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Brian Wilson: Scots have no cause for celebration

Celebrations after the Holyrood referendum result. Picture: Reuters

Celebrations after the Holyrood referendum result. Picture: Reuters

  • by BRIAN WILSON
 

PLANNING a party to celebrate independence simply illustrates the arrogance, bluff and bluster of the SNP, writes Brian Wilson

Well, good of the Nationalists to begin as they mean to continue – by spinning to the Murdoch press their latest self-aggrandising wheeze about fixing a date for their lap of honour. Never mind the voters, just plan the celebrations.

Even their most devoted disciple could surely agree that it is perverse to announce the date of independence taking effect before they have even told us the date of the referendum. Or maybe they just think it is smart. One increasingly gets the feeling that this is all being treated as a big game in which effrontery will eventually prevail.

If there was any Civil Service control over proprieties, then the document published yesterday would be regarded as a disgrace. But there is not and that is the reality we have to live with. The St Andrews House army of true believers, paid for by the taxpayer, will continue to behave exactly as they please while permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden happily tweets.

The Scottish Government’s document offers no consideration of two possible scenarios, as the Electoral Commission proposed, depending on how the referendum turns out. It is all about what “will” happen following a pro-independence vote. That is the stuff of party political tracts, not of an official publication. The distinction has now been eradicated, which is Scotland’s democratic loss, whoever is in power.

There is no humility only arrogance – and that, one hopes, is what most people will notice. The Nationalist strategy is to create an atmosphere of inevitability so that the questions surrounding our procession towards independence are about detail rather than principle. Bluff and bluster, wave flags, set dates, brush aside awkward questions. It is a formula that has got them a long way, so why not a little further?

The Declaration of Kinning Park – the story was in yesterday’s Sun before others were given it – informs the anxious nation that plans are being laid for “a midnight ceremony” at Edinburgh Castle in March 2016. Deep in St Andrew’s House, the production team is at work, the choreography is being pondered over. Who to sing? What to play? Whom to invite?

The Scottish economy may be lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom. The level of house-building may be at the lowest since the Second World War. The rate of youth unemployment may be rising on par with the Thatcherite hey-day. But Scotland’s devolved leaders have higher callings on their minds.: What will they wear on the great night when the hated flag comes down?

At one level, it is risible. At another, it is insulting. This is an outfit which is inflicting a three-and-a-half year referendum campaign on the Scottish people and the Scottish economy, entirely for its own partisan ends. Barely half-way through that ordeal, it is proceeding on the basis of the result being in the bag.

They cannot tell us from one day to the next what currency would be used or answer any other basic question that they have had years to think about. Yet of one thing they are certain. Scotland can relax, for it will take just 18 months to unravel 300 years of history. Then the circuses can begin and somebody else can worry about the bread.

But that history is not an abstraction which can be wished away or concealed under a sea of Saltires – it is reflected in people’s jobs and pensions; in shared institutions such as the BBC and the armed forces; in tens of thousands of families who are divided by a border that is currently notional but which the Nationalists are determined to formalise. The presumption that everything would be sorted within 18 months is plucked from thin air. If the English are such decent chaps that they are going to award us everything Mr Salmond demands according to his timetable, then why are we so anxious to cut them adrift in the first place? Or is it the Scottish Government that is going to roll over on issues like share of national debt and control over interest rates because they have a party to go to in March 2016?

For those who regard all this as an elaborate game, these considerations are trivial and of absolutely no interest. But for ordinary people on both sides of the New Border, the outcome of these negotiations would be of massive importance in financial and personal terms. No responsible politician who is answerable to them is going to truncate the debate because Nicola Sturgeon said it would be so in 2013.

As usual, the Nationalists are content to create the scenario to which they aspire but not to face up to the implications. Again, the impression is of contempt for the people they expect to vote for them. Tell people what they want to hear often enough and they will eventually buy into it. And, in Ms Sturgeon’s simplistic view, they want to hear that there would be no downsides, no uncertainties, no realities – only the promised land within 18 months. I’m sure there is a market for such guff but I doubt if it is a majority one.

The international comparisons used in the document seem to rely on nobody taking them seriously. How dare they, however, compare the pointless division they are seeking to inflict on Scotland with one of the most awe-inspiring events of the 20th century – the reunification of Germany. Maybe Nicola Sturgeon watched the movie backwards and believes that a wall was erected in 1989.

In the extreme circumstances of two vastly disparate economies coming together, Helmut Kohl performed one of the great acts of post-war statesmanship by giving the worthless East German mark parity with the West’s version. If all of this had not happened quickly, the consequences could have been stark. Where does an analogy with Scottish independence fit into any of that?

The other comparisons they draw range from South Sudan, which emerged from a bloody civil war, to Montenegro, which uses the euro because it still hasn’t got its own currency. Then there are a dozen former French colonies and the South Pacific islands of Kiribati. Are these examples supposed to inspire? Do the chancers who put them into this document really believe there are relevant comparisons with the costs, doubts and complexities involved in breaking up Britain?

Sadly, there is a lot more to come. Perhaps it is time for harder questions to be asked and fewer sound-bites to be accepted.

 

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