By John McAllion
‘Better Together’ campaigners were triumphant as Britain’s three party establishment ruled out a currency union with a post-independent Scotland.
The co-ordinated announcement by Tory, Lib Dem and Labour spokespeople was intended to be a game changer that would cause undecided voters to flock into the No camp and scupper any prospect of a Yes majority in the referendum.
Unionist commentators hailed the dawn of these “pivotal days” in the argument over Scotland’s future. They looked forward to the big “pocketbook questions” at the heart of the referendum vote now being addressed in the final run-in to 18 September.
They confidently predicted that Britain’s rejection of a currency union had effectively holed the good ship Scottish independence below the waterline.
There was unanimity too across the British establishment’s representatives in Scotland. Labour leader Johann Lamont joined hands with Coalition politicians, Treasury mandarins and the right wing CBI and Institute of Directors in trying to put the boot into the Yes campaign.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson cited the Labour-leaning Guardian columnists in support of their common unionist stance. Lib Dem leader, wee Willie Rennie, trailed along behind echoing whatever his bigger unionist pals had said.
It was all over bar the shouting. A decisive blow had been struck at the heart of the Yes campaign from which it would never recover.
Labour tweeters hailed a Yes campaign “debacle” which they claimed highlighted the “intellectual poverty and ineptitude” of the case for independence.
From their perspective and to paraphrase a great English romantic poet: “Bliss was it in this dawn to be alive, but to be British was very heaven!”
Then the first post-currency union announcement opinion poll was published. Voting intentions in Scotland had begun to shift but not in the direction unionists had expected.
Support for independence was up six points with support for the union down five points. The threat to sabotage the economy of an independent Scotland had backfired spectacularly. Far from being frightened into the No camp, undecided and angry voters were moving in the opposite direction.
No one should be surprised.
Everything about the staging of this announcement seemed calculated to antagonise Scottish public opinion. George Gideon Oliver Osborne is a rich Tory toff and former member of the notorious, loutish and exclusive Bullingdon Club at Oxford.
He is also the author of a hated austerity programme that is being imposed upon Scotland by a government that Scotland did not elect. He is the last man on earth to be sent north to slap down rebellious Scots.
Similarly, the “impartial” advice against a currency union from the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury does not bear examination. Sir Nicholas Macpherson is an old Etonian, an Oxford graduate, a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, an Order of Chivalry founded by George I in 1725, and a £176,000-a-year career civil servant.
A highlight of his 30 years as a Treasury mandarin was his evidence to the Iraq inquiry that public spending was “a bad thing” except when war is in prospect when the Treasury then gladly “starts signing the cheques”. Like a stick of rock and like his Tory bosses, he has ‘British establishment’ running right through him.
Osborne’s decision to sweep into and out of Edinburgh, deliver his lecture and then disappear south again without answering any serious questions or doing any interviews added insult to injury.
The offence to Scottish opinion from these pillars of the British establishment could hardly have been more calculated. Threatening what it regards as subject peoples is what that establishment has always done.
Neither of their personal careers was endangered by any potential electoral backlash in Scotland. Their utter contempt for Scottish opinion was unmistakeable.
But why did Labour agree to play such a servile supporting role to these right wing establishment figures at such a pivotal moment in the referendum campaign?
Did Gordon Brown not launch the ‘United with Labour’ No campaign with the express purpose of avoiding having to campaign by the side of the Tories?
Is there not supposed to be a separate Labour case for a Union through which the Tories are banished to the political fringe by a progressive, centre left British consensus? Why then was Balls playing Jeeves to Osborne’s Bertie Wooster at such a key moment?
By siding with Tory establishment figures and going along with their threats against the people of Scotland, Balls and Miliband are sending out a clear signal that they are British first and an alternative to the Tories second.
They are also sending out a signal about the kind of British union they envisage as the alternative to Scottish independence. It will remain a union in which the first past the post electoral system underpins a Tory/Labour duopoly of power.
It will be a union in which a powerful Treasury and an independent Bank of England determine our economic future. It will be a union in which aristocratic privilege will be entrenched in both Houses of Parliament.
It will be a union in which British weapons of mass destruction underpin Britain’s pretensions to be a global power. It will be a union where business interests will always trump workers’ rights.
Ending such a union is a no brainer for any forward-thinking socialist. Labour, of course, has long since ceased to be any kind of socialist party.
Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice