Big beasts and further speculation
This week saw the passing of one of the UK’s legendary politicians, one of the finest orators of his day and, regardless of whether you agreed with his politics, a man of utter integrity and honesty, Tony Benn.
To open our week on independence here are a couple of pertinent quotations from him;
If I rescued a child from drowning, the press would no doubt headline the story: ‘Benn grabs child’
– 1975, on his cynical attitude towards the media.
Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcasters
– 1968 when Minister of Technology.
To join those two thoughts up we need to be careful with just how the media play out comments on independence. More importantly the independence debate really is too important to be left to the politicians alone.
This was a week when the big beasts roared in – former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Lib Dem stalwart Sir Menzies Campbell, the gargantuan brain of legendary investor and philanthropist, George Soros and, again, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.
Most headlines had Carney say, in response to a question on RBS having to move to the remaining UK in the event of a yes vote as;
It’s a distinct possibility…
A few things to note on that response – he actually said:
It’s a distinct possibility but I shouldn’t prejudge it.
It depends on their arrangements as well, if they were to adjust more into Scotland the mind and management of the institution.
And in addition the question pre-supposes not only a Yes vote but also joining the EU…
To see a summary of Mark Carney’s remarks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26531390
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also waded in with his views as to the future of the Union summarized here:
- A new UK constitutional law to set out the purpose of the UK as pooling and sharing resources for the defence, security and well-being of the citizens of all four nations
- A constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament
- A new division of powers between Scotland and Westminster that gives Holyrood more powers in employment, health, transport and economic regeneration
- A new tax sharing agreement that balances the commitment of the UK to pool and share its resources with the need for accountability to the electors in all the places where money is spent
- New power-sharing partnerships to address shared problems on poverty, unemployment, housing need and the environment
- A “radical” transfer of powers downwards from Westminster and Edinburgh to local communities
Interesting views and beliefs no doubt but they are nothing more than that; suggestions to ponder upon…
Fellow Fifer, Sir Menzies Campbell produced The Campbell II report and in almost complete synchronicity with Gordon Brown offered us Scots some recommendations…
Summary of the Recommendations
Recommendation 1: The Queen’s Speech of 2015 should include provisions to strengthen the powers of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
Recommendation 2: Led by the Scotland Office, the UK Government should begin an analysis of the options available to enhance the powers of the Scottish Parliament to implement the consensus set out in this report.
Recommendation 3: The Scottish Government should undertake that the research and knowledge acquired by civil servants in Scotland in preparation for the referendum will be available to inform the proposals set out in this report.
Recommendation 4: The Scottish Parliament should resolve to ensure that the independent fiscal body to be established to support the 2012 Act tax powers is designed to be able to cope with all further financial power legislated for it after a No vote.
Recommendation 5: The Secretary of State for Scotland should convene a meeting after the referendum, within thirty days, where parties and wider interests can meet. Its aim should be to secure a consensus for the further extension of powers to the Scottish Parliament consistent with continued membership of the United Kingdom and to be included in party manifestos for the 2015 general election.
Recommendation 6: Political parties should include commitments in their manifestos for the election due in May 2015 that reforms affecting Scotland will be included in the Queen’s Speech which follows the election.
Recommendation 7: The necessary changes to tax powers should be made through a further Scotland Act. The entrenchment of the Scottish Parliament can be achieved by a resolution in favour of a statute in both Holyrood and Westminster. The Scottish Parliament should have a role in establishing its permanence.
Nicola Sturgeon rebutted both with the simple line:
The only way we can secure new powers is to vote yes in the referendum
Unless of course all the parties come together and actually propose changes in advance of our voting yes or no…
Billionaire philanthropist, George Soros – adeptly promoting his new book – also jumped in to the argument and he is a man who knows something about currency, or at the very least betting on it… (He bet against the pound in 1992, helped its collapse and ended the ERM)
Mr Soros said a separate currency would be “potentially dangerous” and suggested Scotland join the eurozone. He said:
Scotland wants to remain a part of the [pound] sterling and Britain is creating obstructions to that.
It would be a very difficult relationship and I don’t think that Scotland becoming independent and yet remaining part of sterling is actually possible.
The alternative would be for Scotland to seek membership of the European Central Bank and then it would be part of the eurozone.
I think an independent currency would be very inefficient and potentially dangerous.
So that’s it for the week, many opinions, a few ideas and recommendations but yet again a lack of concrete answers to critical questions. Next week we hope to report on our own objective study into the currency issues but for now we’ll leave the last word to comedian Rory Bremner who said something along the lines of;
If politics is about stereotypes Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond couldn’t sum it up any better – two Scots arguing over a pound.
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