Thursday, 3 September 2015

It's Still Over.

And so, almost exactly a year on from the last one, we have an opinion poll indicating that Scotland would vote Yes in an Independence Referendum.

Now, logically, this should be a problem for those of us who oppose Scottish Independence. Our majority is apparently slipping.

Except it is not. For an instant answer to an unspecific proposition is of course very different from what would be involved were there to be another referendum.

Ironically, the people for whom this poll is a problem are the leadership of he Nationalist movement. Not the common herd, who even now are no doubt seized with a spirit of "one more heave". Hope over Fear as they would have it. Hate over Sense might be a more accurate description. Whichever, not much thinking is involved. But the Nats do have a thinking element.

That thinking element went for broke last September. Until late on, they hadn't ever really thought they had a chance. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of their tartan clad foot soldiers, they had read all the polling data. More to the point, they knew that they were walking an intellectual tightrope on the economic argument; that the truth was that an Independent Scotland would lead to an immediate reduction in living standards. Some genuinely thought that in the medium to long term this would be reversed. Others that, even if it wasn't, the sacrifice was nonetheless worth it for a flag. But, of course, neither scenario was the proposition being put to the electorate. Although that was covered up as best as possible the thinking element feared at one point the curtain would be pulled back to reveal not the Wizard of Oz but an old man with a trumpet.

Then suddenly and unexpectedly they thought they might actually win. And these people, the thinking Nationalists, genuinely believe in independence. So they thought "to Hell with it!" and allowed themselves to become allied with a complete absence from economic, even factual, reality.

So we had tens of thousand of Yes leaflets issued maintaining there were secret oilfields whose existence would only be revealed after the vote; we had the nonsense of an entirely invented "export duty" which allocated much of the value of the Scots whisky industry to its English ports of export; above all we had fantasy spending promises predicated on a price of oil that bore no resemblance to any respectable independent forecasters view or even the affordability of these spending promises no matter what the conceivable price of oil. All of this then whipped up into a hysteria over the failure of the "Main Stream Media", and particularly the BBC, to "reveal the truth".

All of this would inevitably have unraveled had there been a Yes vote but the Nationalist calculation then was that it would be too late to go back. As I pointed out before the vote, the stated intention that independence would have been achieved by March 2016, before the next Scottish Parliament elections, was precisely to rule out any opportunity for second thoughts then on the part of the electorate.

Now the problem with this was what happened if the Nats didn't win. As they didn't. It is clear now there are no secret oil fields; export duty no more exists today than it ever did and oil is now trading at something south of $50 a barrel as compared to the"predicted" $113 in the White Paper. Any early rerun of the referendum would therefor start with it being clear, not based on simple opposition assertion but by by now established fact, that the proponents of independence in 2014 had been proven to be, at best,  lunatically optimistic and, at worst, actively deceitful. Yet it would be the same people who would be asking the electorate to "trust" them with their support in any re-run.

It is for that reason alone that there will be no cast iron commitment to a second referendum in the SNP's 2016 manifesto. Not that they couldn't win the election on that basis but rather that they would simply lose any Referendum again. Memories will need to have faded a bit before this problem goes away. The same thinking Nats know that.

But there is something else that would need resolved before a second referendum but which cannot. Cannot ever I'm afraid. That is the issue of currency.

There is an emerging consensus on the Nationalist side that they were badly damaged in 2014 by their adherence to the Pound and events since in Greece have demonstrated in spades the illusory nature of suggesting that a significantly different economic policy could be pursued, within a currency union, against the wishes of the larger partner(s) to that union.

So, the nationalist argument, is shifting to suggesting that an independent Scotland should, at any re-run referendum, be proposed to have its own currency. With one bound they would thus be free, they claim.

But say what you like about Alex Salmond, he is not daft. Would he, in an ideal world, have preferred to have fought in 2014 on the proposition of a separate Scottish currency? Of course he would. He's a nationalist and proper nations don't use another nation's currency Why didn't he then? Because, as I say, he is not daft.

If there was the proposition for a separate Scottish currency that currency would immediately have a shadow value on the international trading exchanges. And if that shadow currency was predicated on Scotland emerging into the modern world with a massive public spending deficit and no governmental proposals to address that, (the current SNP proposal), then you can be guaranteed that the value of the shadow Pound Scots would trade internationally at significantly less than the value of the Pound Sterling.

Now what would that mean in base politics? It would mean that the proposition being put before the electorate at any future referendum would be that anybody in Scotland paid by the Government (pensioners, Civil servants, the chronically sick and the unemployed) would, immediately on independence, suffer a significant cut in their own standard of living. The Scottish Government might tell them that their payment in Pound Scots was worth as much as their former payment in Pound Sterling but that assurance would last no further than a trip to Tesco to buy an imported banana, never mind the outcome when they tried to convert their currency to pay their (still Sterling denominated) mortgage or car loan. This was why, in the end, Syrzia realised that they couldn't "end austerity" by leaving the Euro. The value of the New Drachma wouldn't be simply what the Greek Government said it was worth. It would be what the World was prepared to pay for it. But private and public debts owed in Euros would still be payable in Euros. Even if the debtor only had Drachmas.

And that's why Eck stuck so firmly to Plan A a year ago, even when it clearly was damaging his own cause. It was still doing him less harm than any alternative.

This problem won't go away. And there is one other new factor and that's the Tory majority government. When Osborne, Balls and Alexander ruled out a currency union, there was at least something to the bluff the Nats pulled. I paraphrase: "Osborne might be a Tory Bastard but Labour and the Libs are Parties with big supports in Scotland. If it comes to it, they'll prove more flexible".

Well, Balls and Alexander are no more, alongside their big supports in Scotland. There is only the Tory Bastard now. When he says no it will lack all credibility to insist he doesn't mean it.

But between the Scylla of the redundant plan for a currency union and the Charybdis of a devalued free floating currency, there is no electoral safe passage for the good ship Independence Referendum II. And there never will be.

So it is all very well for the Bravehearts to demand another go as soon as possible. As indeed it is all very well in a random poll for people to answer Yes to an unspecific proposition. The thinking Nats realise that before you can request a meaningful answer however you need to have framed the question. And they are scratching their heads how to do that in a way with any realistic prospect of success.

I'll save them the bother. As I say, they can't.

The problem for the thinking Nats is that it isn't entirely clear a majority of the SNP membership appreciate that. After all, thinking and nationalism have seldom been easy bed fellows and this poll only strengthens the internal hand of those not particularly given to the thinking. So the poll might indeed hasten an attempt at a second referendum. The problem, as the thinking Nats know, is that it wouldn't unfortunately affect the inevitable result.

To lose one Referendum might be unfortunate but to lose two might look awfully like carelessness.


5 comments:

  1. I partially agree on currency. I agree that it is the Achilles heel and will always be so. I don't necessarily agree on the the value. As a 'petro-currency' it may actually be overvalued! Unfortunately for the Nats this is a no win situation too because it would do damage to Scotland's non-oil economy overvaluing exports and making them uncompetitive. Not a good situation when 60% of your exports go to your neighbour. Like I said - no win.

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  2. There is a lot more to Independence for Scotland from a reprobate UK than a miserly clinging to a putrid lucre. Your gloating armchair economics run over with a poorly concealed malice.

    How deep is the UK in an ever- expanding debt? How much does it sink ever deeper by the minute??

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  3. It is the view of the everyday Persuadable that matters.
    Relatively few will have taken part in the latest poll, but all of them will take part in any Indyref II.

    The case for Indy only begins to stack up on the complete breakdown of the UK economically.

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  4. "kailyard rules"? Playground rules, more like. "Miserly"? "Putrid"? "Gloating"? Never mind the arguments, let's just chuck insults around. Evidence of a bankrupt position.

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