Sunday, 16 February 2014

Osborne's mistake will backfire

So we now know where the three would-be chancellors post 2015 stand on a formal currency union. Or do we?

Well delivering his speech in the West End of Edinburgh, George Osborne said to the people of Scotland "If you walk away from the UK you walk away from its currency". It was a threat with a clear political agenda. Blackmail, in other words. The BBC's Douglas Fraser commented "Pro-union parties said they would not negotiate ahead of the referendum - they're now doing so, but only to rule out negotiations." About the best thing any BBC reporter said all day. Had this been a unilateral referendum with no Edinburgh Agreement signed then I might have respected David Cameron's wish not to debate. I would have especially respected his wish if he said that his government would make the transition to independence as smooth as possible for the sake of the Scottish people if they decide democratically that they wish to become a sovereign nation. But his government has not shown any respect to the Scottish people by sending George Gideon Osborne (that is actually his middle name!) to say what his government would threaten to do if they vote for independence. By not even saying that a formal currency union would be one option for an independent Scotland his contempt was complete. If it just so happens that a majority of people have already decided to choose independence then George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander have decided that the people of Scotland are making a big mistake. But more to the point this is proving that David Cameron is no longer treating this simply as a debate between people living in Scotland, the UK Government has actually come up here and interfered. That means David Cameron has an absolute moral obligation to come up here and debate with Alex Salmond so he can explain his Government's posturing. He is now accountable to the people of Scotland.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Good luck to our athletes in Sochi

Very rare is it that Scottish and British are effortlessly interchangeable the way English and British are on so many occasions. But as I write this, Team GB are taking to the ice to throw some heavy stones along the length of a rink towards what I hope will be Olympic glory. With the lads skipped by Lockerbie's David Murdoch and the lasses skipped by the stunningly attractive Eve Muirhead (sorry I couldn't resist the comment) the curlers may as well be called Team Scotland which is what they are in the World and European Championships.

Eve Muirhead and her rink, Team Scotland/GB

I can remember in 2002 the jubilation that followed the team's success in Salt Lake City. Everybody was saying "this is Team Scotland" and there were saltires a many in celebration. I myself agreed, this is a moment for the Scots to be proud of but I felt that not as a Scottish nationalist so much as someone who preferred the idea of a united island country called 'Great Britain'. Yet that wasn't in antipathy towards Scottish nationalism because I didn't really have a clue about Scottish politics. I knew there was a devolved Scottish parliament, I can remember that being a big thing in 1997 but if anyone were to ask me 'Who is Alex Salmond?' I would likely have shrugged my shoulders and said "One of the MSPs who campaigned for devolution" and nothing else. It was only in 2006, a year before the SNP's first term, that I started to read up about and follow the Independence movement. But it has little bearing on my sporting allegiances. I may support Scotland in the 6 nations but in the footy friendly last August I supported England because that's what I normally do in football and with some competitive games still left in the qualifiers each win mattered at least mentally. My sporting allegiances vary because put bluntly, your country is great at some things, alright at others and crap at the rest.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Currency union matters as an option, formal or informal

There are few people in a position of power at a UK level that those of us who advocate Scottish independence have much respect for. Yet the Governor of the Bank of England is one of those few. Amazingly Sir Mervyn King is reputed to have had a far better relationship with Alex Salmond than with Alistair Darling, a testament perhaps to just how badly Brown and Darling handled the economy. Salmond was involved in some discussions relating to currency union with King before Mark Carney took. In his role as governor Carney is not going to have the same agenda as a politician, he is simply there to do his job and being Canadian his opinion on whether or not Scotland should be independent is not going to be as strong. On the one hand he may feel Scotland is only seeking what most Canadians desired during the years of colonial Britain, on the other hand he may see echoes of the Quebecois referendum in Scotland's big decision. Either way his involvement in the current debate is reasonably neutral and respectable and is not holding back from providing answers out of any fear of 'pre-negotiations'. Alex Salmond and Mark Carney got on with the technical discussions and the latter presented his analysis a week ago.

Mark Carney and Alex Salmond

It is of no great surprise or worry that compromise has to be found in formalising a currency union. Yes, the UK government remains the main user of the Pound Sterling and the founding state of the Bank of England. But Scotland has a stake in the currency as well and most importantly it holds the cards on this issue. The UK government has indicated it may refuse a formal currency union but actually it is the UK government that will urgently feel the need for discussions with the other government for the formalisation of the common currency area.