Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Pondering a Vote I Don't Have
what did you do

My father told me once that this poster (or its accompanying slogan) was one of the things - along with a general sense that he was missing out on history - that made him stop being a CO and join the army in 1942. The context for the remark was my rather priggish teenage disapproval of his relenting. "I never expected the criticism to come from that direction," he said, or words that effect.

I've made a slight change to the classic poster, to reflect the increasingly successful strain of mood music being played by the Yes campaign in Scotland. There'll only be one chance to think of your children, to do what's right for Scotland, etc. (The No campaign's rendition of the same tune has been rightly mocked.) In the end, it's much easier to envisage today's children berating their parents in future years for bequeathing them a lifetime of austerity rule from an indifferent city hundreds of miles away than for giving them an independent country which is slightly less prosperous than it might otherwise have been - which appears to be the scariest prospect the No campaign can muster. And you'd have to be a fool to give much credence to the Westminster parties' last-minute floundering to give Scotland "Something (but we don't know what) some time (but we don't know when)". At this rate I half expect David Cameron to announce free neeps for all under-5s.

Ah, if only they'd listened to me in June they wouldn't be in this mess, but I fear that's destined to go down as one of history's great missed opportunities, along with Jim Callaghan's autumn 1978 election, and Byrhtnoth's defence of the causeway at the Battle of Maldon.

Byrhtnoth wuz robbed. I always say it and stand by it now.

I'm depressed. I don't want to lose Scotland as part of the UK, but it's their choice. It will make for a huge and excessive dominance by the English of what's left.

My only hope is that, whatever the outcome, it will be the catalyst for a more systematic reform of the constitutional arrangements for the UK (and not just Scotland).

It's a slim hope, though.

I fear there will be a curling-in of the Establishment and a licking of their wounds. And quite possibly an inbuilt (and inbred) Tory majority for decades to come. :-(

(Deleted comment)

Re: Catalunya and that's the way it is.

That may be part of the problem.

If Westminster is offering a pig in a poke, so is the Independence campaign. They can't say what their currency will be; they can't even say if they'll get to stay in the EU. My opinion would be, "The pie sounds tasty, but please put it back in the oven until it's actually done." (A metaphor for "Get Thine Act Together.") But how does one express that in a "Yes" or "No" vote?

Regarding the "What did you do in the war, daddy?" meme. I'm reminded of the comment made by Roy Jenkins at the time of the vote to join the EU. Labour imposed a No whip on this (bizarrely, as in office the party had favored joining), and keepers of the peace implored the Jenkinsites to abstain rather than defy the whip. But for Jenkins this was the political cause of a lifetime, and he said (approx.) "When I'm asked, 'What did you do in the great division?' I'm damned if the answer is going to be 'I abstained.'"

If Westminster is offering a pig in a poke, so is the Independence campaign.

I agree in many ways. Change brings uncertainty, and a campaign for change has to deal with that. On those particular questions I assume that they'd peg their currency (coincidentally called 'the pound') to sterling - thus giving up part of their hard-won independence on Day One; and I think the path to EU membership would be smoothed as far as possible, because it's not in anyone's interests to oppose it. (Except possibly the Spanish, with an eye on Catalonia - but on the other hand, think of all the Spanish fishing boats that work Scottish waters). But the piggery-pokery of the independence campaign has been much discussed throughout, whereas whatever the No campaign is about to announce today looks like a panicky scrabbling - because it is. It won't have time to be subjected to proper scrutiny (indeed many postal ballots have already been cast), and it's clearly being offered by the unionist parties against their will - or why wouldn't they have put it up front? All this makes a huge difference to the timbre of these competing uncertainties.

There are a couple things there that are different from what I read.

I didn't read that the SNP intends to start a new currency and peg it to the pound. What I read was that they intend to maintain a currency union, at least in the short term. But they'd need consent from Westminster for that.

I didn't read that it was expected that the path to EU membership would be smooth. I read that the SNP expected automatic membership, and were taken quite aback when they were told it wasn't so.

Possibly the news reports I read are all actually No campaign propaganda, but if so I'd like something other than Yes campaign propaganda to prove it.

On the currency, I know that's what Alex Salmond would like, but I can't see any good reason why a UK government would give it to him, except perhaps as a very short-term measure to maintain stability in the markets. Why would a government that's so reluctant to pool sovereignty in the area of currency in the case of the Euro be willing to do so in the case of Sterling? I assume that Scotland would take pegging its currency as the next-best option.

On the second question, I don't have any definitive information, but I found nwhyte's analysis from inside the Brussels bubble quite persuasive. I don't think Scotland's entry would be automatic, but they could reasonably expect to be fast-tracked.

ETA: Sorry, I forgot to include the link first time!

Edited at 2014-09-08 03:41 pm (UTC)

OK, but 1) it still got said by an authoritative figure, and 2) even the author of the article is assuming a currency union with Westminster, and I recall that's what Salmond has been saying in interviews as well.

He quotes a Nobel Prize winning economist who says that currency union is very likely, and I certainly can't compete with that, but looking at what the economist actually means by the phrase, it's clear that he doesn't have in mind something like the Euro, where the participating countries all have a say and share a central bank, but rather something like Panama or Ecuador's adoption of the dollar. I suppose one could say that those countries have a "currency union" with the United States, since they do in fact use the same currency, but I don't think that's the partnership of equals Salmond is trying to convey.

It isn't, and that's the problem. The economist says "oh, there's all kinds of options," and the three he has in mind seem to be: 1) a genuine currency union; 2) Scotland piggy-backing on the Westminster pouund, as Pnama and Ecuador do with the US dollar; 3) none of the above (an actual separate currency?).

The problem with 1) is that everybody in Westminster says it's out. And I certainly believe that. The headline makes it sound as if the economist thinks they'll come around, but if they insist they won't then I can't be sure that even a Nobel-winning economist is right and they're wrong. (Milton Friedman was a Nobel-winning economist, and quite spectacularly wrong, as we've learned to our cost.)

The problem with 2) is that this gives up all control over monetary policy, and is a solution adopted only by third-world countries desperate to ditch their own rotting currency. Not Scotland's position. And worry about losing control over monetary policy is the main reason the UK didn't join the Euro. And this scenario is not a "currency union" any more than a bicyclist grabbing on to a car's rear bumper is getting a ride in the car.

And, as you note, Salmond is banking on an actual currency union. As the No spokesperson quoted at the end of the article asks, what's his plan B? There's nothing in the article to answer that question, certainly not this one economist's assurance that Westminster will come around, and emphatically not if by that he means item 2) above (which doesn't require Westminster to do anything anyway: the US does nothing about Panama and Ecuador).

I'm still not impressed.


Exactly so. If I were Salmond I'd be planning on joining the Euro as soon as may be, but he knows that won't fly at the moment.

What was the SNP's position when the Euro was being floated, 15-odd years ago? Or did it have one?

I don't remember, I'm afraid. It would be interesting to know.

Here's another Nobel Prize winning economist saying that declaring independence without your own currency is crazy. Dueling Nobelists! The only thing we lesser folk can do is get out of the way.

?

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