By Paul T Kavanagh
You can always tell when Project Fear is about to go into overdrive. It happens whenever Alistair Darling embarks on yet another relaunch of the Better Together campaign, and promises to start making a positive case for the Union. And this time he means it. No, really, honest. It will be along very shortly.
But Better Together staffers don’t call themselves Project Fear for nothing. It’s their stock in trade. In fact it’s the only stock they’ve got. The Better Together sweetie shop consists of a forlorn and dusty shelf bearing a pot of Labour’s own-brand invisible jam, some tatty royal memorabilia, and a collection of VHS tapes about famous British military victories narrated by David Starkey.
Now that the No campaign have revealed that their in-house name for themselves is what the rest of us have suspected for quite some time, even slavishly Unionist media outlets have started to complain about the increasingly hysterical and ridiculous nature of the scare stories.
Undaunted, the scare stories keep coming out as regular as clockwork and splashed all over Reporting Scotland by a concerned looking Sally Magnusson. And as regular still they’re deconstructed, debunked, and derided. News which doesn’t get splashed all over Reporting Scotland by a concerned looking Sally Magnusson.
The scare-debunk cycle was all so predictable that a ‘Darling’ was a useful unit of measurement. It’s period of time between the announcement of a No campaign scare story and it being thoroughly trashed. Until last week one unit of Darling was worth just over 2 hours, or about as long as it takes to watch Braveheart – which probably explains the constant references to the movie by No campaigners.
But this week, in a spectacular example of the law of diminishing returns, we got one of the most hysterical scare stories to date. It was so devastating it caused the near collapse of the Darling currency, so he had to be propped up by rapid UK Government intervention.
The scare story was debunked immediately, meaning that a Darling is now worth about as long as it takes to utter the words: “Dae ye think ma heid buttons up the back?”
According to Whitehall sources mouthing off to the Guardian newspaper, the MoD would like to annexe Faslane and Coulport as “sovereign base territories”, so they can keep their nukes here if we dare to vote Yes. According to the UK Government, the Scots can have their independence, apart from the bits that Westminster fancies hanging onto.
As a (now pulled) Guardian editorial helpfully pointed out, it is vital that the weapons are stored somewhere “relatively remote”, like 30 miles from the centre of Scotland’s biggest conurbation. After all, you don’t want dangerous weapons of mass destruction anywhere important, like the Guardian’s offices or the Westminster Parlie.
By sheer coincidence, 30 miles is the radius of the area that would be contaminated with radioactivity and uninhabitable for thousands of years in the event of an accident at Coulport. The security exclusion zone will stretch as far as Glasgow City Chambers. Which is one reason for Trident being where it is, a derelict George Square being trashed by zombie mutants isn’t that different from Glasgow Labour party’s plans to redesign it.
This plan comes courtesy of the very same MoD that UK politicians insist is not making contingency plans for a Scottish Yes vote, so convinced they are that we will be too lost in rapturous goo-goo ga-ga-ing over the royal sprog to even contemplate independence. Now we know that they are indeed making contingency plans. Gob smackingly dumb ones. Which explains why they didn’t want to admit it.
Even the MoD wasn’t quite so dumb as to imagine that unilaterally annexing the bases was a possibility. An independent Scotland would have to agree, and allow access, which is as likely as Johann Lamont being available for comment in Falkirk.
What was spectacularly dumb however was the MoD’s method of persuading Scotland to agree. They’re going to threaten us with the ruinously expensive bill for relocating Trident. It’s going to cost bazillions, a scarey scarey figure, and it’s all our fault.
Anyone who had paused for reflection for a wee second would have realised the we’ll-make-you-pay plan was a non-starter. As far as Trident is concerned, the only cost an independent Scotland is liable for is its share of the bill for removing it.
According to a report in today’s Sunday Herald, the total cost of getting rid of Trident is just £150 million. Based on our proportional share of the UK population, Scotland is liable for around £12 million, or the approximate cost of six yards of Edinburgh tramline. This is not such a scarey figure, but Westminster is to scarey figures as payday loan companies are to interest rates.
The expense of building a new base is not Scotland’s problem. In fact it would be illegal for Scotland to pay towards the cost, as under international treaties preventing nuclear proliferation, one sovereign state cannot pay for another sovereign state’s nukes.
But the brightest and the best in the MoD think tanks think that the team from Holyrood who will negotiate the details of independence with Westminster will be so terrified by the cost of something that they don’t want and don’t have to pay for that they’ll tell Whitehall just to take Faslane off our hands for us. They will blindly accept the costings helpfully provided by Westminster. Possibly they imagine that the Scottish negotiating team will be led by someone who can be relied upon to do as they’re told by London, like Johann Lamont or Michael Moore.
As you might expect, north of the Border even No voters were about as happy with Westminster’s latest offering of mince as vegans discovering that their Christmas mince pies contained real mince, made from the residents of Edinburgh zoo. Cameron issued a hurried denial, after Alistair Darling phoned Downing St to tell them they’d handed the SNP a gift of panda mince and tatties on a plate.
Alistair wisnae objecting to the fact that annexing a part of Scotland in order to host weapons of mass destruction is immoral, illegal under international law, and reeks of colonialist arrogance. He was just upset that it was advantageous to the Yes campaign.
But Ali was also somewhat miffed that the news broke on the very day that Mr ‘Better Together’ Darling was attemping the latest relaunch of his beleaguered campaign, promising to stop with the negativity and give us a positive case for the Union. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
The Faslane annexation debacle is the latest sign that things are not going well for the No campaign. A survey this week showed a massive majority amongst social media users for independence, another recent study returned a majority of small and medium businesses in favour of indy, and we already knew that independence enjoys the support of a large majority of Scotland’s creative people, writers and artists. Change is in the air, and it smells much more refreshing than the stench of Project Fear as Newsnet Scotland’s very own Duggy Dug will testify to.
Let’s take nothing for granted, but the tide is turning to Yes, and there’s little sign that Better Together will be getting their act better together anytime soon. Project Fear is the only weapon in their arsenal, and it’s a weapon of mass self-destruction.