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.