Wednesday 3 April 2013

Independence: Day One not Year Zero

March 2016: Doomsday for Scotland?
The campaign to deny Scotland the normal constitutional status of a sovereign nation is inherently illogical. Independence is the default status of nations. It simply makes no sense to claim, as British nationalists do, that independence must be argued for. That a case must be made in order to establish that which, in respect of any other country, is simply assumed.

Logically speaking, it is for those who would preserve the union to explain why they hold that Scotland should be an exception to the rule. It is for them to sell the idea of the union. Their task is, or should be, to offer persuasive reasons why the people of Scotland should continue to forego that which is theirs by right. The unionists aren't even trying.

What inevitably follows from the fundamental illogic of the anti-independence stance is the inconsistency and contradiction that characterises their arguments. The recent wryly comic contortions on the matter of Scotland's oil wealth stands as a glaring example of this. With one face the British state tells us that the oil is a burden too great for Scotland to bear alone. That is is too volatile a commodity to be relied on to contribute to the Scottish economy. And that, in any case, it is in decline and won't be available to an independent Scotland.

Meanwhile, the other face is schmoozing the oil industry, talking up its importance to the UK economy and celebrating the very same "new oil boom" that face one denounced as a fabrication when it was referred to by the Scottish Government.

But there is another, arguably more fundamental contradiction that arises from the illogic of the anti-independence position. It goes like this. The union, we are told, is wonderful. The British state is a fine and glorious thing and this is equally true of all its institutions and processes. Better Together asserts that we are better together because we are thereby privileged to enjoy all the benefits of the British economy; British currency; British military might; British banking and financial services regulation; the British welfare system; British political administration and so on. All these things and more are held by British nationalists to be unalloyed blessings bestowed on the people of Scotland by a beneficent British state.

For the purposes of this exercise, let us assume that there is a measure of truth in all of this. I realise that this requires that we ignore British debt; the British banking collapse; the loss of the British credit rating and the decimation of the British welfare state, but please bear with me.

Having accepted, pro tem, this lauding of the British state and all its works, we cannot help but be struck by the mind-bending contradiction in Better Together's response to the suggestion of any kind of post-independence continuity. The Bank of England, for example, is pedestalled as the very exemplar of an independent central bank and, apparently, we should all be very grateful for its existence. But when it is suggested that an independent Scotland might continue to make use of this supposedly superlative institution, all of a sudden it's a very different proposition. While face one commends to us the good offices of what is, after all, as much Scotland's central bank as England's, face two issues dire warnings of  the catastrophic fate that would befall our economy if we entrusted the very same institution with the role of central bank after independence.

As if this wasn't confused and confusing enough, we have that self-styled ultimate authority in such matters, Alistair (Don't ask for my CV!) Darling, pontificating about how a monetary union such as has been suggested by the SNP would surely result in us being rapidly reduced to the penurious condition of Cyprus. Which is, when you think about it, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the British currency or the prudential capacities of the supposedly competent and reputable Bank of England.

And only a little digging uncovers yet more contradiction and inconsistency in the unionists' arguments. The basis of Darling's claims that a sterling zone would be an unworkable disaster for Scotland is the quite reasonable contention that, where the operation of separate and markedly different fiscal policies results in significant economic divergence, a common monetary policy becomes untenable. But that is where the reasonableness ends. Because what is it that the British parties are pretending to offer in the hope of fending off a Yes vote if not the very independent fiscal powers which lead to economic divergence.

What Darling and his British nationalist ilk fail to recognise is that Scotland is already in the position which he declares unacceptable. Insofar as the stultifying constraints of devolution allow, the Scottish Government is already operating fiscal policies that differ quite markedly from those of the UK Government - not least in terms of spending priorities. If the jam tomorrow promises of the British parties were worth anything at all then we presumably would have even more distinctive fiscal policies being applied in Scotland as these came to address the circumstances of the Scottish economy and respond to the democratic will of the people of Scotland. But we would still be in what is effectively a monetary union with the rest of the UK (rUK). The difference being that, without independence, we would have no choice but to remain tied to that monetary union and a monetary policy that would increasingly become incompatible with Scotland's fiscal policy.

So Darling is simultaneously telling us that, if we forego our rightful independence, the British state will deliver some kind of fiscal autonomy, and that this will eventually be catastrophic for our economy with no way out other than the kind of measure now being inflicted on the people of Cyprus.

Not the most tempting offer I've ever had.

The contradictions and inconsistencies referred to arise, as I have said, from the illogical premise of an anti-independence position that views independence as a privilege to be bestowed, subject to qualification, by a "higher power" rather than the normal status of any nation. But this does not explain how people like Alistair Darling can be so totally unaware of the confusion and disorder that permeates their arguments. For that we have to look at another aspect of the British nationalist mindset. The determination to portray independence as some kind of "Year Zero".

The term "Year Zero" is most commonly associated with the horrors of Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia back in the late 1970s. More generally, the term refers to the political notion of a new order that comes about by the elimination of all that has gone before. Year Zero implies the eradication of all culture, all traditions, all institutions and all social structures so as to start anew. I am not suggestion that Better Together are talking in quite such startling terms. But they are certainly contriving their very own Year Zero scenario for Scotland in the hope of frightening people away from voting Yes. And, let's be frank, because they have nothing else to say.

If the most dire of the British nationalists' prognostications were to come to pass then independence day would see Scotland cast adrift and isolated in the world. Machine-gun towers and razor-wire would appear along the border with England. Families would be torn asunder and alienated from one another. Relatives and friends would suffer that most appalling of all fates - they would become... foreigners!

Our economy would immediately collapse; all trade would cease; businesses would uproot overnight and move lock stock and barrel to the other side of what would inevitably be dubbed by the Daily Mail, "The Tartan Curtain".

TV and radio broadcasts would be cut off. The music of the Beatles and Billy Bragg would suddenly sound incomprehensible to the Scottish ear. Mobile phones would stop working and Scottish airports would be bombed by the RAF.

Scotland would be partitioned in the manner of Ireland with Orkney and Shetland becoming an rUK enclave laying claim to all the resources of Scotland's territorial waters - presumably backed by the might of a Royal Navy whose ships would be built anywhere in the world rather than in Scotland.

Scotland would, according to the unionists' Year Zero scenario, become an outcast nation, shunned by Europe and America alike. The offended dignity of the British state would, we are assured, find a sympathetic echo in corridors of power around the world. Scotland would be summarily ejected from the EU and other international bodies. All international treaties and conventions would be rendered null and void.

And, of course, Scotland would become a one-party state. A dictatorial regime would hold sway and we would all find ourselves toiling under the somewhat pudgy iron fist of a tartan-uniformed Emperor Eck as he sits enthroned in Salmond Palace (formerly Bute House).

If we are here straying into the realm of the ridiculous it is only to find that we are not the first to set foot there. The union flag is already firmly planted in the land of bizarre ideas.

A more sane, sober and sensible scenario would represent Scotland's independence, not as Year Zero, but as Day One. We will wake up after the celebration party to find the shops still open, with their shelves fully stocked. Those who are not too hung-over will wend their weary way to work in the same jobs they hated before. The trains and buses will run. Planes will take off and land at Scotland's un-bombed airports. The TV schedules will be little changed, if at all. People in Scotland will communicate with friends and family elsewhere just as they have always done.

Financial institutions will continue to function. If they view the new situation with some trepidation who can say that's necessarily a bad thing given their past record. But the hole in the wall will continue to disgorge cash for those who have it.

There will be no Year Zero. Outwardly, nothing much will have changed on Day One of independence. Under the surface, however, there will be much that is different. And the ensuing months and years will surely see Scotland find a better way. The fact that we can even hope for such a thing is a powerful enough incentive to vote Yes.
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  1. Thanks Peter .......... as always entertaining and informative.
    Where you get the energy from beggars belief.
    Keep writing.

  2. Great read Peter.

    I have to admit that I'm amazed that the unionists can say one thing one second about how such and such will happen when we gain Independence but the next second they are using the same arguments as reasons for us staying in the broken union. I'm sorry but they can not have it both ways!

    The thing that really gets me at the moment is how they can continue to push all their guff about how great the union is yet at the same time we've had the vote, sorry non vote, on work fair, bedroom tax, £5 million RAISE for her nibs, tax CUTS for the rich and god knows what else. None of these are anything other than attacks on the poor and lower middle classes. Yet at the same time we have everyone in the Better Together camp telling us that these are the very reasons why we must stay together. Now I would expect this sort of argument from the Tories and maybe even the LibDems but to get them also from the Labour party just makes an absolute mockery of the whole affair!

    If I've learnt anything over the last few weeks it is that thanks to the LabLibCon party antics we will, in a very short period of time, start to see the numbers openly admitting to voting YES in 2014 increasing and I think we will also see a significant drop in those voting NO.

  3. real Braveheart3 April 2013 at 19:09

    Excellent stuff Peter. How can we get it disseminated more widely?

    1. Feel free to share or republish as you wish.

  4. Good article, but do "Arbroath 1320" / "real Braveheart" realise their usernames do not help the cause.

    1. I think you're maybe being a little over-sensitive about usernames. Unionist complaints about such trivial things is intended to close down discussion. We should not let them dictate the terms on which the debate is conducted.

  5. Of course being anonymous makes everyone take your moniker and comments as serious and being helpful

  6. I enjoy your Tweets, if you don't mind me asking why has your account been suspended?

    1. Twitter has not informed why my Twitter account has been suspended. Presumably it is related to the National Collective/Vitol dispute. I am now using a different Twitter account. If you wish you can follow me on @Referendum_2014.

  7. Great, thanks

  8. Well thought out and equally well written, Peter. If we are to sway the undecided, I feel this, the thought provoking article, is the best way. Lang may your pen flow.