It may not have come to your notice that Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars are united that ‘Sterlingization’ is not Scotland’s Plan B. If you rely on the BBC for news, politics and current affairs, then there is probably a lot you don’t know.
Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars are, nonetheless, not united on everything. So what? Both are playing a very important role in Scotland’s immanent self-determination. And both should resist any provocation to descend into public and acrimonious infighting: we are better than that. Both need to work as part of a team, each reaching the parts the other cannot reach. This could not be more important as Scotland’s day of destiny looms on the horizon.
Why is Alex Salmond right to dismiss ‘Sterlingization’ as Scotland’s Plan B? Why does Jim Sillars do this also, but for very different reasons?
So-called Sterlingization cannot possibly be designated a ‘Plan B’. Plans have destinations, implying stable, agreed goals for all time. In reality, Sterlingization – at least for many of us – acts as a bridge, or stepping stone, not at all an end in itself.
Sterlingization is a stop-gap solution around which six million Scots can unite for years to come. It would provide Scotland with a breathing space, an invaluable opportunity for the people themselves, through democratic debate, to decide what exactly we wanted. We would all have weighed up the pros and cons during debate, which would be settled at the end by a decisive vote. Such a vote may take the form of an all Scotland general election; possibly there would be a referendum.
‘Sterlingization’ is a process of wading towards a Scottish currency, as Jim Sillars wants, alternatively, a shared currency with someone else, or the indefinite extention of ‘Sterlingization’, which is not necessarily a bad thing so long as the economies of Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom do not diverge too much, and/or the Bank of England does not collapse under the weight of its own debt.
‘Sterlingization’ cannot be designated Plan B by anyone because it is the stepping stone to all the other potential Plan Bs. Alex Salmond is right to point-blank refuse to tell Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont, Ed Miliband and everyone else where he personally sees ‘Sterlingization’ leading. Why is that?
All the leaders of ‘Better Together’ – including their chums at the Confederation of British Industry, and their glove-puppets who edit BBC Scotland and their United Kingdom equivalents – just don’t get what Scotland’s independence referendum is about. They want voters to think it has something to do with how much we like or trust Alex Salmond as an individual. These people see politics through the prism of charismatic leaders, with voters merely part of the audience who have to sit and take it, with no power of our own, to, for instance, heckle, maybe storm the stage of history ourselves. No, that is not what the people of Scotland want. This is the wretched right-wing nightmare that advocates of Scottish independence want us all to wake up from.
Alex Salmond would be betraying Scottish self-determination if he told voters where ‘Sterlingization’ would necessarily lead. He would be dividing Scots who want independence. At least part of the YES Campaign would turn on him. Do we want that? No. Rupert Murdoch wants that. James Harding wants it. Scotland won’t fall for this divide and rule bullshit.
The divisions between Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars on Scotland’s currency should be put to bed in a manner that unites the YES Campaign. This matters because unity is a very attractive force, one that will help us reach the kind of critical mass that will turn more and more undecideds into our camp, and in the process switching some so-called NO voters from their individual ‘spectrum of indecision’ out of it and into the YES camp also.
Alex Salmond is walking a particularly precarious tightrope on Sterling, and I am more sympathetic than Jim Sillars has been. That is why I am not making a big fuss about him wobbling in one key debate. For whatever reasons, Alex Salmond seems to have over-prepared, was probably badly advised (if so, it was by people who should remain nameless, as the buck does stop with the leader), was clearly given too many notes and not necessarily the right ones. To top it all off, he forgot to be himself, leading to have an off-day. Fine, let’s move on.
But Alex Salmond needs to move on by accepting that while George Osborne, Ed Miliband etc are beyond a shadow of a doubt bluffing, it is a bluff that is working. It is working if only because of the power of broadcast and print media. The media is owned lock, stock and barrel by the British Establishment. The BBC, SKY News and Channel4 News act as a megaphone for Better Together. Alex Salmond needs to blow out of the water the implication by ‘Project Fear’ that an independent Scotland would be reduced to a barter economy, one that inevitably would crash overnight. That is why something has to be said about where ‘Sterlingization’ could go, not where it would necessarily go.
Jim Sillars doesn’t want a Scottish currency to be Plan B. That is because he wants it to be Plan A. He is not going to get his wish, and has to reconcile himself to that. I unequivocally stand alongside Alex Salmond on this. Why?
This is entirely about strategy and tactics. The YES Campaign since Tuesday’s Scotland Decides debate has been moving ever more clearly towards the position that we do have alternatives to Scotland sharing the pound. And all of us accept that Alex Salmond is right to try to negotiate over the assets and debts of the United Kingdom’s central bank.
If the Scottish people are kicked out of the Bank of England against our will because the leaders of the rest of the UK refuse to negotiate, then fine: under such circumstances, the we are absolved of any share of the UK’s debt. International law will stand alongside us on that. And the markets will follow suit, whatever nonsense Glenn Campbell, Brian Taylor, Sarah Smith, John Beattie and their deluded ‘experts’ pretend.
Jim Sillars’s enthusiasm for pulling out of negotiations is a serious tactical and strategic mistake. Such an approach allows George Osborne to trick us into accepting debt by the oppressors of the Scottish people. They would have trapped us into this loveless marriage, rather than dividing up the assets equitably, then letting both of us get on with the rest of our lives. Thanks, but no thanks.
Alex Salmond can’t walk away from Sterling as that would lumber us with a significant share of the debt. But he has to do more than insist George Osborne is bluffing. He has to make clear that ‘Sterlingization’ could certainly lead to the kind of Scottish currency that Jim Sillars advocates, and that such an approach has merits. He has to explain that the Scottish government is exploring all options in the event of the leaders of the Better Together parties being daft enough to absolve an independent Scotland of all debt when we are ready and willing to negotiate over this.
Alex Salmond should do nothing to imply the Scottish government has Scottish currency plans ready for day one of independence: that would imply he and his team are only going through the motions when it comes to negotiating over the Bank of England’s debt. Nevertheless, Alex Salmond should work constructively with Jim Sillars, and others, to explore where Sterlingization could lead in a few years time. If Scotland is kicked out of a shared currency, a Scottish currency could rapidly become the favored option, but only after the people of Scotland get to express our views at the ballot box.
Alex Salmond is absolutely right not to offer a straight answer as to his ‘Plan B’. Alex Salmond is unable to do that for the same reason that I have set out my position as a blog entry, rather than a 140 character tweet. Soundbites are incapable of teasing out every part of an extremely complex question. And the likes of Sarah Smith of Scotland 2014 and John Beattie of Crossfire notoriety want a simple answer to the question of what Alex Salmond’s personal preference is on a Plan B is because it is all about tricking Scots into thinking the referendum is about what one man wants. No, it is not. It is about six million Scots, and Alex Salmond knows that.
What Alex Salmond should negotiate over is the rights and responsiblities of an independent Scotland if there is a shared currency. Alistair Darling pretends that that would cedes all sovereignty to a foreign country. What nonsense. Some sovereignty would inevitably be shared in such circumstances. Scotland would, for instance, lose its ability to set borrowing limits. But within those, tax and spend provides Scotland with plenty of powers.
An independent Scotland would have to have the right to carefully examine the books. Why does Ed Miliband not want to negotiate? Is he scared that Alex Salmond might get to see that, as Labour’s last chief secretary to the treasury, Liam Byrne, ‘joked’, all the money has been frittered away by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling? Can it possibly be true that the Bank of England has no assets left over which to negotiate? Only toxic debt? The vaults of the Bank of England contains no more gold, merely an unlimited supply of I.O.U.s?
Alistair Darling’s previous boss, Gordon Brown, sold off much of the United Kingdom’s gold reserves at knock down prices. That is financial recklessness that every voter is paying for. Is the situation even worse than we have been lead to believe? Might it be that George Osborne and Mark Carney have not been delivering for the British people some kind of economic miracle? Is this dynamic duo merely as powerful as an infinite number of monkeys? But, instead of writing the complete works of Shakespeare,, they have merely been busy printing an infinite amount of worthless bank notes that represent nothing in the real economy?
Is Ed Miliband simply terrified that Alex Salmond will see the books, and then act as a whistle blower, explaining to the people of an independent Scotland that the Bank of England in the twentieth century is nothing more than a glorified ponzi scheme, wrapped in a pyramid scheme, camouflaging a menagerie of Hurray Henry posh-boys, swilling champers, gorging themselves on caviar, snorting cocaine, while paying corrupt cops to raid the homes of the women they abused in the past as prostitutes, taking a baseball bats to hard drives of investigative journalists when they threaten to expose the corruption at the heart of Britain’s MI5, MI6, Special Branch, GCHQ, Metropolitan Police, and their chums in the NSA, CIA and Mossad?