Michael Kelly: Confused? You will be by the Yes campaign
IT DOESN’T matter who you talk to, there can be no guarantees about Scotland’s future if it decides to go it alone, writes Michael Kelly
Never mind a second question in the referendum, the confused and contradictory fallout from the disastrous launch of the Yes campaign leads to one inevitable conclusion. In the event of a Yes to independence there is going to have to be a second referendum.
The logic is unassailable. In the last few weeks we have seen the enormous gaps that exist between different parts of those who came together under the Yes banner. Some of them don’t mean Yes at all.
Let’s dismiss the trivial confusions first. We had D-list celebrity and American citizen Alan Cumming unable to understand how the Union Flag could no longer be the flag of a UK that excluded Scotland. We had Alex Salmond suggesting the Royal Standard of Scotland which is the monarch’s personal flag and not a political device. We had Alex Neil – as staunch a left-wing republican as I have ever known – claiming he is proud to be British and Scottish and willing to bow the knee to the Queen. There is not a single nation in the world happy to be called the nationality of the country they have just broken from – except us, evidently. We had Margo MacDonald, not snubbing the Yes campaign, but not joining it either. Sounds like a snub to me. She also offered the fascinating comment that ‘pipers usually call the tunes’ when it is commonly accepted that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. Is part of the confusion due to the fact that the two lottery winners now funding the Yes campaign are determining its policy input?
Patrick Harvie of the Greens has a much more rational policy. He realised that an independent Scotland would be very different from what we have today. For example, logic drives him to a republic. But he shows an extreme naivety in expecting that the SNP will share power, position or policy ideas with the ragbag of supporters they’ve hired to make their campaign look like a broad church. It’s their ball, and they’ll take it home if you don’t play by their rules.
But the most significant revelation of a deep policy split in the Yes campaign comes from the business leaders who purport to support it. Entrepreneurs are important to Scotland, and those who have come out in favour of a Yes vote have certainly made great successes of their own careers. It has, however, always troubled me that businessmen should be one of the groups turned to for opinions on politics. They do not have the skills and experience of politicians and they certainly have not been elected. However, it is a fact that their views on issues in which they have no expertise seem to carry weight and a number are prominent Yes supporters.
I contacted one of them, John McGlynn, the chairman of the Airlink Group of Companies, who was reported as saying that as the status quo was the worst of the three options – full fiscal autonomy and independence being the other two – he would vote for independence. When I put that precise point to him his answer was a concise ‘No’. He claimed that his position was exactly the same as the other businessmen who had been quoted by the Yes men – Jim McColl, Tom Farmer and Tom Hunter. I cannot confirm that. But John expanded his own position to indicate that what he was really pushing for was a fiscal autonomy option on the ballot paper because, he concluded, ‘My preference is a federal type arrangement, in the UK with fiscal autonomy.’ ‘This is no different to (sic) devolution.’ So, in total contradiction to the claims of the Yes campaign he is not, first and foremost, in favour of independence. But – and this is the ambivilance which runs through most of the Yes campaign’s policy stances – he also says that without more powers being given ‘it was likely that I would come to the conclusion in that scenario yes was better than no.’
The SNP had a wonderful message when it was restricted to Saltires and haggises, when it was all about a return to a nostalgic view of a Scotland that never existed, when perfidious Albion was the only thing that was holding us back, when the English stole our oil. Now that they have to address more than their bearded fringe and argue their case on economic and social grounds they have discovered that there are many things about the UK that Scots like. So they’ve been excluded from the independence demands. We’re keeping the Queen. We’re keeping the pound. We’re staying in Europe. And this week, we’re keeping UK banking regulations. That’s the regulations that failed to stop the collapse of the Scottish banks.
The problem with all of the above is that the other parties to these deals have yet to be consulted much less agreed to them. There is no guarantee that the Queen will continue as head of state. There is no guarantee that we will be in Europe without the euro. There is no guarantee that we will reach any sort of agreement with England to share a currency zone. Yet yesterday, Swinney, referring to post-independence said, ‘we are operating under a formal sterling zone which is Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.’ The rest of the UK has not agreed to that. And may not. Especially as Swinney’s idea that the Bank of England can regulate the banks of a foreign country is explicitly forbidden by European rules. Scottish Financial Enterprise and the Treasury have both explained that to him. So we should hear no more about it.
What has emerged – after only two weeks of campaigning – is that the SNP in the sheep’s clothing of the Yes campaign have a series of objectives they will try to achieve after the referendum in negotiation with the UK and Europe. Although they present these as faits accomplis, in fact they have no idea what will come out of those negotiations. But it is the nature of bargaining that you never get all you want. Those going into this referendum determined to vote Yes will have no idea what they are voting for. The package won’t be there. So, democracy demands that if Yes wins, the negotiated deal must be brought back to the Scottish people for approval. They are, after all, sovereign, we are told.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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