Sunday, 14 September 2014

Terms of Engagement

This is almost certainly my last blog before the big vote itself.

I’m conscious that I’m now in a slightly odd position intellectually.

I started this blog from a standpoint significantly critical of my own Party’s strategy and have gained readership on that basis. In my immediate post referendum observations I promise that I will be that critical friend again.

But, as one of the common infantry,  no matter how much you might to have wished to have been better equipped, or to have engaged on better ground or indeed to have had better Generals, all of that becomes irrelevant when the order is given to fix bayonets.

And that is where I am now. About to advance towards the sound of gunfire knowing that, politically, on Thursday it will be kill or be killed.

With that knowledge, I  kind of feared that in this blog I might be left writing a sort of “Rally round the (Red) Flag” piece  that might have had its place in the Daily Record but is not really what my more select readership comes here for.

Except that, when I got home from work yesterday, Yes Scotland themselves had given me my theme.

For they had sent me a personally addressed communication assuring that my pension would be safe if I voted Yes.

Setting aside what it means for their much vaunted data base that they bothered writing to me at all, let alone that they thought I was a pensioner, this communication was a scandal.

Pensioners are rightly concerned what independence might mean for the value of their pension. It remains the case that they can have no idea of the currency in which it would be paid and it remains the case that Mr Swinney’s leaked document confessed that he had no idea as to how affordable it would be in any currency.

BUT, I concede that, publicly at least, Mr Swinney now says  he has done his sums and that existing pension levels would be affordable. I equally concede that it remains the position of the Scottish Government that, no matter how incredibly, the UK Government will back down on a Currency Union to allow that pension to be paid in Sterling.

So if the leaflet had said that “pensions will continue to be paid at existing levels and in Sterling” I would concede that this is indeed the proposition put forward by the Nationalists. I personally might say that this is unaffordable and incredible but that would be no more than the  counter argument of my side.

Except that’s not what the leaflet said. It said (and I quote precisely although the emphasis is mine):

“The answer is [your pension] will be paid in full, in exactly the same way..............

The Scottish Government guarantees it and the UK Government agrees”.

Now, properly the word “guarantees” might more properly be “proposes” but that sort of word substitution is common currency across different political campaigns.

My objection is to the suggestion that “the UK Government agrees”.

That is an outright lie. It has no basis in fact, it cannot find even the most tenuous basis in fact. It is a deliberate deceit of the (properly intended) recipients of this letter.

I blew up on twitter when I first got “my” letter and the cybernats then directed me to a communication sent in error by a lowly employee of the DWP to one of their number saying that the UK Government would continue to pay Scottish pensions after independence.  For the avoidance of any doubt, not only is it the position of the UK Government that post independence Scottish old age pensions would be the responsibility of the Scottish Government , that is also the position of the Scottish Government.

So it is as absurd to say that the UK Government “agrees” that Scottish old age pensions would be unaffected by independence as it would be to attribute similar sentiments to the German Government.  Post independence, Scottish pensions would be the responsibility of neither of these foreign Governments. They would be our responsibility alone. That is meant to be the whole point of independence.

And so in ending my pre referendum observations I want to observe this.

We, my side, have misunderstood the terms of engagement. For all the faults of conventional politics, Parties understand that while you might gain a temporary advantage by making wild and uncosted promises at one election, if you win on that basis you will pay the price at the next election. Don’t take my word for that, ask Nick Clegg. Or, to be even handed across the Party divide, Francois Hollande.

But of course on this occasion there would be no “next election”. The Scottish pensioner being told in May 2017 that their pension was to be cut by 20% and even then paid to them in a devalued currency so that it purchased even less than that in the shops; to be then being told that there was no "guarantee" from the Scottish Government and even less so from the UK Government and in truth there never had been. That Scottish pensioner might well resolve “never to vote for independence again."
But what would that matter? It would be enough for the authors of my letter that the pensioner had been fooled into doing so just once. For while the pensioner might not have their "guaranteed" pension, the authors of the letter would have the one thing they truly cared about. A flag.
And while you can't eat a flag it is clear that those behind "my" letter believe that waving it would be regarded as adequate compensation for an empty stomach.
Don’t let them get away with it.


  1. You are right that there are no consequences for being caught being dishonest, and since a good portion of the yes side want separation above all else and a temporary attachment to social justice is convenient opium for the masses.
    If you don't care about social justice it doesn't matter if you can't afford it.
    I swathe other day an SNP MSP in siting that the next UK government was set to be a Conservative UKiP coalition - now everyone who reads this blog knows well enough that thats a nonsense and just like the writer of your pension letter the MSP must have known that too. But aye its a terrifying prospect that might just get someone to vote yes to avoid it so perhaps the ends justify the means. Not the kind of Scotland I want to live in

  2. Everytime I read cybernat,I'm thinking poor journalism

  3. I'll never forget this post, its lessons, and what it fired me up to do. Thank you.

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