It feels like the blitz. The heavy artillery has been deployed [again] to bombard the Scots into submission.
Yesterday was ‘Hammond Time’ as the Defence Secretary became the latest Tory Tourist to enter the forbidden zone known to some as North Britain (copywrite Gordon Brown).
The ground was prepared on Sunday when BBC Scotland broadcast what must surely be the most blatant piece of anti-independence propaganda yet seen on our TV screens. I speak as someone who has chronicled the catastrophic fall in standards at Pacific Quay in many an article on this site, however the ‘referendum animation’ broadcast on Sunday’s Politics Show left even me open mouthed.
Did you know that an independent Scotland will not be able to defend its oil fields? Were you aware that an independent Scotland would have no surface ships?
These and other little nuggets were presented to viewers as facts by what sounded like three work experience students. Was this the efforts of the youngsters who have been given year long contracts by BBC Scotland? It sounded like it and the quality of the animation served only to reinforce this view.
Aside from its very clear pro-Union overtones, the animation sat oddly in a programme that was ostensibly about the SNP conference in Aberdeen. Moments earlier Gary Robertson had interrogated First Minister Alex Salmond on childcare.
However few would have been aware that the No campaign had planned to place defence at the centre of the referendum debate the coming week. Better Together head Alistair Darling had scheduled a visit to factory on Monday for just that reason, and 24 hours later Tory Defence Minister Philip Hammond would also visit a defence factory, his third visit to Scotland.
The animation was BBC Scotland’s contribution to the Unionist war effort. The poor trainees who provided the voices for the animation were expendable infantry – journalistic cannon fodder who are probably still in awe at being employed by the broadcasting big-hitter. They’ll do what they’re told.
What we are witnessing is further evidence of a No campaign in trouble and the broadcaster has been enlisted to help. Only the naïve would believe that the animation and the heavily loaded ‘Trident negotiable’ headlines that are frequenting BBC Scotland news output are coincidence.
This is the payback for the ‘leak’ to the Guardian newspaper which reported a coalition minister admitting a currency union will follow a Yes vote. The currency threat has backfired and what the No campaign is seeking to do is salvage something from the wreckage – hence the ‘Trident negotiable’ nonsense.
The polls have narrowed quicker than expected and the grassroots Yes movement is now an entity in its own right, distinct from the official Yes campaign.
In keeping with the behaviour of his coalition colleague George Osborne, Philip Hammond refused to be questioned at length by STV. In this military campaign, Hammond couldn’t get away from the front line quick enough – there’s a message there.
But as the No campaign hobbles along with the BBC acting as nurse, spare a thought for the Unite Trade Union official Duncan McPhee, who is the convenor at Scotstoun shipyard and a member of the Tory led Better Together campaign. McPhee was on STV last night (Tuesday) telling anyone who’d listen that he believes Tory promises over defence jobs.
Here’s what Duncan said a wee while back, “If Scotland decides to become independent from the UK the shipyards at Scotstoun and Govan will lose their only customer.”
A short while after he made this statement, we learned that the Govan shipyard had been earmarked for closure … and we aren’t independent.
Duncan also said: “The UK MoD made it clear that they will not place orders for complex naval ships to be built outside the UK. This means that BAE Systems would have to construct the future Type 26 Global Combat Ships at their shipyards in the UK.”
Here’s what UK Minister Andrew Murrison said when asked specifically about placing orders outside of the rest of the UK and an EU rule that allowed such contracts to be awarded without tender.
Pressed if this meant that the Clydeside yards could indeed be awarded rUK naval contracts, the minister replied: “Yes … You’d have to make a case that the residual UK’s defence is best secured by placing that contract with that particular yard.”
Asked if a case could be made that the Clyde was best placed compared to other foreign yards, Dr Murrison said: “Well I suppose you could make a case around transferrable skills, you could possibly make a case around a notion that SMEs and other consequential businesses in the supply chain might be within Great Britain for example,”
“There is no prospect for export orders,” says Duncan McPhee and all at once we see the perils of placing the political Union before the trade union.