I am undecided between devolution and independence.
But I am leaning towards a No vote on 18th September, because the SNP are pushing currency union. And currency union is not independence. Currency union means that key decisions about the Scottish economy will be made by the Bank of England in the City of London.
The SNP are fond of asking, how many countries which have become independent have ever wanted to go back? But if they asked instead “How many countries which have given up control of their economy to a bank in another country have regretted this?” they’d get a much different answer. And that’s what the SNP are offering.
I’ve had discussions about this with several Yes voters, many of whom have tried to convince me that they will challenge the SNP on this after they get a Yes vote in September, or that the Scottish government elected in May 2016 can reverse everything the SNP negotiated with the rUK government between September 2014 and March 2016.
There are multiple flaws in this argument, both practical and one ethical.
The practical flaws:
When you want politicians to do what you want, the only really effective method is for them to badly need your vote. Assuming that the SNP wants a Yes win on 18th September, the SNP needs your vote for Yes on that day, and if you want the SNP to change its policies for post-referendum negotiations, the time to say that is before the referendum, not afterwards.
You can argue that the referendum is not a matter of party politics and we should just not think about the SNP but only about independence. But this is absurd: the SNP is the party of Scottish government until May 2016, and the only Scottish politicians who are entitled to be part of negotiations with the rUK government in the event of a Yes vote. Therefore, what they say they plan to do in the event of a Yes win matters very much indeed – if you think Yes will win. Because, again, currency union is not independence.
An independent Scotland has its own central bank and lender of last resort. If it does not have such an institution, then Scotland cannot join the EU. Half a dozen Articles of Enlargement require a country to have the control over its own economy and finances that the SNP want to cede to the Bank of England.
The UK is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The latest trend of the Yes campaign in promising Scotland would also be a wealthy nation ignores that, because it leads to a question the SNP would evidently prefer not to answer, “how would that wealth be distributed”?
Of course, it is possible – if the SNP are desperate enough to have their currency union – that they will negotiate terms with the rUK government that will allow the EU to accept Scotland as a subsidiary partner of rUK, with its finances and economy guaranteed to the EU by rUK government and the Bank of England.
It’s possible that Alex Salmond could do this. There are two big gilt-edged cards that Salmond has to trade with rUK government if Yes wins: the oil under Scottish waters, and the nuclear base at Faslane.
It’s fair to say that the oil under Scottish waters is a subject for negotiation. While it would be territorially Scottish if Scotland were independent, it was discovered and developed for the benefit of oil companies and with UK resources. If the SNP want currency union, offering rUK Scottish oil could even be said to be a fair trade: Yes campaigners seem to feel that most potential Yes voters don’t really want independence and it’s not worth striving towards it as a goal. (The tweets screencapped above are a far from unusual position among Yes campaigners: the belief that people won’t vote for actual independence so something less must be offered.)
If I believed the SNP actually intended to tell the rUK government to pack up their nuclear weapons and get gone from Faslane by March 2016, that would be a strong motivation for voting Yes: there is no means of building another base in the time available, and rUK would have to disarm, as has been required of them for decades by international treaty.
I don’t, though – the SNP U-turned on NATO, it seems clear that if Yes wins they intend to fudge it somehow to make sure that the rUK would have time to construct a new base for their nukes outside Scotland. That new base, though, would be hugely expensive – it will cost the MoD billions – and it would be far cheaper to negotiate something. A hundred-year lease on Faslane, perhaps.
What do the SNP want from rUK? Currency union. What does rUK want from the SNP? Oil and a nuclear weapons base.
If the Yes campaigners continue to passively accept the SNP plans, the SNP are mandated to go into negotiations for currency union if Yes wins, and by the time another government is elected at Holyrood, it is too late to reverse on the deal. (It would be foolish to assume that the Bank of England would permit any arrangement to be set up that could be reneged on by the next government: that would hardly suit them, and the Bank of England, not the Scottish government, would be the controlling partner in a currency union.)
The ethical flaw is much simpler:
Yes campaigners are promoting currency union because they think the idea of a independent Scotland with its own central bank and currency, in the EU as a fully independent member, is just too big and scary a change for people to vote for.
It is a big change. It is a scary change. But that’s independence. And if, as Yes campaigners believe, most Scots really don’t want independence, then No should win.
I’m hardly a Yes campaigner. I remain undecided about independence versus devolution.
But I won’t vote to let the SNP trade off nuclear weapons bases to gain a currency union. I’ll vote no. Everything ambitious and good and fine that Scots have planned for independence depends fundamentally on Scotland being independent – a currency union means we only get what we want if the Bank of England is willing to allow us to have it.
If you’re a Yes campaigner, you may be thinking, “how can I change her mind!” and that’s easy: you can challenge the SNP and tell them, no currency union: go for independence. But so far, I’ve never met a Yes campaigner who was willing to do anything like that…