SNP urged to back separate currency plan ahead of ‘indyref2’ bellowed the headline from the Sunday Herald. Hmm I thought, have they? By whom?
The headline was based on what the newspaper described as a “keynote paper for a think tank.” The think-tank was the Common Weal. The paper – How to Make A Currency – was written by Peter Ryan, who the newspaper informed us was involved in setting up the Euro.
It’s good that we have a pro-independence think tank. I recall that last indyref was dominated by reports from think-tanks that appeared to regularly conclude that independence was a bad idea. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the CPPR and of course the OBR regularly created media headlines.
So what’s not to like about this report from the Common Weal?
Well it’s not the arguments contained in the report that give me cause for concern. I have no issues with the Common Weal pushing for a separate Scottish currency in the event of independence.
My concern is that this report has been presented by the Sunday Herald as having been carried out by, and I quote, “the independence movement”. The newspaper article contained the following sentence.
In How to Make A Currency – a practical guide published by Common Weal, Peter Ryan, who was involved in setting up the Euro, sets out some of the most detailed analysis yet by the independence movement since 2014 on currency options.
Allied to this was the headline used by the newspaper, ‘SNP urged’. The headline was accompanied by a classic image from a 2014 Yes rally.
The report of course isn’t ‘the most detailed analysis yet by the independence movement’. It is analysis by one individual carried out at the behest of a think-tank. By presenting the report as emanating from the independence movement itself and the SNP being urged to comply with its findings we are invited to conclude the Yes movement and the SNP are at odds.
The article itself, which is reproduced in The Evening Times word for word, makes no mention of anyone urging the SNP to adopt the idea prior to indyref2. It’s possible that the headline is the product of mischief by the Sunday Herald as is the claim that the analysis has been carried out by ‘the independence movement’. However if that is the case then the Common Weal should surely be asking both newspapers to correct the misleading article.
My biggest fear is that the Sunday Herald has accurately reflected the sentiments of the Common Weal. If so then the think-tank is effectively using the name of the independence movement in order to lever its preferred idea of a separate currency into a future indyref2 campaign. The ‘SNP Urged’ tag is merely being used as bait for a media that wouldn’t ordinarily show any interest in a dry report on currency.
If the latter is true then we may have the makings of another RISE type division creeping into the independence movement. I don’t have to remind readers of the schism that opened up between SNP supporters and so-called ‘radical left’ supporters during the last Holyrood election.
RISE flopped but not before the group, which had piggy-backed on the back of the Yes movement, received significant promotion courtesy of our pro-Union media. The divisions created within the Yes movement as a result remain even now.
If the Common Weal isn’t careful then it too will be exploited by the same media if it seeks to pit the Yes movement against the SNP, especially if Nicola Sturgeon’s party decides to maintain its 2014 currency stance.
There are members of the SNP on the board of Common Weal. MP Tommy Sheppard and MSP Ivan McKee are listed alongside ex-RISE candidate Cat Boyd and RISE supporter Mike Small. Sheppard himself has already signalled he is attracted to the idea of a separate Scottish currency.
Sheppard’s opinion is shared by many in the Yes movement and many ordinary members within the SNP. Indeed I myself am attracted to the idea.
I get the idea of a separate Scottish currency. I also get the idea of continuing to use Sterling. For me the two are part of the rich menu that the Yes movement will be able to present to the public during the campaign in the run-up to Indyref2.
The Yes movement is not about pitting activist against activist, or the movement against the SNP, but about ensuring the public are aware of the options available to a newly independent Scotland. It isn’t about ‘urging’ the SNP to adopt an idea, but about informing the debate over currency. The SNP may still opt to keep Sterling in the event of a future Yes vote.
Carrying out analysis of one of the options makes sense given that there will be questions fired at any currency idea from a hostile media. But pushing an idea in a manner that lends itself to being presented as clashes within the independence movement will potentially damage that same movement.
I’ve long argued that any future Yes Scotland campaign should not be used in order to promote the policies of any specific party or group. Yes Scotland activists should remain neutral in a party political sense.
If a member of the public asks about an issue such as currency, they should be presented with all the possible options and informed that it will be for the people of Scotland to decide which one best suits Scotland’s needs. The alternative is that Yes activists begin to argue amongst themselves as a bewildered undecided voter looks on.
Of all the issues raised during the referendum campaign, the SNP’s stance on currency is the one most regularly cited by media commentators as the ‘weak link’ in the Yes campaign chain. So regularly is currency cited as a contributory factor in Yes losing the referendum, that some prominent Yes campaigners have themselves accepted it as true.
It is actually a myth that the SNP’s stance on currency hampered the Yes campaign. In fact polls suggested that the joint threat issued by the three Unionist parties backfired and pushed more people towards the Yes campaign.
In February 2014 a poll revealed that the gap between Yes and No had more than halved following UK Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that he would block a currency union with a newly independent Scotland. According to the survey carried out by Survation on behalf of the Scottish Daily Mail, the No lead was cut from twenty points to just nine.
The new poll put the pro-independence campaign on 38% (+6), with those opposed to independence on 47% (-5) and 16% undecided. A previous Survation poll conducted the previous month put the gap at 20 points.
The currency issue is key for the Yes movement. It’s perhaps the biggest issue remaining now that the EU membership myth has been exploded.
Yes groups would do well to remember that the pro-Union media won’t seek to inform the electorate in the event of a second independence referendum. They will seek to misinform and of course foster division. Let’s not do their job for them. Let’s be careful how we present our ideas.
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