Yesterday I had hoped to follow up the piece I did on Monday, but my writing deadlines just got on top of me. I dash this out quickly as I head off for London again. I do so because of how concerned I am.
There are seismic changes happening in the UK at the moment. There have been seismic changes happening across the world in the last ten years and that has been accelerating over the last three or four. Wherever you point, something is changing rapidly – the climate, the economic outlook, the geopolitics of war and peace.
But there is an exception – the independence movement. Every single time you look it is the same; we are repeating that ‘Tories are bad’, ‘Brexit is an affront’ and that ‘a referendum is coming’ and that’s about it. In fact that has been about all we’ve led on since 2014. The same sentences, repeated as if saying them one more time will finally break through.
Of course I don’t really mean the independence ‘movement’ at all here. Post-2014 one of the absolute doctrines of the new SNP regime was that it and it alone would be presented to the media as the legitimate voice of independence – and the only legitimate voice of independence. Barring the occasional celebrity, they are (as they demanded) the sole voices of independence in the mainstream.
That voice has been at best vacuous, at worst positively awful. The vacuous is the high school debating society patter of ‘bad Tories’, the Scottish political equivalent of hollering ‘yer maw’ at your opponent. Tories are bad, Tories are bad, Tories are bad – independence!
The positively awful is the total lack of seriousness, the apparent conviction that there is nothing that can’t be evaded by a bluff, no need to actually answer a question with any accuracy so long as you can reach into your Scrabble bag of stock political phrases.
As a case study you could look at Shona Robinson explaining the interest rates that an independent Scotland would pay to borrow if Sterlingised. Here’s the reality; in the last couple of weeks as there was a run on the pound the UK economy relied not on borrowing but on another dose of Quantitative Easing to bail out pensions.
The UK is now in crisis because the overdevelopment of London has hit the buffers and is now undermining Sterling and the wider economy while Scotland is underdeveloped, is rich with investment opportunities and so can absorb more than enough investment to underpin a strong currency
A Sterlingised Scotland might simply not be able to borrow at all. It would just be like any other borrower on a commercial market, but would be borrowing on a scale that a lender may well just reject during that period on the basis of the risk. Like some Brass Eye sketch, Scotland might just have ‘run out of pounds’.
I’m blue in the face warning about the madness of Sterlingisation, and that’s why this somewhat important question (could an independent Scotland weather this storm using the madcap plan for currency the SNP has adopted, wouldn’t it be in a massive crisis?) got the following response from Ms Robison:
“No, I don’t believe we would be…”
One more time the sheer shallowness of the response leaves us on the back foot when we should be on the front foot. The story isn’t ‘UK in crisis, Scotland would be worse’, the story is ‘UK faces a long-term structural crisis that Scotland can escape’. The story is ‘The UK’s inability to absorb investment because of lack of productivity is a problem an independent Scotland doesn’t have’.
Over and over again the shallowness of how the SNP leadership responds to events means that we just don’t make ground. Brexit happens, but other than ‘Brexit Bad’ we get no serious work done. How would Scotland rejoin? What would be the process and the fiscal implications? Get prepped and you can lead out with confidence, bluff it and you’re a slogan on a bus.
Boris Johnstone comes and creates chaos, and yet somehow he manages to be spending more public money than the SNP’s own post-independence policy (which, need I remind you, would have actually made George Osborne’s austerity worse if Growth Commission rules had been applied). So Boris is Bad (natch) but the solution to that is… to cut public funding?
So back on our heels we go again. And now Truss and Kwarteng have managed to expose just about every structural economic flaw in the UK and have managed to solve the risk of Scottish currency devaluation overnight and… nothing, nobody. We get political analysis of the depth I can get from a quick trip to the hairdressers:
“What about them Tories, eh? Mental. Giving more money to the rich? What are they like? Total other planet mate. Did you see the football?”
There are two gaping holes at the top of the movement. One is where there ought to be some serious economic and monetary thinking – enough to understand what is going on so a credible, battle-ready response can be produced. The other is where there ought to be some effective political strategy, the ability to ‘own’ events as they happen.
Both are replaced by one thing; the cult of personality. Instead of substance all we have had is a kind of Game of Thrones approach to independence – look at our Queen, she is better than your Queen, if she takes the iron throne via a plebiscite election then a new dawn will truly rise. That’s your lot.
Surely there must be a stage when you finally ask yourself ‘are this lot up to it? Are this lot capable of delivering what they say?’. They’ve been flatly dishonest about a referendum – no ifs, no buts? They hadn’t even checked if it was legal by the time they said that. Plebiscite election? That seems to be a cheap rebranding of ‘one more mandate’.
The SNP leadership doesn’t seem to understand the difference between Scottish independence being an alternative to what happens in Britain and independence being a solution to what is happening in Britain
The SNP leadership now clearly has no workable strategy for achieving independence and apparently no ability to build a case. When an activist I know asked a source very close to the leadership when the rest of the ‘case for independence papers’ is coming out, he was told “the First Minister is clear we can’t publish them too early or the unionists will just demolish then.”
Fuck me, seriously? I’ve heard from multiple sources that the civil servants producing these papers (under the auspices of Angus ‘the only deliverable in my entire career was supposed to be a successful Census’ Robertson) haven’t actually been given much guidance on what is to go in them. Just, you know, indy stuff.
I repeat, because I can’t see this being said anywhere – the UK is now in crisis because the overdevelopment of London has hit the buffers and is now undermining Sterling and the wider economy while Scotland is underdeveloped, is rich with investment opportunities and so can absorb more than enough investment to underpin a strong currency.
This is a phenomenal economic shift. If we had a coherent post-independence fiscal and monetary strategy we could be all over this. We could be deep in a process of explaining to the Scottish public what is happening, why, and why independence is the solution.
And that’s the problem. The SNP leadership doesn’t seem to understand the difference between Scottish independence being an alternative to what happens in Britain and independence being a solution to what is happening in Britain. The distinction is massive. People don’t want to know we ‘could do something different’, people want to know how their lives get better.
There must surely be a point where everyone realises that this regime is way out of its depth and has shown over and over again that it is not capable of grasping the moment for the cause. It is simply astounding how often they talk about independence but how little they say.
Now we’re sitting through a mini version of the Fall of Rome and they’re all away fiddling.
If you don’t lead, you lose. They’re not leading, we’re all losing. We cannot afford this any longer. If something doesn’t change, we’ll become irrelevant. As crisis after crisis comes and goes without independence ever seeming to be the solution, I fear we already are.