Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Has this Salmond been caught on his own hook?

It seems that opinion in Scotland is running against independence by a margin of 18% in one recent poll, by 25% in another.

Thumbs up for Alex Salmond? Not if the polls are to be believed
Personally, I find that gratifying. Flattering, really. After all, I can fully understand that a Scot might want England off his or her back (and let’s not kid ourselves: the ‘rest of the UK’ is basically England: 53 million out of 59): after all, if nothing else, with England out of the way, no Scot would ever have to live under a Tory government again. And the so-called United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP, is nowhere to be seen up there.

Why, I’d be seriously tempted to vote for independence myself if I lived in Scotland. But I don’t. I live in England, and I’m English. And the idea of losing the Scots fills me with dread. If only because we’d probably be stuck with Tory governments for the foreseeable future, and one in five of my countrymen is apparently unable to tell the difference between principled politics and the brand practised by UKIP.

Which is like a Ukrainian taking Vladimir Putin for a friend.

So given the obvious advantages to the Scots of independence, I have to take some encouragement by their pretty solid opposition to it. It feels like they actually like us enough to want to stick around and help us out of the predicament we’ve made for ourselves. Very kind of them.

On the other hand, the reason may be somewhat less flattering to us Sassenachs, as they charmingly call us. It may not be so much their fondness for us, as the fact that they actually don’t particularly like the brand of independence on offer. 

Which, strangely enough, has more than a few disturbing aspects in common with the kind of independence Putin would like Ukraine to enjoy.

First of all, the idea is that the Scots would keep the Royal Family. Well, I appreciate the family’s a bit of an irrelevance these days, but why would anyone want to hang on to it when they’ve got the opportunity to wave goodbye? Hang on to Prince Philip? Prince Andrew? Prince Harry? And this is supposed to help win support for the idea?

Secondly, and far more significant, they want to hang on to the pound.

Now, one of the reasons Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, gives for wanting independence is to get control over taxation. But the biggest factor determining the value of a currency is the fiscal policy pursued by the government that controls it.

So Salmond wants a ‘independent’ Scotland to use a currency whose value is determined by the taxation policies of the very country from which he wants to get away? 

Where on Earth’s the mileage in that?

The odd thing is that Salmond’s always truck me as a particularly astute politician. When his party emerged as the biggest single group in the Scottish parliament, but without an overall majority, he stepped up and formed a minority administration, negotiating with the other parties to put together a majority on each measure in turn. That was more than David Cameron had the guts to do in London in 2010, preferring instead to talk the Liberal Democrats into the pact with the devil that the ConDem coalition has turned into.

Salmond did such a good job as head of a minority government that he went on to win a healthy majority at the next election.

Pretty smart, one has to say. So where did he dream up the idea of a referendum to give Scotland independence on everything but its money?

Has Salmond turned out to be less of a smart Alex than I used to think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since I am broadly in agreement with your views, I'd just like to say that I have never heard anybody use the term Sassenach for you chaps soon sooth.