Stop The Brinkmanship And Focus On The Real Issues
Last night I spent the evening in my old home town of New Cumnock at a ‘tattiefest’ – a music and tattie combo; they are still pretty inventive there!
The town, and ultimately my dad Campbell’s grocery store there, was decimated by the pit closures when the notion of a job for life finally ended as the nationalised pits, steel and shipbuilding industries collapsed.
So as the music skirled and the tatties were consumed inevitably the conversation turned to the Referendum and I think this is an important and positive aspect of this Referendum people are engaged, I also think that the debates that happen between friends and family are proving more productive than the claim and counter claim we get from our politicians more later. Unsurprisingly the discussion wasn’t led by Trident, Euro, EU membership or the currency, it was about how a yes or no vote could affect the daily lives there and rightly so.
If we go would the pension be safe, how many more jobs would be created, could there be new investment in New Cumnock and the surrounding areas and would we need a passport to get to the Yorkshire Dales? Will we still be able to afford free prescriptions, education and elderly care? And what if we stay with the UK what changes then; we’ve had three different offers of more powers but which one, or combination do we get and when?
All these points are absolutely bang on and require an answer, an answer I’m saddened to say I expect from neither camp. Business people like me are absolutely concerned with the currency issue as it will have a distinct and material impact on both rUK and Scotland, most people just want to know will I be better off, have more opportunity for my family in or out of the Union? It’s a good question.
Fundamentally sadly that brings us back to the currency question.
What saddens me most about this referendum is the willingness of both sides for brinkmanship, to play with normal people’s lives, the one’s who can’t up sticks if they don’t like the yes or no answer we offer on the 18th of September.
On the one hand we have Alex Salmond and John Swinney declaring that if we don’t negotiate a currency union we are not paying our share of the UK’s debts. There are two crucial points to note in that assertion.
The first is this, if we do agree to a currency union our public finances will in absolute terms be governed by the UK, or more precisely the Bank of England. Is that what Yes voters are signing up for because I am struggling hard to see how with such constraints Alex’s White Paper vision can be delivered on that basis – perhaps he could explain?
Secondly say we take the brinkmanship to the end point, fail to get a currency union and default on our debts. I think we all know when walking into a bank for a loan having just failed to pay off a massive debt elsewhere what the bank manager might say – countries are no different. To be extreme will the headline be ‘Scotland signs deal with Wonga for long-term capital requirements?’
Be assured if we go down that route the cost of capital will inflate markedly and thus we the taxpayer need either to generate more taxes, through building more successful businesses, or cut back on the very services Alex wants to protect.
So there are two positions set out by Alex both of which have very material consequences to the questions posed by the people of New Cumnock I talked to…
The people we democratically elected in the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties have united in saying no to a currency union in the hope of exposing the perils of Plan B.
But here’s the big question that exposes their duplicity in all of this – if they can unite to say no to currency union why is it they can’t unite to say yes to an agreed package of devolved powers: what is it we get if we tick no on the 18th of September. Answers please before the 18th Mr. Cameron, Clegg and Milliband.
On the one hand Alex wants us signing up for a walk in the fog with cliffs nearby, while Alistair and the unionists want us blindfolded knowing only what lies behind us and not in front of us.
Most undecided people I speak to say this – if it’s more of the same that’s not that appealing, the trouble is I don’t know what we will get if I vote no and I’m unclear if independence will make me better or worse off.
Curiously, to the point of playing with people’s lives, when Alex Salmond sat down with George Osborne to define the question we would be asked on the 18th of September, Alex asked for a second question – in essence do you want more devolution for Scotland? Osborne refused and to my mind cast the dice that now has brinkmanship on every side.
I believe we will get more powers therefore Mr Salmond wins either way.
The Bigger Question is Does Scotland?
Sir Tom Hunter is a philanthropist and entrepreneur. To read an objective free book analysing 16 key questions on Scotland’s Decision, download it from this site.