Sir Tom Hunter Opinion Piece Sunday Times Scotland
This morning I woke up from a dream featuring Kate Moss alongside David Bowie singing ‘ground control to major Tom…Scotland please stay with us’; really?
In his song, Bring Me The Disco King, Bowie’s lyrics include ‘you promised me the ending would be clear’ and ‘feed me no lies’ – we can assume he wasn’t singing about the independence debate, or was he? Will Alistair Darling adopt it as his campaign theme tune now he has the singer’s support?
Enough of the fun! In the past couple of weeks a number of interventions, I believe, have brought clarity to one issue and raised a calamitous number of others interspersed with a few porkies.
Whilst the politics of Osborne, Balls and Alexander are there for all to see, the independent and objective views of Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and Sir Nick Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to HM Treasury, shine a clear light on the probability or otherwise of a currency union after a yes vote and the terms that attach to said.
Similarly Judge David Edwards observations on entry to the European Union for an independent Scotland make palpable sense, underscoring the inherent need for negotiation and the complexity around it, as opposed to the blunt assertion of Mr. Barosso.
The media, alongside the politicians, have of course spun their utterances but you can read them all in totality at scotlandseptember18.com .
The net position is this; neither Carney nor Macpherson rule out a currency union but they stipulate with compelling evidence what would be needed to enact such a union. Macpherson says; “I would advise strongly against a currency union as currently advocated…”
Carney, as does Macpherson, identifies the key ingredients of an effective currency union in effect noting that requires nations to ‘cede sovereignty and limit autonomy’. In other words we would not have the full independence a Yes vote seeks if we are to keep the pound.
So two highly respectable, independent and objective views combine to tell us in clear terms a currency union where we have the cake and eat it all won’t work; it is beyond reasonable doubt.
Now let us remind ourselves of the Edinburgh Agreement that enables this referendum. It states the referendum be conducted ‘so as to command the confidence of parliaments, governments and people’ and that the two Governments would be ‘working together on matters of mutual interest and to the principles of good communications and mutual respect.’ I’m not confident nor do I see much respect.
Does ‘working together’ mean Balls, Alexander and Osborne simply stamping their size ten’s all over currency union or should they be sitting down like adults with Salmond and his team to work through what solution might be feasible?
Equally it is entirely disingenuous of our First Minister to say to Scots don’t worry it’ll be all right on the night. This is the biggest decision we Scots will ever take; we can’t take it on a wing and a prayer. At the very least Scots need a plan B that is understandable, costed and feasible so we know what to expect if A doesn’t work – I have never entered into any negotiation without a fall back position.
But let’s turn back to the three political musketeers. Likewise what holds for the First Minister holds for you…You have all come together in an unprecedented move to tell us what we can’t have, so now you need to tell us what we can have as we weigh our options up on a yes or no vote. To make a choice we need to know what’s on offer either side of the fence and like it or not you face charges of duplicity if you don’t start telling us and soon.
Turning to Europe earlier this week I met Judge David Edward, ex-European Court Judge, a man in my view beyond reproach and as he describes himself a ‘moderate unionist’. David is in the no camp, however that hasn’t stopped him prevailing in identifying the need for detailed negotiation around Scotland’s entry to the EU, rightly noting it was wrong of Barosso to prejudge the outcomes of said.
David makes it absolutely clear there is an obligation to negotiate Scotland’s position within the EU and of course that a unanimous vote of all 28 nations is completely required to see us in. However he pours scorn on the ‘all but impossible’ remarks of the EC President.
However, what his paper (scotlandseptember18.com) points out are the complexities and challenges – for all concerned– of what he describes as ‘negotiations about negotiations and enormous issues and challenges around EU membership.’
By way of one example, Scotland would need to negotiate with the UK Government on the terms of its entry and it would be then down to the UK Government to negotiate that position with the EU. As he notes, one suspects the EU rebate may well feature in that negotiation…
And another is this – if Scotland were to be held in some form of limbo land our fishery waters (the largest in the EU) would be out of bounds to EU fisherman; as he said to me ‘Spain may have Catalan’s but it also has Basque fishermen’. The complexities are almost endless…
To conclude I’d like to bring this debate back down to earth and to what really matters. While our politicians debate loftier matters, thanks to asfact.org and the STV Charity Appeal, I visited families this week reliant on food banks. Some of them didn’t have a means of cooking so the parcel was eaten cold, some didn’t even have a can opener so the beans went uneaten. Trust me the issues underlying this need were truly tragic, almost beyond comprehension in this the home we call Scotland.
So why don’t all our politicians come together and agree to fix this? Now that would be something worth voting for…
Sir Tom Hunter has established scotlandseptember18.com to help inform the independence referendum.
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