A Guest Post by David R
In the Salmond / Darling debate tonight Salmond created a bit of a PR nightmare by refusing to talk about alternatives to the currency union. Darling made himself look like a dishonest, slimy con man when he squirmed away from yes/no answers and shouted party lines over Salmond’s simple question: do you agree with David Cameron that Scotland can become a successful independent country.
Just prior to this however, Salmond was refusing to talk about alternatives to the Currency Union. At face value this seems like a PR nightmare… which basically means that it is a PR nightmare. Better Together is spinning the line that there will be no currency union in the event of a YES vote and Westminster is understandably backing them.
Listening to Darling speak it became obvious that so much of the Better Together propaganda is painting issues that will need to be negotiated post-referendum as uncertainties as dangers as pitfalls that the SNP have no answer for. It is project fear indeed. Westminster backing Better Together on the question of the currency union gives credence to Better Together’s fear mongering. Make no mistake: a currency union will happen in the event of a yes vote. It is a mercenary political tactic that sees Westminster saying otherwise.
From the SNP’s white paper:
“Analysis highlights a number of key reasons why this would be in both Scotland and the UK’s interests immediately post-independence:
1. the UK is Scotland’s principal trading partner accounting for 2/3 of exports in 2011, whilst figures cited by HM Treasury suggest that Scotland is the UK’s second largest trading partner with exports to Scotland greater than to Brazil, South Africa, Russia, India, China and Japan put together
2. there is clear evidence of companies operating in Scotland and the UK with complex cross-border supply chains
3. a high degree of labour mobility – helped by transport links, culture and language
4. on key measurements of an optimal currency area, the Scottish and UK economies score well – for example, similar levels of productivity
5. evidence of economic cycles shows that while there have been periods of temporary divergence, there is a relatively high degree of synchronicity in short-term economic trends”
Suppose for a minute I don’t believe that the bankers and big-business owners buy government policies with campaign donations. Would it make sense for Westminster to hinder the big guns of English economy by refusing a currency union out of spite? It is in Westminster’s best interests to maintain the union and therefore they are aiding Better Together propaganda with empty threats.
In fact, there was a real tone of bitterness in what Darling was saying would happen. Just now, he says, we’re part of something bigger. However, as soon as we become a separate country we can forget about any cooperation between us and England. Empty threats.
Salmond is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. He knows that the currency union will happen in the event of a YES vote. However, the ‘evidence’ (empty threat) is against him. Salmond is trying to communicate to the undecided that Westminster’s threats are bullshit. He was absolutely correct to respond to Darling’s claims that he did not have a contingency plan by explaining he didn’t need one. He was right to look confident about the imminence of a currency union post-indy.
Of course, Better Together is swinging this as political immaturity, denial. They want to paint Salmond and the YES camp as not having a backup plan in the (fictional) eventuality of a currency union being denied. The audience started making comments about how they wanted to know what his back-up plans were. Watching the debate with my pals not one of us had heard any details about a backup plan escape SNP lips. Of course, common sense dictates it is either the Euro or a new Scottish currency – both of these would need to be negotiated as would retention of sterling. With audience members – potentially undecided voters – asking for information about the back up plans, and in a room full of people interested in politics who had not heard any SNP members explicitly talk about back up plans (because they didn’t need to, admittedly), it looked bad when Alex Salmond directed people to the White Paper rather than mentioning in passing the back-up plans mentioned in the White Paper: unsurprisingly a new Scottish currency and membership of the Euro.
Better Together’s campaign is designed to make the YES camp and the current Scottish government appear incapable of governing themselves, Scotland unable to function independently from Westminster. The majority of it is fear mongering and Salmond is in the lucky position where most of the arguments for independence speak for themselves. However, by refusing to mention any specifics about back up plans – no matter how briefly – Salmond painted himself a man without a backup plan. Which he is not. While the tactic of not entertaining Westminster’s fear mongering is the correct ‘party line’ when dealing with Better Together, when it was audience members – voters rather than politicians – communicating that they felt worried by the lack of a back-up plan and would feel more comfortable with a YES vote if there was one, he should have spoke up. Salmond looked inflexible at best and, at worst, as though he really didn’t have a contingency plan. Which he does!
The currency issue is a lose / lose for Salmond and its some pretty dirty tactics from Tory Westminster and their Better Together henchmen: it’s all lies.
Don’t let them fool you.