Scotland’s referendum – plan B(ully)

Last night we sat in Independence House, Helensburgh watching the Salmond v Darling debate on STV.  At the time we all felt a mixture of frustration and deflation because we expected Alex Salmond to wipe the floor with Darling; never the most charismatic politician with more skeletons in his closet than your average morgue.

The immediate reaction from the studio was that Salmond was being too much the statesman while Darling was very much the aggressor.  In the spirit of the referendum to date, the NO campaign must have reveled in the aggression that was really just a continuation of ‘project fear’.

Of course the verdict is impossible to measure.  The objective of both sides was to appeal to the Undecided rather than attempt conversions.  The various polls have spun the outcome across the whole spectrum.  ICM immediately after the debate show a substantial swing to YES.  Do I believe that? – I certainly want to.  But here’s the thing.  ICM stated that a) there was a swing to YES and b) Alistair Darling won the debate.  That’s like saying that Celtic scored the most goals but Rangers won the game – you can’t have it both ways!

Much of the debate was centered on the Currency Union CU question and Darling ‘went mental’ trying to get Salmond to reveal his plan B.  This was one for the Alpha males.  But the Alpha males won’t be deciding the outcome of the referendum; it is more likely to be the women of Scotland.  Do the women of Scotland appreciate an Alpha male? Aye, if their car breaks down and they need a shove.

Two quick observations.

First, Salmon is well aware he has been criticised for being too bullish.  He presented himself as the ultimate Statesman.  Getting the balance right is near impossible and for me, he went to soft and cuddly – but, nevertheless, he probably did what he set out to do.  My frustration was that Salmon should have included another slightly different tack.  He could have played the humility card and explained that he is just a part of Yes Scotland.  Yes Scotland represents all of Scotland, not just SNP.  Alex could have declared his alignment with Labour4Indy, TradeUnions4Indy, WomenforIndy, the Greens, the Independent, the apolitical voters and a host of other Yes groups all over Scotland.  I said he could have, I mean he should have.  This would not be politicking because it is true – it just needed saying.

Secondly, Darling.  The Westminster psychological warfare division must have given him a very clear instruction.  1.  Don’t answer the questions.  2. Give your rehearsed speech at all costs and 3. Keep at it.  Ramp up the anger, point your finger, wave it about, some of those numb skulls out there will  misread that as passion.  You might as well say that the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza are being passionate!  There was one tiny little detail missing from his 9 minute Currency Union rant – a vision for the future.  When pressed by Ponsonby to give 2 new powers he said.’ tax raising’.  Ponsonby came back at him immediately with, ‘all taxes?’  Darling just ignored it.  Because tax raising power is a con and a poison chalice.  Think about it.  Westminster has the budget.  They cut the budget and allow a Scottish Government to raise taxes.  The people of Scotland have to pay more, the Scottish Government get the blame and Westminster get the money – result for rUK?

I want to stay on the subject of Currency Union.  I have blogged on this ages ago and I am surprised this chestnut is still hanging around.  Let’s try a different approach.

On page 1 of Negotiating for Dummies it says ‘don’t reveal your hand in a negotiation’.  That should be enough to answer the question, full stop.  If you were trading in your car and wanted £1,000 but were prepared to accept £500, here’s how the negotiation goes.  Salesman, ‘What do you want for your car?’ ‘ £1,000′.  Salesman,’OK, what’s your plan B, what will you accept?’.  Dummy,’£500′.  Question, ‘what did the dummy get?’ well, of course you know!

Salmond was right to stick to his guns for the benefit of all those who are canny enough to know his game plan.  But, there are a lot of ordinary folk out there that need a bit more confidence building.  There’s a lot of things that Salmond could have come back with, but he may have risked appearing a ‘smart arse’.  So I will have a go and hope to inject some sense into the debate with a few further examples.

1.  I think everyone now knows that Scotland can continue to use the pound Sterling, it’s an international currency founded in collaboration between Scotland and England. {incidentally, the Bank of England is just a name, it was set up for the UK.  It’s no more England than Scotland Yard is the Scottish police}. The argument is over Currency Union.  Without CU we can’t sit at the table with the Bank of England team and have a say; we have no say at the moment!  When Labour PM, Harold Wilson devalued the pound by 20% Scotland was doing fine – vastly outnumbered, we have no say at present.  We can’t print notes; boo hoo! big deal.  We can’t get bail outs.  OK, what bails outs to banks has there been?  Well, there was all the crap under New Labour, Blair, Brown and yes, Alistair Darling.  They called it the collapse of the global economy.  I call it a lack of financial regulation in the UK and US that was the CAUSE of the global banking crisis.  That’s it.  An independent Scotland will not allow their banks to fail, so there will be no need for bail-outs, full stop.  It hasn’t happened before and it sure as hell won’t happen again.  So, do we really need a currency union?  in a word, NO.

Without CU we can’t set interest rates, but we never have and neither can Westminster.  Let’s look at mortgages:  average rate at the moment is 4.5% – 6.5%.  Bank of England lending rate is 0.5% and holding.  How much influence does the BoE base rate have on our mortgages – very little.  It’s the lenders, .. of course!  And finally, if the BoE raise rates until they hurt Scotland – long before we feel the pain, England, without the wealth of Scotland, collapsed already!

We don’t need a currency union – but there are benefits for everyone if we did have one, so it simply makes sense.

2. Let’s look at plan B.  We have dealt with that from a negotiating stance but what about the Fiscal Commission.  They said plan B was to use the currency without CU.  In this scenario the rUK decide to punish Scotland for rejecting them.  Doesn’t matter how they do it, let’s just accept they do.  Scotland has the oil and gas, Scotland does not have their share of the debt and Scotland hosts the nuclear defenses for the Western World – just 3 cases in point. England, has £1.5 Trillion debt and growing, plus structural debt and just manage to service the interest on their budget deficit.  Also, their credit rating has been downgraded.  When they go to the money markets with their hand out, they must ‘fez up’ to having lost their second biggest trading partner, lost the oil all around the Scottish coast and the access to total reliance on renewable energy.  Do we really think that England will be getting a loan?  I think they are f*cked.  At best this would be Mutually Assured Destruction – just like Trident.

However, by contrast, Scotland could go to the money markets such as the IMF with their new status as a resource rich, major oil producer who have been able to balance their books on a tight budget.  Do you think Scotland will get their loan – of course we will.  Ask Standards’s and Poor’s.

3.  Salmond, quite rightly would not be drawn into a plan B debate.  No serious negotiator ever would.  However, I do feel that Salmond should have cut Darling short after asking the question twice and told him to stop being a child because he didn’t get the answer he wanted, and moved on.  Many countries have operated a very similar structure using another country’s currency.  Belgium, my native country, had the same arrangement with Luxembourg using the Belgian franc for about 60 years.  The ratio of Luxembourg to Belgium is about the same as Scotland to England.  So there are clear precedents.  However, I don’t recall Belgium ever threatening their neighbour, Luxembourg – even though, like the UK, Belgium had its own Empire and were not famed for their temerity.

4.  The final point on a Currency Union is the Edinburgh agreement.  In the agreement, Scotland has an absolutely agreement that following a YES vote the wishes of the Scottish people is sovereign.  They also have an absolute guarantee that following a YES vote there will be a period of 18 months within which time there will be a negotiation on terms.  Let me just repeat this very important point - there will be a negotiation.  I can guarantee that neither party will go into that negotiation with all their points in clear view of the other.

One thing that Scotland MUST be clear on.  The will of the Scottish people is sovereign.  That does not mean sovereign unless ‘trumped’ by Westminster.

With a YES vote from the Scottish people there will be an entirely new perspective to the negotiations.  There will no longer be an asymmetrical relationship.

THIS WILL BE A RELATIONSHIP OF EQUALS.  THIS WILL BE A NEGOTIATION BETWEEN EQUALS – AND IF ENGLAND PLAY HARD BALL, SCOTLAND WILL PLAY … PLAN B

 I have no idea how that negotiation will play out, but I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty.  During the negotiation on currency, Alex Salmond will think to himself –

THANK CHRIST I DID NOT GIVE MY HAND AWAY TO DARLING DESPITE HIS INSISTENCE, FINGER POINTING AND BADGERING 

  1 comment for “Scotland’s referendum – plan B(ully)

  1. Kara's Aunty
    August 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Great blog. Like an academic ‘f*ck you’ to Alistair Darling.

    I must admit, I am frustrated that Eck didn’t make more of an effort to make him look like the drippy, thieving knobhead he is. We know he can trounce AD. Instead, he held back too much.

    Maybe – aware as he is that a few folk are swayed by their dislike of him – Salmond acted tactically; but if that was the case, then he shouldn’t have bothered. So what if some folk don’t like him? If they vote No for such shallow reasons, we don’t need (or want) their kind anyway. He should’ve chewed Darling up and spat him out, showing him & his camp up for the dishonest, mercenary opportunists they are. He should’ve challenged him about bedding down with the Tories, West Coast Oil, the McCrone Report. He should not have let that outrageous statement about Iceland & Ireland being in financial straits slip by unchallenged. Instead, he tried to be everyone’s pal – a tactic that is destined for failure. And although he was still the superior of the two in the debate, sometimes respect is better than friendship. Know what I mean?

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