Thursday, 16 February 2012

Campaigning, is more than eating porridge

Two speeches delivered within twenty four hours of each other. The two by governing leaders. The two dealing with the one subject - Scottish Independence. But oh, how different they were. The one emphasised the negative the other the positive.
The speech by Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland to my old University, LSE last night was full of hope. It outlined how Scotland would thrive economically post-independence.
Salmond has quietly dropped talk of being part of the euro zone. His speech was based on an independent Scotland having control of fiscal policy within a Sterling monetary union.
Indeed the argument he put was that Scotland’s economy would only thrive with full fiscal control in Edinburgh.  Note fiscal policy, he chose to ignore monetary policy. Why? ‘Cos that would still be determined by the Bank of England.
Despite this slight of hand Salmon did put a creditable case forward. He said that 
“With responsibility for taxation, including corporation tax, we will be able to target support to specific areas and industries, such as our vast energy sector or the computer games industry, where Scotland has a real edge on international competitors in terms of cutting-edge innovation.
“Air passenger duty is another example – a tool we could use to help encourage direct air links with the rest of the world and thus stimulate tourism and economic growth. The Calman Commission recommended that Scotland should have responsibility for air passenger duty but so far the UK government has not agreed to devolve this tool.
“Capital investment is something that we are already using to stimulate economic growth here in Scotland. But our powers are extremely limited and right now we have no borrowing powers whatsoever – with the same borrowing powers as other nations we would help stimulate further economic growth in Scotland.
“Scotland is not immune from current global economic challenges. But once we are equipped with the same powers that independent countries around the world take for granted we will be very well placed to thrive economically in the years to come.”
So the spin was, only good would come to Scotland with independence. And it would be good for England too. All in all a positive message.
David Cameron in Edinburgh to campaign for the Union ate the statutory bowl of porridge, and then delivered a speech. As a rallying call, brave heart it was not.
His message was like Private Fraser's in Dad's Army "you’re all doomed" if independence comes. 
He said 
“The best case for the United Kingdom is entirely positive. We are better off together. Why? Well, first of all, let’s be practical. Inside the United Kingdom, Scotland – just as much as England, Wales and Northern Ireland – is stronger, safer, richer and fairer.” 
Fair enough, Prime Minister. But  then here’s the example. 
“We’re stronger, because together we count for more in the world, with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, real clout in NATO and Europe and unique influence with allies all over the world.” 
Hmmm. Surely, the idea that an independent Scotland or Wales for that matter would not have a seat in the United Nations is plain wrong, they would. 
OK, the permanent seat in the security council would go, but has that disadvantaged Germany, Japan or Brazil for that matter. No. Often that seat has given the UK a false impression of its status in the world, and has often tied the country to an over dependence on American foreign policy. 
Are Scotland and Wales safer because of going into Iraq and Afghanistan? Or would the countries be safer ploughing their own course. Cameron goes on to say
 “We’re safer, because in an increasingly dangerous world we have the fourth-largest defence budget on the planet, superb armed forces and anti-terrorist and security capabilities that stretch across the globe and are feared by our enemies and admired by our friends.” 
But would we need to spend as much on these areas if the foreign policy wasn’t based on an old Imperial view of the world. Let’s get real, none of these arguments are compelling. 
Even the argument that Scotland is part of the seventh-richest economy on the planet is not very compelling an argument against the Scots going it alone. After all the Republic of Ireland remains one of the UKs strongest trading partners even after independence, the same would be the same for Scotland. Why? Self interest. It’s to the comparative advantage of both nations to remain trading partners.
No, Mr Cameron has to put a more coherent argument for the Union than “we’re stronger together.”
Many in Scotland and Wales feel that the current Union has not worked for them. New arrangements are needed if the Union is going to continue.  Dangling devo max with no substance behind it as Cameron did today is just not good enough. Scotland, Ireland and Wales need to feel wanted. The case has to be made that their are real advantages to all the nations of these islands being in the Union. That case wasn't made in Edinburgh today.
If the Prime Minister is going to succeed in holding the Union together he’d be better occupied in spelling out new arrangements so that the smaller nations of the isles don’t feel dominated and taken for granted by England. 
Back to the drawing board before you’re next trip north, Prime Minister and bring along a written constitution for the UK of a real Union of equal nations. On this Carwyn Jones is right when he suggested new arrangements were needed.


  1. '... a real Union of equal nations', was never the case at the time of formation of the Union. Why should it be now?

    As for Scotland, no-one in England very much cares if Scotland chooses to leave the Union. It is just a question of what the people of Scotland want. Not a question of 'domination', rather a right to self-determination.

    There is no great case to be made by the Prime Minister, Scottish people must decide on their own. It is their choice to leave, it has nothing to do with a desire by others to have them stay.

    Wales and the Welsh people of Wales would be wise to understand that there are no prizes on offer, no handouts and no backhanders up for grabs.

    Make your decision and live with it. That was the message from David Cameron today.

  2. Waving the Union flag doesn't work any more, Scotland and Wales have been exploited, and it has to end sometime or another, 2014 is when its going to happen.

    Wales isn't represented on the Union flag, and Cameron even forgot to mention our country. That's what we mean to the Tories and the Westminster Elite..nothing!!!

  3. Who wants backhanders? The union doesn't seem to have worked very well for Wales - if we are to be part of that union then this has to change.

  4. Gareth - As you rightly point out Cameron doesn't seem to be on the same planet! Most people in Scotland and the rest of the UK are worried about unemployment, making ends meet, providing excellent Education, Health, reducing poverty and his imperialist mind-set can only focus on "A permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council". Christopher Hitchens description of Cameron as "content free" looks more and more accurate every time Cameron opens his mouth!

    Another good discussion on Scottish Independence on the radio Wales phone in today and again most opinion pro Scots and Welsh independence. I can remember a time not so long ago when this would have been an opportunity for every anti Welsh bigot to run riot, how times are a changing!!

  5. Vague promises of, "We will do something better if you vote no" echo Tory patriarch Alec Douglas Home in the closing days of the 1979 referendum. Cameron needs to be detailed and specific about what he would offer if anyone is to take him seriously. His party has a track record of opposition to serious Home Rule/ Devolution. He needs to be specific and definite before he or his party is to be trusted.