Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Any Other Business...

In the tradition of the Five Live show “Fighting Talk” – where the last round tidy’s up any loose ends – this last pre election post tidy’s up all the loose ends that are my final thoughts on the campaign.

Better Together have somehow squandered their arguments & have lost the debate: I have said previously that staying in the Union is…  was the default position of many Scots and that all Better Together had to do was sow enough doubt and show that they had listened to the criticisms made of the Calman proposals.  Instead we have had a relentlessly negative campaign which has certainly alienated me, and maybe others.  The arguments over Sterlingzone is a case in point, where whatever the arguments are have been obscured (in the eyes of the public) by rank bad politics.

“More Powers” Is Still Short of Devo Max:  One of the key arguments Better Together have been putting forward has been that change is coming and that new powers are on their way.  Except that, like Calman, the new promised powers are still short of the powers many Scots want.  Devo-Max was the settled will of the Scottish people, which I describe as full fiscal autonomy with Westminster controlling defence, foreign affairs and relations with the EU.  None of the Westminster parties are offering this and it is extremely disingenuous for them to be claiming that the change we want is what will happen if we vote no.

The Anglocentric Media have been rumbled… : For the past 2 years, there has been a building debate about Scotland’s future.  For most of that time, that debate has been confined to page 28 or the equivalent of most of the so called national titles.  Only now that there is the possibility that Scotland might vote Yes has the debate managed to make the front pages and the comment pages of the national press… and their ignorance and lack of any prep work has shown.  A case in point is Dan Hodges recent column, where he claims Calman was put together by The Scottish Parliament.  An Honourable mention must go to John Harris of the Guardian who has sucessfuly reinvented himself as a commentator on matters such as Britain’s left wing electoral deficit from his role as someone who was very much there at Britpop as a music journalist (for Select magazine I think).

… But I don’t think the BBC are biased in a deliberate way: For the past two years the pro-Indy Yes campaign have been complaining about the perceived bias in the BBC’s reporting.  I’m not sure the bias is deliberate or of the MacKenzie/S*n levels in the 80’s, but the academic reporting from UWS has flagged up issues with the BBC’s reporting of this issue.  And then there is Nick Robinson.  I honestly think that Robinson thought that being the chief political reporter for Britain’s main broadcaster gave him privileges at Salmond’s big press conference last week.  When Salmond treated Robinson like the rest of the press corps, Robinson took umbrage and threw his toys out of the pram. Professional pride bruised, this fuelled his hatchet job.  Unprofessional, yes.  Biased, no.

It’s not about a Conservative free Scotland:  One of the Pro-Independence campaign’s main slogans has been about getting the governments we vote for and no more Tory governments.  This is incorrect on two fronts.  Firstly, given the direction of travel of the EU, pro-Thatcherite policies are likely to be brought into an Independent Scotland either via EU directives or by treaties like The Lisbon Treaty or the ongoing TIPP negotiations.  Secondly, it is not inconceivable that Scotland could elect a centre right government in the future – though that Government would not be a hard line Thatcherite government more old style “Tory Wet”.  A more accurate description of this line would be that a “Yes” vote would be a vote of no confidence in the cosy Right Wing Westminster consensus.

And can we park the NHS as a referendum issue now?:  One of the main arguments for independence over the past couple of weeks has been the claim that the Scottish NHS will be under threat if we vote no.  Yes health spending is tied to our pocket money from Westminster, however Calman means that some (limited) tax paying powers are on it’s way to Holyrood meaning we can run and finance our NHS.  The underlying issue though relates to the opening up to private operators of the English NHS, with pro-Independence supporters believing that this would put our NHS at risk of being TIPP compliant.  I think though that our NHS would equally be at risk from TIPP through the EU.  That argument, i think is a score draw.

Unrelated is the claim that there is a £450 million shortfall in the Scottish NHS.  This appeared as part of the campaign on Tuesday.  I can understand why but it is not a referendum issue. 

If Yes win, it was the activists wot won it: I don’t know if I said, but I was out and about in Glasgow…  and was impressed by the friendly openness of many of the pro-Independence supporters.  Indeed, if my experience is anything to go by (and by no means am I saying this experience is universal) the pro-independence supporters have been much more willing to answer questions.  The tactic of engaging with voters on the ground is resolutely old school, but seems to have been a contributory factor in the energised feel of the campaign.

But Brown might “Save the union”:  It’s hard to believe that a few weeks ago that the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was such a marginal figure on the political stage.  He had written a book about his Britain that apparently contained a roadmap forward.  Now, thanks to his “Scottish” Labour backed intervention off the back of that poll, Better Together activists can’t get enough of Brown, and pro-Independence supporters suddenly look nervous.  No matter Brown’s past record as Chancellor and Prime Minister, he is still the grand master at speaking to a left of centre audience, whilst burying his opponents in a dense blizzard of statistics. It’s that ability pro-Independence supporters fear, because no one else in “Scottish” Labour, even arguably Labour full stop, comes remotely close.

Though his successor as Prime Minister is the big loser of the Referendum:  I’ve already posted that if there’s a yes vote come Friday, Cameron should be gone.  He has just given the impression that he’s not interested and has not bothered to campaign.  Yes, he’s made two speeches in the past week…  but he’s not been out and about and…  sorry two speeches.  Just two speeches.  At least Milliband’s been out and about, and just for yesterday in the Gyle Centre he has a modicum of respect from me.  He’s survived Paisley too.  Twice.

No, Cameron would rather have conferences with supermarkets and mobile phone companies about the referendum than meet real voters.

One last thought about Sterlingzone:  I have argued that a currency union would not be in the best interests of an Independent Scotland – arguing that the best option would be for a Scottish Pound tacked to Sterling which is as we are.  But I think Sterlingzone will happen & that I think it’s something the market’s will force Westminster into.

Last thought about the campaign:  Overall, this is a complicated campaign about a simple idea.  Who should govern Scotland?  Should we be governed as part of a centuries old union with Wales, Northern Ireland and England, which was successful in the past, or should we govern ourselves with all the risks and opportunities that may bring.  We have argued about the small print for the best part of two years, but that is essentially the issue at the heart of this debate.  And if you’re still undecided after all that, honestly…  you have my every sympathy.

Predictions, predictions… :  The polls are coming together, and it has the look of a tight race.  I’ve previously said that I think Scotland will vote No.  I still think it likely that we will, but a vote for Yes is not the improbable outcome that it was two years ago.  I don’t think the no vote will be as high as Tom Newton Dunn’s prediction on Sky News on Tuesday (of 57%-43%).  If it is a no vote, it won’t be any more than 53%.

And with that, good luck to both sides.

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