the other nations of Europe. It is now the time to take charge. As it is the responsibilty of parents to do everything in their power to protect and ensure the best future for their children, it is now Scotland’s time to take charge of our own affairs for generations to come.
    So I will say it again, to all the Labour MPs at Westminster, do the right thing and get on winning side. Remember who writes history.

  • Richard MacKinnon
  • Eric McLean

    Might be possible to do an FOI, Richard.

    Are you on Wings, Richard? Or LVSS?

  • Eric McLean
  • Richard MacKinnon

    Eric, I wonder where Ross MacRae’s gone for his holidays?