From Jessie J to Plan B
‘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 …
Ross MacRae is communications officer at the Better Together campaign and writes the Better Together column for Progress
Alex Salmond, Scotland, SNP