There were numerous critics, many of them quite vociferous, of the early part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, which was likened to a massive pantomime highlighted by "that kiss" by John Barrowman. The critics were summarily dismissed by the self-styled intelligentsia, who informed us they had missed the whole point of the exercise, which was to parody all the cliches associated with tartanalia, Brigadoon et al and it really was Glasgow humour at its best - edgy, off the wall and far too intelligent for ordinary plebs to take in. If a sizeable section of the Scottish public didn't understand the message being broadcast, what hope did the millions in the Commonwealth have, who had never heard of Brigadoon, had never visited Scotland and barely understood the accent, never mind the humour?
A similar approach is being used by SNP and Yes supporters who try to defend the obsession with a currency union that is on the point of destroying the independence campaign. With a degree in the subject, thirteen years of teaching and lecturing in it and thirty three years in the financial services industry, handling millions of other people's money, I do have some notion of what economics is about, what a currency union is, the advantages and disadvantages of currency unions, how currencies are managed and mismanaged and the various options an independent Scotland would have in handling its currency, in the event of a Yes vote. Despite all of that, I have to admit to being totally unable to understand Salmond's obsession with a currency union, because explanation there has been none.
In my 35 years inside the SNP, I never used the ad hominem approach in debate, it was never my style to attack individuals and since I left the party in December 1990 I have followed that course, despite being a regular critic of what I see as the party's lack of commitment to independence. Unfortunately, I am now going to make an exception to that rule and state quite bluntly, if Scots vote No in September, the person who will carry the blame will be Alex Salmond whose arrogance has now become unbearable. On the question of currency, under his leadership, the SNP has been up more blind alleys than the three blind mice, and no longer has any credibility left. Salmond claimed the pound sterling "was a millstone round our neck", wrote to Fred Goodwin to congratulate him on the takeover of ABN AMRO when wiser heads in the financial world were advising against it, and insisted Scotland should join the euro long after it was obvious to the world at large, let alone those dealing in finance, that the single currency was a disaster for half its members. Now he demands the rUK grant Scotland a currency union and London continues to control the Scottish economy, and we all agree to call it independence, more of which below.
Several of my critics on here tell me I fail to see the "wider picture", that the SNP has devised a ploy so clever, that the whole argument of demanding a currency union is simply a ploy that will leave the government of the rUK floundering in the negotiations that will follow the Yes vote. They tell me the negotiating position the SNP has devised has to remain a secret so that the government of the rUK will be caught out on the day. Of course, since it is a secret, my critics have no idea what it is, in fact, they have no idea if it actually exists, they simply claim it does. Who told them? They can't say, it is a secret, a bit like the "legal advice" that didn't exist. The problem with this scenario of course is, that now the Unionists know there is a crafty ploy to catch them off balance during negotiations, won't they be preparing for all the potential possibilities? We can't say because it is a secret. As a defense of the SNP's obsession with a currency union, it is absolute garbage and an insult to the intelligence of anyone with half a brain. It is also why Salmond's bluster and arrogance will not be enough to carry the argument. In fact, the ploy is so clever and opaque, it is likely to persuade the undecided to vote NO, caught up as they are in a maze of uncertainty.
The debate between Salmond and Darling was atrocious and there have been reams written about who "won", most of it as atrocious as the debate itself. There may be some doubt about who "won" but there is no doubt about who lost- the people of Scotland and the cause of independence. Salmond started at a disadvantage, having said for months he would debate with only the Prime Minister of the UK. On the night, he couldn't even manage the substitute, although Darling, for all the plaudits he has received, missed the golden opportunity to get the one answer to which we are all desperate to hear. So much tripe has been written and spoken about the currency union that people have lost sight of the most important question of all - INDEPENDENCE. The debate is now littered with dishonesty and distortion, none more so than in the relentless, monotonous mentions of the Fiscal Commission. This august body, with its two Nobel laureates has said a "currency union would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rUK". The two massive caveats which accompanied that statement are NEVER quoted. They are, "in the immediate aftermath of independence" and "it will not give Scotland control of the economic levers".
In other words, it is not independence. The Fiscal Commission had a great deal more to say on the agreements which would be necessary for a currency union to work, as I pointed out in my previous blog, "Will Scotland Be Independent In A Currency Union?" on 21/5/13, more than a year ago. One of the most important conditions was as follows, "a joint fiscal sustainability agreement is established to govern the level of borrowing and debt within the sterling zone". John Swinney, Finance Minister, is on record several times, as agreeing with the conditions laid out by the Fiscal Commission. None of this was brought up during the debate between Salmond and Darling. One can see why Salmond would want to avoid making mention of any of that at all costs, but what was Darling thinking about? Instead of hammering Salmond with, "What is your plan B Alex?" he should have said, "The Fiscal Commission laid out the following conditions for a currency union to work, conditions which your Finance Minister has accepted,
* The Bank of England will set Scotland's interest rates and control monetary policy, as it does now.
* The Bank of England will set the level of borrowing in Scotland, as it does now
* The Bank of England will set Scotland's debt management, as it does now
* The rUK Government, as a consequence of the above, will have indirect control of Scotland's fiscal policy, as it does now.
Can you now tell this audience Mr Salmond, how, under these conditions of control of the Scottish economy, Scotland can possibly be independent, how you can fulfill the promises for change you have made, when your Scottish government will not control its own economy? How does that possibly mean independence?"
Not even the Nobel laureates would be able to answer that question and neither would Salmond.