This was first posted on Facebook on 15th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Richard Leonard, the leader of Scottish Labour, resigned today: his deputy, Jackie Baillie, will take over to lead Scottish Labour to inevitable defeat in the May 2021 Holyrood elections.
To recap, for those not familar in detail with recent Scottish history: we had an independence referendum in November 2014, and No won. (I voted No, for reasons I still think were correct at the time: and I noted at the time that whenever I listened to Yes Scotland’s campaigning, it made me want to vote No: whenever I listened to Better Together, it made me want to vote Yes. I don’t think I was just being perverse: both official campaigns were using incredibly bad arguments.)
For the purpose of this blogpost, I’m going to suppose that I might be a Conservative Prime Minister.
By heritage and upbringing, I am a natural Labour voter: I’m a trade union member, my dad was a trade union member, his dad was a trade union member, and so on back to my great-grandfather: further than that family legend can’t tell me.
Further, since the Tories imposed the poll tax on Scotland, if not before, I’ve always been clear that I would not only never vote Tory, in FPTP elections I’d always vote for the even-slightly-leftier candidate with the best chance of beating the Tory.
So hold my hand: this is a big jump.
Few English people think about the constitutional settlement of the nations of the United Kingdom. And ordinarily, this doesn’t matter at all.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has an uncodified constitution: not a single document thoughtfully and carefully produced to give a country a good start in life, but a collection of legislation and even judicial rulings made over the centuries as the British people clawed our way into being a functioning modern democracy from a starting point of feudal monarchy. The 1689 Bill of Rights (and for Scotland, the 1689 Claim of Right) is part of the UK’s constitution: so is the 1998 Human Rights Act.
A currency union is when two states use the same currency.
The UK is a single state, that uses a single currency: the pound sterling.
James Meadway, who describes himself on his twitter profile as “Senior economist at The New Economics”, asserted on Twitter:
“You’re already *in* a currency union. Who in Scotland elects the Bank of England?”
Last night on Twitter the front cover of the Daily Telegraph was causing a great deal of uninformed stushie.
Clare Lally is a notable campaigner and a full-time carer: she has two daughters, one with severe disabilities, for whom she is the primary carer with her husband Derek. In 2010, she was voted Tesco Living’s “Mum of the Year” in 2010. She was interviewed by the BBC 2011 electoral campaign as part of the launch of Manifesto for Carers: she’s also a Carers Champion.
In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.
But as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
When the SNP transited smoothly from “we’ll use to the Euro” to “we’ll use the pound” that was a campaign tactic.
When the Tories, LibDems, and Labour all bounced to their feet and said ha ha, we won’t let you use the pound, that was a campaign tactic.
I do not believe either the Yes Scotland or the Better Together campaigns have really thought this through: or at least, they are certainly not making a fact-based argument based on having thought this through.
Ian Bell writes in the Herald:
“Hardball” is the macho cliche being applied to the Chancellor’s fiat towards a currency union. Despite its protestations, Mr Darling’s team pursues the kind of negative campaigning that never goes out of style in Westminster. No compunction is involved. The referendum must be won at all costs. But what might that cost be, exactly, if the prize is a united kingdom in the aftermath?
The currency debate is a pure waste of time.
The SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.
So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.
To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
I have a talent for putting words together effectively and clearly. This talent has been honed by many years of work. I enjoy doing it. And I’m fortunate enough that I have for many years been able to earn my living by doing it, though almost invariably when I’m paid to write my name did not go on my writing – it belongs to my employer: it’s been a rule of thumb for most of my working life that I can either get credited or get money, rarely both.
I regard this as unfortunate, not as a moral value. I like getting paid for doing work, and I like getting the credit for doing good work. I have argued in this blog multiple times for multiple reasons that people have a right to get paid. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy your work, or how good you are at it: if someone else intends to profit from your work, you have a right to get paid for it.
Article 23.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
What is the best way to achieve social justice in Scotland?
As I sat in the basement studio of the Augustine United Church – we were in the middle of the workshop on Fair taxation and a strong economy – I heard the March for Independence go by.
One of the things I found myself saying more than once yesterday at A Just Scotland was that each side in the independence debate manages to convince me of the rightness of the other side.
Except, actually, during the debate that ended the day, between Kezia Dugdale and Ewan Hunter, who were meant to be arguing for Better Together and for Yes Scotland respectively, but in the end settled down to the usual Labour / SNP slanging match with more sensible contributions from the audience than from the debaters. What both Dugdale and Hunter convinced me is that I want to go a different direction from either of them.