Saturday 15 February 2014

A Man Without A Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Whether Scotland later this year agrees to go it alone or to remain part of the UK is of course a matter for them. What is interesting though about the campaign is how it it reveals with great clarity the problems with winning a referendum on removing a country from a union - changing the status quo. There are lessons in abundance that can be learned from the Scottish experience when considering the removal of the UK from another (albeit different type of) union - that of the EU.

The arguments of whether the Scottish people should run their own affairs democratically has been deliberately reduced down to mainly economic arguments by the Unionists; the Westminster village has closed ranks by taking advantage of the SNP's lack of preparation with regard to currency and undermining the independence case by opposing a currency union.
The three main Westminster parties are to declare that whoever forms the next UK government will not enter a currency union with an independent Scotland.
And FUD regarding Scottish exit has been in full flow:
Finance experts, academics and business leaders have raised fears that independence would destroy the economy, hit investment and force companies to migrate to England.
Words like "disaster" and "destroy" sound very familiar and is a foretaste of what we can expect come an EU referendum. Removing a country from a union needs an effective exit plan - in short a man with a plan - to negate the inherent fear factor. But as I've noted here and here, such a coherent strategy has been sorely lacking with the SNP and it is very likely to cost Salmond, and those supporting Scottish independence, the referendum.
As recent polling shows the independence vote is trailing significantly:
  • Support for independence is 29%
  • Support for remaining in the Union is 42%
  • Don't knows 29%
Support for remaining part of the UK leads by a big margin, add into that the "status quo effect" inherent in any referendum and the fear factor on the "don't knows" and the campaign for Scottish independence looks doomed. Paddy Power's current odds are 2/11 against independence and 10/3 for. It would take a brave man to bet on Scottish independence.

With the referendum getting ever closer we can expect a ramping up of the same scare-mongering tactics. One such example is the Spectator this week where Alistair Daring exposes the weak links in Salmond's case:
Alex Salmond is now a man without a plan. He is offering Scots a future of uncertainty and instability. Threats of a debt default leaving Scotland and Scots with a bad credit rating. No idea which currency we would be transitioning to.

By contrast if Scots want to know the benefit of remaining in the UK, they need only reach into their pockets and pull out a pound coin. We have one of the most trusted, secure currencies in the world. We have the financial back up of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world. The pound means more jobs, smaller mortgage repayments, cheaper credit card bills and lower prices in the supermarket. Why would we gamble that for an unknown currency?
And so on...
Of course this isn’t the first part of their White Paper that has fallen apart. A few days ago Scotland’s accountants were damning in their assessment that there was no plan for paying pensions. The SNP’s own expert group admitted there was no plan for paying benefits. This is too big a decision to make without having a real plan.
Salmond has been criticised for the lack of preparation as 62% of Scots in a poll last year think the SNP's case is "not very convincing":
According to the survey for the pro-union Better Together group, 62 per cent of people said the SNP case was either “not very convincing” or “not convincing at all”. Twenty-four per cent of the doubters voted SNP in the last Holyrood election.
Thus as the SNP demonstrate having a referendum and being ill-prepared, leaves any independence campaign woefully exposed.

Be careful what you wish for...


  1. Good points ... the failure (we anticipate) of the Scottish independence campaign could indeed provide a model for a failed "EU out" campaign.

    1. Thanks, with an example of how not to do it right on our doorstop - by a UK country - is a lesson that seems not to be learnt.

      One wonders how many own goals can be scored - the longer it goes on then we have to consider if it's deliberate.

  2. Salmond is selling the strange idea of being independent within the EU and that Scotland will slip into this without a ripple. The EU has said this won't happen, they would have to apply as new members. There are good reasons for this. The EU hardly wants to encourage new states within itself and the Spanish in particular would object.

    So what would the state of an independent Scotland be? People aren't going to vote for something which they can see is likely to turn out to be a mess with all sorts of things undefined.

    I suppose with the currency, there's the example of Eire using the pound or being pegged to the pound before they shifted to the punt. But once again people want a bit more assurance than that it will all be all right on the night.

    1. "People aren't going to vote for something which they can see is likely to turn out to be a mess with all sorts of things undefined."

      Spot on...and the Scottish vote is a dry run for both sides come to an EU referendum

    2. What is the United Kingdom, if it does not compromise both the Kingdoms of Scotland and England? Which of those, should Scotland secede attain the appellation United Kingdom? The ONLY entity with EU membership is the UK. Oh my God, maybe we would be required to re-apply for membership. Shudder at the thought.

    3. @andy5759 That is an excellent point, and one I have tried for some time to get an answer, unfortuantely to no avail.

      The UK won't exist if Scotland leave or if it does it will be "UK-lite" which is not what our membership rests on. I suspect though it will be fudged as these thing normally are.

    4. Andy, TBF,

      It is an interesting point and I'm not sure how it pans out in treaty and international law either.

      The fact is that there's no will to argue it in Westminster or Brussels. It isn't exactly "We are hoping for the Scots to hoppit so that we will then claim to be out of the EU". Even then there's the question of Brexit and how it would be arranged.

      I suspect the Scots won't opt for independence and I've always had doubts that Salmond was serious.

      If they did, despite what's been said about their undefined position, it wouldn't be a matter of it happening the next day. There'd be a question of negotiations with the rest of the UK which I've heard would take a couple of years.

      I've got an idea that there would be a fudge because the EU and especially the UK, would find it inconvenient to have Scotland as an undefined foreign state, angling to be in the EU. It's conceivable that the UK government would make representations to sort the mess out and that a part of the deal could involve the lot joining the Euro, or at least major concessions.

      This may involve bending treaties and conventions to the extent that many argue couldn't happen, but we've seen the determination to stay in the EU from the UK government and the way the EU can bend to do what it considers within its interests.

      It's far from implausible that Scottish independence could land us in a worse mess than we are in now with regards the EU.

    5. "I suspect the Scots won't opt for independence and I've always had doubts that Salmond was serious."

      The more cynical view is that Salmond is aware that he will lose, knowing that he will get the consolation of Devo - Max which is independence in all but name. Devo Max has been offered by Cameron in the event Salmond loses.

      Unionists have long seen this as a betrayal by Cameron.

    6. TBF,

      I wasn't aware that Cameron had bungled things so far as to offer Devo Max.

      I never thought his negotiation then referendum was worth a used bus ticket anyway, for compelling reasons, but of this is his idea of negotiation then it's an obvious load of nonsense.

      I don't think he'd make much of a Poker player, or for that matter a chess player. he could dress and talk the part though.

      I wouldn't dismiss his ability to bullshit the electorate in the UK so easily.

  3. Notionally, for me it's the missed opportunities which are even more frustrating than the blithe disregard of the dangers which unpreparedness threatens.

    Twenty years ago, people who were warning against Single Currency membership on the basis of the obvious need to concede sovereignty were wailed off as extremist bigots and xenophobes - and yet, the same noddy dogs who used to keep to that party stance behind and in-line with Blair are the same figures who are repelling an England\Scotland currency Union? No less a figure than Carney confirms the point.

    When your own erstwhile opponents begin to prove your own point for you, and in public, how can any competent political figure fail to make political advantage from that?

    Even pro-EU Alex Massie is prepared to divest the debate from residual FUD when it suits his purposes.

    The opportunities going to waste here for allegedly Eurosceptic politicians are legion. The refusal to employ - or worse still to perceive - the ammunition lying around is shocking.

    Most unforgiveable of all, however, are those Tories who refuse to hold Cameron to an open and identified posture for his own post-referendum plans. As preposterous as Salmond's details may seem, at least he's had the guts to commit to detail.

  4. Anon. Good comment and especially "Most unforgiveable of all, however, are those Tories who refuse to hold Cameron to an open and identified posture for his own post-referendum plans."

    The truth seems to be I don't think he has any! I have written to each of the 'Fresh Start' group on the impossibility of their proposed "negotiation" plans with the EU. They are on planet Zog. They fondly imagine that their page after page of suggested policy changes are being eagerly devoured by the colleagues in Brussels - and the rest of the UK!
    Even if they were, they fail to note the point made so often that in practical terms these are all "non-negotiable" and impossible to fit into any electoral time-table anyway. They have not deigned to reply! Surprise surprise.

  5. Compromise. Sod these predictive suggestions.

  6. its make or break week for Salmond, he has meeting with Scots business today followed by a Yes board meeting. By the end of the week markets will know if he gets its. If he doesn't (and I suspect he doesn't) I suspect at future date Mark Carney will be sent up to explain it to him, but before beable to tell if he is after a credible independant country or is a Captain Ahab fighting the British moby dick. If that, while he can't win will do enough damage to render the Union a loveless marriage (worth bearing in mind for any future UK plans).

    Sorry won't explain what the IT is, your piece on Barrosso not covered elsewhere (thanks for that) means you can expect men in Kilts

  7. Dominic Frisby has an article on his blog explaining why an independent Scotland could be the richest country on earth. This is not a joke, but is potential based on a few factors relating to observed experience around the world.

    This dream scenario is entirely dependent on Scotland not being ruled by bailout dependent socialist lackwits. It is not going to happen in the foreseeable future, then, but it does illustrate what could be done with a good plan and political will.

    Bob Fox