£he price of everything, the value of nothing

The No campaign is determined to focus on economics. No matter what the issue, it’s going to be spun into the political equivalent of the guy displaying his bum crack in a dodgy repair shop who sucks his teeth and says “Oh It’s gaunnie cost ye” before reeling off an incomprehensible list of suction flange regulators, pre-pressed titanium carburettor sprongs, and something that sounds like a sex aid which may be combined with a bum crack in ways which are still illegal in some US states. All of which is going to be ruinously expensive, and really not orgasmic at all. You only wanted a new headlamp, but now you realise that you’ll have to convert your car to left hand drive in order to get one. It will be off the road for months, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the parts from the Brussels office. EU regulations mate, says the Westminster mechanic.

The focus on economics does not actually have a great deal to do with Scotland’s economic prospects after independence, and more to do with the fact that it’s an ideal topic for polysyllabic waffle, but there’s another reason why Better Together likes talking about the economy. They’re spiritually Ukipped. UKIP has a pound symbol as a party logo, which has always been one of the things about the party I’ve found most unsettling. It’s the perfect symbol for a bunch of people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. Better Together have been demonstrating that’s all they know since the start of the referendum campaign. It must make it all the more painful for them that they’ve consistently been shown to be wrong about the price as well.

Most people know very little about currency unions, even fewer care about currency unions, but it’s a topic that can easily be dressed up in a lot of scary sounding economics and made to sound like it’s more dangerous than putting out an electrical fire by peeing on it. Using lots of long words in a discourse about topics most people don’t understand and even fewer are interested in is a sure fire way of sounding impressive even when you’re talking complete and utter bollocks. It works well in job interviews too, it’s what gets a towel folder in Selfridges promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer – that, and being very well connected socially.

Economics is like linguistics. They’d both really like to be proper grown up sciences that can make predictive theories, but neither are yet capable of giving a full explanation of the topic of their study, never mind devising a means of using current trends to predict future outcomes with any great accuracy. Linguists can tell you that the English spoken in the future will be different from the English spoken today, just as the English of today is different from the English of the past, but they can’t tell you what the changes are going to be. It’s possible that alicsammin will have completed its journey and replaced the word independence, confusion between the two is already rife in the UK media. America and Scotland will celebrate their Alicsammin Day holidays and we can expect future headlines like “Wales declares alicsammin” or “Westminster negotiates with Cornish alicsammin coalition”. Pressure groups will be calling for an alicsammint regulator to sort out the bias in London based newspapers, and the BBC will insist that it preciously guards its alicsammin against government interference and is completely unbiased. Political parties will have to change their names too. “Alicsammin is at the very centre of the BBC’s philosophy”, the pensioned off UKRAP (United Kingdom Remnants Alicsammin Party) minister who’s got the gig as chairballoon of the BBC board of trustees will intone. No one will believe them in the future either, some things will never change.

It’s much the same with economics. It’s the science where two professors once shared a Nobel prize for saying opposite things, which makes it a handy source of important sounding statements which can easily be spun into fearful warnings, especially because they involve money, lots of it. Bazisquillions of quid.

The scares rely upon a lack of knowledge. For example the often repeated claim that a currency union would only be possible if Scotland surrenders control of all its economic levers to Westminster relies upon ignorance of how currency unions actually work. The Bank of England would determine the base interest rate as it does now, and Holyrood and Westminster would negotiate mutually acceptable borrowing limits. Currency unions do indeed require a measure of loss of sovereignty, but that applies to both parties. Just now, Scotland is represented in the Bank of England by George Osborne and has no say at all. In a formal currency union Scotland would have formal representation. Scotland would have full control over its own revenues, its taxation policies, benefits policies, public spending priorities, and could decide that it wasn’t going to invade some Middle Eastern country thank you very much. Claiming that this means Scotland would have less independence than it does under Westminster is the sort of bollocks that George Osborne came out with in his job interview. Or would have done, if he’d had a job interview. He just had a friendly chat with his friend Dave instead.

The truth is rather more boring. Scotland is currently a wealthy Northern European nation, and will continue to be so after Scottish independence, with or without a formal currency union. So after carefully weighing up all the economic arguments, and pondering the consequences at length, I’ve come to the considered decision that I really couldn’t give a toss. Scotland will still be using Sterling, whatever, formal currency union or no. Pensions will be paid, trains will still be delayed, and life will go on as normal. There will be no fiscal paradise, but there will be no economic armageddon either.

I’m no economist, but you don’t need to be an economist to spot the essential flaw in economic arguments against independence. If Scotland is indeed dependent upon the rest of the UK in order to maintain a standard of public services comparable to those of other northern European countries, then who is responsible for bringing this undesirable state of affairs about, and why are they not being held to account for it? Vote no so Westminster can continue to ensure the Scottish economy is so weak the country will never be able to stand on its own two feet is not a ringing endorsement of the Union.

Better Together chooses not to answer the really difficult questions by doing all it can to prevent them being brought up in the first place, and its main means of doing so is to go oooooh currency union no.

Other arguments for independence are unanswerable, and throw up questions which Better Together cannot answer. Questions like – getting a chancellor that the electorate of Scotland voted for and not George Osborne. Can you put a price on that? Like being able to vote politicians out of office safe in the knowledge that they won’t sneak in via the back door of the House of Lords and continue to influence our laws and public policies – how many quid is that to you? Getting rid of Trident – how much is that worth to you?

Independence is priceless.



23 comments on “£he price of everything, the value of nothing

  1. bjsalba says:

    I would be interested in a comparison of qualifications between the Westminster cabinet and the Holyrood Cabinet. I think it would be very interesting.

  2. […] £he price of everything, the value of nothing. […]

  3. diabloandco says:

    “Independence is priceless.” Love it ! Can see that on a very BIG banner!

  4. Martin says:

    Spot on. We either have a decent financial position or we work together with all our natural resources to improve ourselves. We develop policy suited to Scotland’s needs and work with other countries to promote Scottish values to help others. Yes all sounds lofty but that is the great thing about reinventing your country !

  5. macart763 says:

    Independence is priceless. Couldn’t agree more.

    Independence is a fundamental and inalienable human right. The right to determine your own path, freedom of choice and possibility.

    The economic narrative developed by the treasury and BT is a mirage, a nonsense and purely dishonest. Scotland is a country rolling in wealth by any measure. How we use that wealth to benefit our citizens is severely curtailed by our powers to control and direct that wealth to best use, (That’s where the freedom to choose part comes in).

    So much resource, so much expertise, yet so many poor and disenfranchised. Its not right and never will be until we have the decision making powers in our own hands to direct our resources where they are needed most.

    There is no logical reason and no excuse to vote for continued Westminster central government. Their track record on management of the economy is there for all to see. They have neither the professional, nor moral authority to preach to others on economic management. Their own handling of recent years has resulted in some £1.4tr worth of debt (run up in our name and which we help to pay off) and one of the widest rich/poor gaps in the developed world. On this track record we asked to accept their word and that of their pet ‘thick tanks’ (no, that’s not an accident), that any other model proposed is somehow critically flawed?

    Roll up this economic case and file it under bin. Scotland is wealthy and can afford a better future.

    The choice as always is who do you trust?

    Do you trust in the choices you make, or that others make for you?

  6. Eilean says:

    The UKIP logo reminds me of one of those “Everything for a Pound” shops. “Poundland” being one such example. Quite appropriate I reckon considering the English / Westminster obsession with the bloody thing.

    After independence the sign at the border heading south should read. “Welcome to Poundland”

  7. Helena Brown says:

    May I say how much I agree with all that has been said on these pages by your good self and those who have posted after. Independence is above price. Our neighbours ower the fence seem to be completely absorbed by money and they seem to think that the canny Scots will bin Independence to keep what they seem to think we have, oor hand down in their pocket. I know I had to switch the TV off on Thursday night, think it was channel four or could be five news. I wasn’t watching, the only one who was cannot pass comment, the dog, but my ears picked up when two English newspaper men, Kevin McGuire and the Tory one, sorry cannot think of his name started to discuss Scottish Independence and this was the thoughts of Mr McGuire.Now I may not do much TV watching these days but the Telly is reasonably new and I do not want to break it, so it got switched off.
    Poundland is a very good name for England, I would love to tell them where to put it.

  8. Capella says:

    There is a good Newsnet article by Mark McNaught analysing UKIPs sinister rise and comparing them with the Tea Party in USA. They are not the buffoons that becoated, beer swilling, fag smoking Nigel Farage pretends to be.

  9. WRH2 says:

    With independence the future is ours to make. That is beyond price but also beyond the comprehension of many people. Westminster knows that bogging down the argument in scary money stories will cause the undecideds to hesitate even though round the back it has some pretty big scary piles of debt that defies explanation. How for example is Westminster really going to tackle government debt and deficit? I’ll give them a clue, austerity won’t resolve it long term.

  10. yerkitbreeks says:

    They speak of the ” fog of war ” but Whitehall is also a fog as far as I can(not) see and I’m sure there are all sorts of potential revelations hidden there. Like the Bush/Blair letters there are some things we flunkies are better off not knowing.

    The fact remains the No campaign is top down, the corollary to lots of the YES movement, and that this should be so means assets of this nation are something the London Establishment want to hang onto at all costs.

    By the way at the end of the Cold War we were promised investment due to the “peace dividend”. Didn’t take Maggie and Tony long to screw up this promise with their foreign adventures.

  11. I think he, Osbourne, was a towel re-folder in Selfridges, Paul. Once again, a brilliant article.

  12. smiling vulture says:

    BBC Scotland has already been forced to defend its new flagship current affairs programme, Scotland 2014, after viewers deserted it in droves within days of its launch.

    your loose women piece dug,was nail in the coffin–lol

  13. JimW says:

    As a teacher in a previous life I am reminded by Better Together of pupils caught misbehaving who desperately try to shift the argument away from the issue of misbehaving onto ground where they feel they can win the argument. “I didn’t poke a pencil in Alex’s eye, it’s you who are always picking on me”. In the case of Better Together the argument they cannot win is the constitutional argument. They cannot defend having a hereditary head of state. They cannot defend having an unelected upper house which includes religious representatives of only one religion, a religion which is irrelevant in Scotland. They cannot defend having a government which is elected on a first past the post basis, producing a proportionately unrepresentative government which would be the same anyway if no one in Scotland bothered to vote at all. They cannot defend a situation where that unrepresentative government could vote the Scottish government out of existence. So they shift the argument.

    When all the scare story excuses have been trotted out, and all the whining myths debunked and there is nothing left to argue with, the constitutional misbehaviour will still be there. That time is coming. That is when we win.

  14. […] The No campaign is determined to focus on economics. No matter what the issue, it's going to be spun into the political equivalent of the guy displaying his bum crack in a dodgy repair shop who suc…  […]

  15. “Vote no so Westminster can continue to ensure the Scottish economy is so weak the country will never be able to stand on its own two feet is not a ringing endorsement of the Union.”

    And yet many people, browbeaten and lost at sea in a fog of misinformation, still believe that’s the best of both worlds.

    Where has our vision and our ambition for ourselves and our country gone? Independence is priceless. Absolutely.

  16. handclapping says:

    Super article in the FT by Tim Hartford showing that economic projections are worthless. They couldn’t even predict the 2009 bloodbath in 2008 after Northern Rock had gone tits up so both Al-Icsammin’s £1000 and Danny Boy’s £1400 are wrong. The answer to will we be better or worse off is nobody knows and probably won’t be able to say till about 2040.

    Its not whether we can, its whether we should.


  17. YESGUY says:

    Thanks Paul.

    The typical arguments that BT have thrown at us are petty and i for one have to ask if Scotland is so bad off …. Why ??

    Who has put us into a position where we are skint and unable to do things our way ….. Ye canna full stop

    Westmidden full stop.

    So to fix the problem ??????

    ……………… I’m struggling here………… oh

    Vote YES and do things for ourselves. Why not ? Can it really get any worse ?

    Sept 18th . vote YES and WE CAN

  18. jamie macdonald says:

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant !

  19. David Agnew says:

    This is something that has been at the forefront of my own arguments for Independence. If any of their arguments about Scotland being a dependent were true. What exactly does the UK get out of union with Scotland? If we have never contributed anything to the success of sterling as Osborne stated, then how does John McTernan expect Scots to start giving something back? If Ruth Davidson was correct about 8 out of 10 households contributing nothing to the success of the UK, then how on earth can we be Bettertogether? Best of both worlds Ruth? If you are a whining subsidy junkie, then I can how you’d think that, but again my question stands…what do the rest of the UK get out of it? If we needed the UK to bail out our banks, how on earth can we take pride in being British, Mr Darling? If we needed the UK to take part in sport, how on earth can we stand on a podium getting a medal for Britain and not feel a nagging sense of shame?

    If however none of the above is true…why lie? If this union is the most successful union in history, why lie about Scotland’s role in it. What is it about a successful Scotland that has unionists shitting bricks? What is it about unionists that they take such obvious pride in having successfully portrayed themselves as worthless; not just in the eyes of the rUK but the rest of the planet?
    What makes them Proud Scots, but….?

    Even if there is a no vote. Do they really think they can un-ring that bell? Do they really think they can walk away from all they said and did, and no one who voted yes will mind?

    My next question for Westminster and all the other dreary arses that populate the MSM. Just how much will it take to get you to shut your lying mouths? How much more tax should we pay, just how much should we pay for the TV license that you think we take advantage of. What should we sell off to your private sector friends? What price do you want us to pay to get you to take your thumb out of Scotland’s eye?

    The truth is folks, that they wouldn’t lie to this extent and fight this hard if we were really worth heehaw. They need us. They need us more than we need them., That’s why they buried the mcrone report. Thats why “Scotland the subsidy junkie” still has currency here. It’s also why, yes or no, the union is finished. Its simply a matter of when and how. It can either pass with a little dignity with a yes vote or crash and burn post no, as all their bullshit comes back to bite them on the ass.

  20. Sparky says:

    I’m sorry but your wrong, completely wrong! I quote “If Scotland is indeed dependent upon the rest of the UK in order to maintain a standard of public services comparable to those of other northern European countries”

    Sorry, but have you seen the state of public services in Scotland compared to our northern European neighbours? They’re miles ahead, which reinforces the point you made, one made far more eloquently than I ever could – how could such an energy rich County has such poor levels of public services and who is to blame?

    The rest of the article is spot on though🙂

    • weegingerdug says:

      Well aye… we do indeed have shite public services – which I am convinced will only improve with independence – but I was making a rhetorical point and throwing BT propaganda back in their faces because it’s always a lot more fun to condemn them with their own arguments.

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