International banking, the big investment houses and the global investment companies will be the ones to ultimately decide Scotland’s future path. Unless we, through political leadership, act now.
There are many scenarios, all pointing to only one of two possible outcomes in the 2014 referendum, a “YES” or a “NO”. While that sounds obvious what is not often spoken of in the “YES” camp is that the “NO” camp is presently winning. That and the fact that the “YES” camp isn’t making any significant inroads on even the soft “NO” vote.
This has much to do with the fact that the “NO” camp will not, cannot allow a Scotland only referendum, built in Scotland and funded in Scotland, because just like 1706 it needs the money and support of the City, her institutions and her bankers to secure victory. The “NO” camp will get that support, funnelled from the Union parties if needed, channelled by thousands of little donations if required, but it will get it.
This is the principle reason Independence support has wavered in Scotland over the last three decades, from less than 30% to almost 60%. Polls show the last five years of SNP administration has seen independence support at between 30% and 45%, but its static nature within that band does nothing to affirm the present Holyrood administration’s primary policy, rather it reflects the desires of Westminster, of its backers and its accomplices in Fleet Street.
Simply put, that level of support is not enough. Independence will remain just a dream.
Scotland runs a real risk of becoming not just bought and sold for English gold, but duped by it as well. The joke ultimately will be upon us however, as there isn’t any gold left these days.
Since the late 1990’s when support for Independence peaked there have been two Labour led coalitions in Holyrood, there have also been two substantial depressions with the dot com burst and the market collapse / credit crunch. It can be construed that the failure of promise, that lack of vitality at Holyrood during these first two administrations was a Union success; it soured the attitudes of many Scots towards the administration in Edinburgh.
We did however get what we collectively voted for, again with the above caveats of money and influence.
The depressions added little cause for optimism.
A major scare tactic used by the UK government and her proponents is the financial doom and gloom surrounding the bank bailouts related to the credit crunch. It has been repeated so loudly and so often that many believe it on some level. These people may not have swallowed the whole Union bile, but it is without doubt colouring their perspective. All the negativity the Union puts forwards about Scotland colours opinion.
Support for independence therefore waxes and wanes amongst the electorate at large, presently hovering just above that 1/3 of individuals who see themselves as Scots patriots and who’d vote “freedom” whatever the price. For the rest as they watch Europe’s woes, independence is a dying cause; they see Edinburgh tied to London as Greece is tied to Germany, dancing to her tune under the Euro. With Holyrood’s proposal that post independence we’ll be tied to Sterling and the Bank of England, the common perception can be no other way.
The Darling [Alistair] of the Union aptly playing the only card the Union has left. The solitary ace in the Union deck is Sterling. The Scots electorate are not stupid. As they watch Europe unfold its tale of woe in the Eurozone they can only wonder if this is the fate awaiting Scotland if we vote “YES”; subtly the response from our electorate veers towards “no thanks” to the Independence cause.
The Union has a strong positive case in this argument, if Scots leave there will be no return, but London says “you’ll be the Euro zone’s Greece to our Germany”. It is only a positive case on the surface because Scots are not getting all the facts, and it’s safe to say the facts will continue to be sparsely disseminated.
Scotland will have to use the Bank of England as a lender of last resort we’re told, but it’s often overlooked that we’re simply not likely to need such a lender. It’s rarely told that the Bank of England needs a lender of last resort; it’s the IMF. The very establishment the BoE called during the 1970’s. Westminster’s proponents ignore the fact that Greece was not only bailed by the EU, the IMF has many hands in that pot as well.
Many colonial nations and Ireland used the pound for a period after independence, the Bahamas and many other nations use the dollar, and they are not tied to US fiscal policy other than in the currency value. This would apply to Scotland in Sterling, yet the case made by Holyrood for this is muddy, it simply isn’t reaching the electorate at large. Average Scots are having difficulty getting past the media spin. They are able to reach through the message Westminster and the City wants us to hear, but can’t seem to decipher Holyrood’s code.
The administration in Holyrood need to make plain to all Scots that the tie-in to the pound would only last as long as it benefits Scots; that if and when the times comes where Sterling becomes no longer viable, we will be presented with alternative currency choices. This is a small and acceptable policy step for Holyrood, an intelligent step of a forward looking government while planting the seed that Sterling itself is none so secure a currency.
It is time to spike the Union guns. Time to destroy what should be their final argument.
If we are to stride with purpose towards the referendum and not stagger drunkenly towards oblivion of the type facing Greece, Spain or Portugal then these currency steps are necessary. These are steps we must take if we are to enlist the markets help, for the market will in many ways decide Scotland’s referendum. If the Unionists continue to control monetary policy and the Nationalists continue to promote it, essentially it’s “game over” for Independence for at least a generation. The referendum could be lost by as much as a 70/30 split. It may take the nationalist cause decades to recover.
The markets are crashing; worldwide they are in some type of subdued panic mode. Europe’s economies are moribund, stagnant, almost zombie like.
An independent Scotland must put herself in a legislative position of achieving anything from letting the banks liquidate, to securing the small savers, to bailing out the banks. Holyrood must propose that in a Sovereign Scotland the small saver will be secure; the banks will be liquidated as appropriate. Our government, all of us, we’ll simply guarantee deposits to a percentage of the annual median salary with any banking group. It’s far cheaper than bailing out the banks. It promotes multiple smaller banks and helps curb the “too big to fail” culture. Banking costs are driven down by competition. We can gain both diversity and vitality here.
The markets are crashing; there simply isn’t enough bail-out money to go around. The EU is struggling with Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and France. Meanwhile, Germany is being asked to underwrite these debtors, but is also staggering under the burdens already imposed by EU policies.
Credit ratings are being slashed across Europe; from banks to Sovereign nations, they’re consistently revised – down. Brussels recently legislated to basically ignore the agencies reviews, the EU might well do that, but the private investors won’t. The agencies and investors are multinational, they really don’t care what Brussels thinks, money is their law, and the pursuit of more is their god.
Still, the markets are starting to get very jittery, just last week they bought billions of Euro’s worth of Danish currency at a negative return. Essentially they loan Denmark ten billion Euros for three years, Denmark pays them back nine billion Euros and keeps a billion for the privilege of borrowing the money. The numbers may be slightly exaggerated, the principle is not.
The markets are doing this because they’re putting their money where their mouth is, that Denmark will decouple their currency from the Euro, and its relative value will rise, ultimately giving them a profit. Even if it doesn’t the cost to insure Euro based debt is now virtually guaranteeing investors a loss. Scotland can guarantee a profit from its currency and stimulate inward investment by similarly de-coupling from Sterling in time of need.
This brings us back to the UK, now the most indebted nation on earth by many standards. The last time UK-plc turned a significant profit it relied on Scottish oil, and Michael Foot was running against Margaret Thatcher. Since then it’s been a nation living of the never-never. Eventually there comes a day of reckoning, and that day is almost upon us. Scotland was in the black as recently as our first ministers’ last administration. We may still be in the black if we had accurate accountings, for GERS does not give the whole story.
The question for Scots of an independent mind is weather the crash in the pound Sterling will come before or after the referendum. It will be close in historical terms either way. The question for Holyrood is will they have a “Plan B” or is there such a dramatic lack of foresight on the part of all concerned in Edinburgh that they will simply wallow in the subsequent mire.
Alex Salmond must make clear that the pound Scots will be an independent currency if the need arises, the markets must also be aware of that. Stating that this is simply a clarification of policy is easily achieved, it’s an independent currency tied to the pound Sterling. Sterling will be accepted in Scotland as the pound Scots should be south of the border. Note – should be, as little is expected to change there.
When the markets remove their funding from UK debt, when the collapse comes, if it’s before the referendum there can be a plan “ready for implementation”, but dependent upon a “YES” vote. Who would wish to stay with Sterling in a tailspin of devaluation against a stronger “pound” Scots.
If it’s after the referendum, after a “YES” then Holyrood can tie the Scots pound to the dollar, the Euro or any other tradable currency it chooses. A true Scots government could even elect to make it an independently tradable currency of its own. Again we Scots have options; the back door remains wide open. Only a fool or foolish government cuts off lines of escape.
By re-adopting the pound Scots, whose notes we are familiar with, whose coins already line our pockets, the politicians in Edinburgh will be following their goal of minimal perceived upheaval while achieving the much more valuable prize of getting Scots pounds back onto the international markets. The pound Scots will be right alongside all other nations’ currencies, ready for that decoupling in case of need.
When the butcher’s bill becomes due for Sterling’s decades of excess on the good graces of the world and her markets, it is the markets who will dictate where their money flows. It will flow away from Sterling, from London and from “The City”. Scotland can either be tied to the UK and suffer the ignominy of a position like that of Greece, where even medications for hospitals are unavailable, or she can be in a position to free herself from Sterling and stimulate investment.
In the run up to the referendum the markets will likely push for and fund a campaign for the retention of an integrated UK, it’s what they know, and investors hate uncertainty or upheaval. After the referendum if the markets get their way, as is likely, for money is often what makes the world go around, the chance is strong indeed that they will rue the decisions made. It will be the old case of “be careful what you wish for”.
As for the average swing voter on the independence issue, polls indicate that much will be decided on the value and type of currency in their pocket, and that value is something the markets will also dictate.
They always have done.
It’s simply up to us Scots to give the markets a few options and some sensible direction. We can either let the banker’s money, fundamentally our own money, hoodwink us. Alternatively we can put forward monetary policies that will get Scots excited, policies to make them vote “YES”, for without them the Union and her bankers will win, the only real question will be “by how much?”.