Here we go again, another day, another scare, each one dumber than the last. It’s safe to say that Project Fear is now bricking itself. The anti-independence campaign which began with the intent of progressing as calmly and gracefully as a swan gliding across the glassy smooth waters of the garden pond of Scotland’s media is now more like the famous Norwegian Blue parrot sketch.
The latest impossibility to occur in the increasingly improbable list of implausibilities from Project Fear is that even if we do vote Yes, we can’t become independent until Westminster is jolly well good and ready. The Guardian has reported some anonymous Westminster insiders, otherwise known as the Project Fear Press Office, who warn that the Scottish Government’s timetable for independence negotiations is a non-starter. It cannae be done, because there’s going to be a UK general election in 2015. We can’t possibly expect one UK government to be bound by decisions of a UK previous government because it breaches one of those unwritten rules of the British constitution that they’ve made up to suit themselves.
It’s interesting that Project Fear is now acknowledging that a Yes vote is a real possibility. Couldn’t be anything to do with tomorrow’s publication of the long awaited White Paper which will set out a roadmap to a better Scotland, could it. Hope they tell us, always trumps fear. More on that soon, no doubt.
It’s equally interesting that they also acknowledge that Westminster is incapable of medium, never mind long, term planning. It certainly explains a lot about the UK, every four or five years everything gets ripped up and we have to start all over again. What was that about volatility and uncertainty for business? Oh right, that only applies to oil and independence referendums …
It also explains the dearth of answers from Project Fear so far on what we can expect in the event of a No vote.
If we vote no will we remain in the EU? Dunno. Nigel Farage might be very influential amongst sections of the Tory party if UKIP do well in next year’s European elections. Will an independent Scotland be in the EU? We don’t know, because Westminster refuses to ask the EU for a ruling. Which may not be unrelated to the fact that the ruling would most likely be along the lines of “We can work something out, like we did with German reunification.” Currency union? Well they’re rubbishing it but steadfastly refuse to rule it out. Let’s call that one a mibbie. Extra powers for Holyrood? Depends on what you mean by “extra”, “powers”, “for”, and “Holyrood”, and on who it is you’re asking. Which given the track record of the Westminster parties on this issue means “bugger all”. Keeping the Barnet Formula? Looking less and less likely by the day. Keeping the UK’s AAA credit rating? Oh, right …
Still the news that a UK government doesn’t have to abide by international agreements entered into by its predecessors does seem to clash with another of those unwritten rules that make up the British constitution. That’s the one that says an incoming government is bound by the treaties, contracts and obligations entered into by its predecessor. Otherwise they’d have had to cancel the London Olympics in 2010 when the Labour government which was awarded the games by the IOC was replaced by Coalition. I don’t recall many calls for tearing up all the Olympic negotiations and starting all over again at the time. Funny that.
This latest scare story must fall into the “making things up as you go along” sections of Britain’s glorious unwritten constitution. You can appreciate why our political masters find it such a useful tool of governance.
The latest problem to confront Scottish self-determination has all the hallmarks of one of those problems that can be solved by self help manuals with titles like Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, which promises to help the reader “move from a place of pain, paralysis and depression to one of power, energy and enthusiasm.” Which not coincidentally is also a good description of the Yes campaign.
Project Fear’s newest problem is dealt with in the popular psychology manual Somebody Else’s Problem, a single sheet of paper bearing the words: “It’s somebody else’s problem.”
The late great Douglas Adams described a security device based on somebody else’s problem in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The Somebody Else’s Problem Field worked just like the cloaking or invisibility devices in more traditional sci-fi, the difference being that the “cloaked” object remained very much in view. It was just that everyone ignored it as it appeared to be a trivial little piece of fluff of no importance or substance, and it was somebody else’s problem. There’s a similar device in the Scottish Parliament, where it’s known as Wullie Rennie.
In this case the Field Generator is only functioning partially. We can see it’s somebody else’s problem, but we can also see that it’s Westminster’s problem. Holyrood will be responsible for who represents Scotland during these negotiations, Westminster will be responsible for the Westminster side. Are they really admitting that they’re incapable of forming a negotiating team? If that’s true why exactly would we want to stay in a Union with such a spectacularly incompetent government?
However the selfsame “insiders” who tipped off the ever willing Severin No Fear Story Too Wee Carrell also revealed that in the event of a Yes vote in Scotland, it would be Westminster which had the problem, and had better resolve it pretty sharpish. As the article said:
A political crisis over the fate of institutions like the Bank of England, the UK’s national debt and its defences at the same time as a political battle over a referendum on Britain’s EU membership would be likely to cause a damaging backlash from the financial markets, investors and international lenders.
A Westminster Government upsetting the financial markets just to punish Scotland? That’s too implausible a scare story even for Project Fear.