Let’s remember the lessons of RISE

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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9 thoughts on “Let’s remember the lessons of RISE

  1. Kevin

    Excellent work again, Mr Ponsonby, concise and straight to the point. An important and primary voice, we’re fortunate to have the benefit of your clarity.

    When 2017 brings a barrage of false news, bias and lies from our disreputable news sources, we’ll need your vision, robust journalism and brilliant analysis to keep us properly informed.

    Thank you, and Happy New Year to you and yours

  2. Mike Fenwick

    I offer these extracts:

    1) What are the objectives – and does my MSP know about this project?

    In June this year, each member of the Scottish Parliament (all 129) was given a note, this is an extract listing the original objectives:

    – A detailed explanation of the currency options available to an Independent Scotland, and to instigate as wide ranging a debate as can be achieved on such options.

    – A practical example of how these options can benefit Scotland, within which we intend to produce a demonstration (in Beta form) of how to establish a Scottish National Bank, and a Scottish Investment Bank.

    – A series of steps which will allow for money to be made available to challenge and mitigate the current austerity regime.

    On St Andrew’s Day, each member of the Scottish Parliament (all 129) was again given a note which outlined what is planned for the second stage of this project, these are extracts:

    The further development of the first two objectives, by way of further meetings and the selection of trial areas.

    The development of digital access.

    The start of a series of meetings and trials addressing the third objective.

    All will be conducted with an understanding of the regulatory regimes that apply.

    2) Do you want to see this project, and also the works of Andy Anderson, Ronnie Morrison, Craig Dalzell, and what was discussed at the very recent People Powered Money for Glasgow initiative continue, they need your support – the future of Scotland is very literally in your hands.

    Put to one side my own ideas, but if, like me, you wish to see the subject of currency, and all of its implications, discussed and debated as widely across Scotland as is possible …

    Extracts from here:


    It is quite deliberate that I have mentioned the efforts of others in one of those extracts, the need for debate on this issue is critical. What Commonweal have published forms one more part of that debate.

    For me a critical element is the need to stop framing the debate and singularly contain it within the word “Currency” – the elements that underpin that one word are extensive, and each element requires its own debate and understanding.

    From the coins or notes we use without thinking (many to this day bearing promises from CEOs that no longer exist and who crashed their banks), to the foreign exchange implications of a Scottish currency (should we have a currency board), to why we have both revised and now supposedly adequate regulation of the banks to why then do we need a lender of last resort, to why Kenya has over 20 million of its citizens texting their money without the involvement of Banks … each element, and many more, requires sufficient transparent scrutiny.

    Small in many ways though it is – there are clear signs emerging – that those debates and discussions are happening, and it is good to see.

  3. Vestas

    Anything involving Cat Boyd & Mike Small is NOT in the interests of the “independence movement”, its solely in the interests of Cat Boyd & Mike Small.

    Both have proven themselves to be utterly facile & self-serving. If you trust them again then you’re a fool.

  4. Clydebuilt

    The Sunday Herald did its best to split the Indy vote for May’s Holyrood election…… Strongly encouraging SNP voters go give 2nd vote to the Greens…… Saying that doing so would increase the Pro Indy majority in the Parliament…..

    Well it didn’t and the SNP lost its majority into the bargain……. At the time there was very few if any articles favouring the SNP but no shortage of pro Green ones.

    Recently their editorial was saying that the SNP needed to be challenged from the left by a Labour opposition …..this after several weeks of a campaign to replace Dugdale, ie.get rid of an ineffective leader who is a bonus for the Scot Gov.

    The Sunday Herald claims to be Pro Indy ….. But tries to make things difficult for the SNP

  5. Lochside

    Mike Fenwick: I believe this is the nub of what victory means in the next REF. Making the means of financial transaction exchanges ( note I avoided ‘currency’!) clear and comprehensible to Joe and Josephine McPublic.

    I still shudder at AS ‘stumbling over this issue in the first debate. If he couldn’t make this clear to the untutored…what chance fears could be properly allayed? Since then, the subject has disappeared from Unionist rhetoric and targets..but it will raise its ugly head again and despite £1.6 trillion debt etc.. hundred thousands of Scots will scurry to the safety of the ‘English’ pound and its bankrupt bank of no return unless a clear alternative is made plain to them.

  6. Orlando Quarmby

    Clydebuilt’s comments re The Sunday Herald are spot on. NOTHING which come from that publishing house is to be trusted as far as Scotland’s best interests are concerned. The notion that The Sunday Herald is pro-indy is a nonsense – it poses as that whilst publishing more or less subtle material designed to undermine the SNP Government Scottish and to foster fear uncertainty and doubt amongst various factions of the Indy movement. The only institution which can benefit from that is the Union. And I apply the same level of scepticism to The National. It nuances everything editorially towards delay or ‘federal’ alternatives to, outright independence for Scotland. And it presents a steady drip-feed of negative SNP stories. They claim that this is because they support independence, not any particular party, and therefore are merely being ‘balanced’ when they so often more or less overtly critique the SNP. Yet you do not see such corresponding ‘balance’ in terms of relentless criticism towards the parties of Union in their rabidly Unionist weekday Herald. The SNP are manifestly the only political engine capable of delivering independence for Scotland. Yet the rabidly Unionist weekday Herald is given support in undermining that party to a more or less overt degree in its sister titles of The Sunday Herald and The National. They are having a laugh.

  7. Positive. m

    Let us get down to brass tacks.

    I feel it is imperative that we stay united and vote SNP at the next Indy as they are the only party who can give the Scottish nation the freedom to rule their own country as all the
    other groups have slightly differing agendas which often result in confusion and splits.
    Once we have gained our independence there will be plenty of time and opportunities for all other parties to form and to create a new and improved Scottish parliament.
    Forget about brexit, the oil, immigration, the e.c. etc etc. Our population is so small in relation to the rest of the United kingdom that we really have no say in Westminster’s decision’s and we definitely do not have enough powers in Hollyrood to make the necessary changes required to turn our wonderful wee country into a modern, caring, and dynamic nation.
    Positive. M

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