Alistair Darling has reappeared after hiding away for a wee while because everyone thinks he’s rubbish, especially those on his own side. It must be a sobering experience to have a belief in your own abilities which is as great as the UK national deficit, only to discover that everyone else rates your worth as having less currency than trying to buy your weekly messages with two plastic Smarties lids. Plastic Smarties lids have long been abolished, along with any hopes of devo max or sensible arguments coming from Alistair Darling.
Alistair has popped up to give us a wee preview of the Treasury paper due out on Wednesday, which we’re told is going to prove just how much money the UK throws at ungrateful Scots. Allegedly we’re already spending all our Smarties lids along with most of those from everywhere else in the UK – Smarties subsidy junkies that we are – and we’ve still got rubbish public services and swingeing austerity cuts still to come. The only way we can guarantee a continuing flow of Smarties is to vote no, although we’ll only get the blue ones. They’re the ones that were banned in some countries because they contained suspicious E-numbers.
Alistair wanted to let us know that Scotland doesn’t have the Smarties for an oil fund. Almost other country in the world with significant oil resources has established an oil fund, but Scotland can’t afford to. The only other country which didn’t establish an oil fund is Iraq, which was too busy spending its oil income on invading Kuwait, oppressing Kurds, and going to war with Iran, presumably illustrating the point that you can’t establish an oil fund if you’re hell-bent on getting involved in a lot of Middle Eastern wars. So just like Westminster then.
And we’ve even got our very own version of Chemical Ali. What Scotland’s E-numbers Ali is saying is “Scotland can’t afford to become independent because me and my pals have destroyed its economy. And because we reserve the right to invade Iran too.” This is apparently a reason we’re supposed to say no to independence and give them a vote of confidence. Then we can keep letting him and his pals destroy Scotland’s economy and scoff all the Smarties. There you go, you wanted a positive case for the Union, now you’ve got one.
Alistair’s figures are based on the usual Better Together sleight of hand, and make the assumption that an independent Scotland would continue with the same spending priorities and decisions that we have at the moment under Westminster. Scotland will not be able to afford an oil fund if we keep paying for Trident and a bloated defence budget, if we continue to contribute to supposedly UK national projects like the London sewer upgrade and London Crossrail, and if we keep letting the UK Treasury classify a significant proportion of Scottish revenues – like VAT returns from Tescos in Motherwell or Bridge of Don – as originating from a company head office somewhere in England.
Combined with the sleight of hand is the creative accounting. Creative accountancy bears the same relationship to proper accountancy as a Labour manifesto does to a jam exhibition in the village Womens Institute. The Sunday Herald has revealed that the Treasury paper is founded upon a spectacularly ficticious account of the costs faced by an independent Scotland. The UK Treasury has over estimated the costs by some 650%. According to Better Together, the cost to Scotland of setting up new government departments will exceed £2.7 billion, or approximately 173 billion Smarties – although we can at least be certain there won’t be any blue ones.
But this figure is based upon the supposed cost of setting up 180 ministerial departments from scratch. According to the Institute of Financial Studies, each new ministerial department will cost £15 million in initial start up costs. The UK only has 15 ministerial departments, so why Westminster thinks Scotland needs 180 is not entirely clear. Perhaps we’re so unruly we need much more governing. The figure apparently comes from the Scottish Government’s White Paper, which mentions 180 Scottish public bodies, but this figure includes organisations like the quango which manages the Cairngorms National Park. These organisations are already up and running, and would not require £15 million in order to be re-established in an independent Scotland. Scotland already possesses a number of ministerial departments, and the number of brand new ones we’re going to require would scarcely cover the bottom of a tube of Smarties.
E-numbers Ali was just copying the same trick used by George Osborne, when he ruled out a currency union with Scotland on the grounds that Scotland has a vastly inflated financial sector that’s too much of a risk. Osborne only achieved his scary figures for the financial liabilities of Scottish banks by including all the banks’ assets and debts located elsewhere in the UK – even though these would remain the responsibility of Westminster and the UK regulatory authorities after Scottish independence.
The Treasury fear bomb is ticking away, and is set to explode on Wednesday, just in time to clear the newspapers and the telly of headlines about UKIP’s gains in the European elections. But it’s already been debunked before it’s even appeared. The UK Government is now trying to backtrack, claiming that it was simply a minor clerical error. That’s what you get when you rely on the CBI for your financial scare stories.