Sticky lies

There’s something in the Bible about special dispensation for repenting sinners. Some, however, may not be inclined to cut Sir Nicholas Macpherson some slack on the basis of scriptural advice. Some may instead be thinking in terms of leopards and their notoriously stubborn spots. And they would have good cause to adopt such an unforgiving attitude.

During the first independence referendum campaign Macpherson came to represent the arrogant exceptionalism of a British ruling elite which held that any conduct, however reprehensible in any other circumstances, was fully justified in defence of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. By publishing his advice to Treasury ministers regarding a currency union with Scotland, Macpherson not only risked the Civil Service’s (already dubious) reputation for impartiality, he also exemplified the old saw about how “Britannia waives the rules” whenever it is expedient so to do. So it would hardly be surprising if his change of heart was treated with some caution.

Macpherson is tainted by his previous behaviour – of that there can be no doubt. British nationalists will doubtless deploy the argument that, having branded him untrustworthy, independence campaigners cannot credibly call in aid his revised opinions on the economic aspects of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. But I would argue that there is a very significant difference between what he was saying then and what he says now. Macpherson was, by his own choice, part of Project Fear – the British state’s anti-independence propaganda effort. He therefore approached every issue, not as someone seeking a rational assessment of the pros and cons, but as one looking to seize upon whatever perspective was most damaging to the Yes campaign. He was bound to say that currency union was impractical regardless of the realities. His position was defined by his unionist ideology and had to serve that ideology regardless of reason or logic.

By contrast, what Macpherson is saying now is informed by a more dispassionate analysis of the post-Brexit situation. For that reason, if no other, it is a more valid perspective.

But there is one thing he is as wrong about now as he was when he was pandering to the worst of the deplorable anti-independence campaign. If he seriously supposes that Brexit “changes terms of debate” then he massively underestimates the blinkered obduracy of hard-core British nationalists. Visit any online forum where Scotland’s constitutional question is being discussed and you will find the disinformation, distortions and dishonesty of Project Fear still being parroted with a fervour entirely undiminished by the fact that every assertion made by Better Together has been contradicted; every lie told by the No campaign has been exposed; every scare-story promulgated by the British media has been debunked; every promise made by or on behalf of the British state has evaporated.

Macpherson may seek to disavow his contribution to the false prospectus on which a No vote was sold to the people of Scotland. But the British nationalist faithful won’t let it go so easily.

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4 thoughts on “Sticky lies

  1. tarisgal

    I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could spit. But if he is going to support Indy, then I shall withhold my natural inclination to call him out on his past.

    He genuinely seems to believe that Scotland can now exist as a separate entity (of course it could have last time but that’s not the issue here) and if what he is saying *now* can convince previous ‘no’ voters of that and to the point they vote ‘yes’ this time round, then, as I see it that will mitigate his past – somewhat.

    Trust has to be earned. He hasn’t earned it. But his new political stance gives him a little credibility.. and I’ll give him more – if he earns it.

  2. alasdairB

    When the facts change its sometimes wise to acknowledge the errors of the past

    I don’t think we should rush to lay the blame on the Treasury for their supposed neutral intervention in the Indyref until we understand the toxic legacy of the Blair Brown governments only some of which is highlighted in Chilcot.

    The debasement and abuse of Whithall was initiated by Blair, overseen by Alistair Campbell & continued by Brown. That is to say, the CivilService were instructed to abandon neutrality and loyally serve the polical agenda and instructions of the ruling Government of the day.

    The biggest & worst Goebels type propaganda was easily the Blair Bush treatment of dodgy intelligence, containing outright lies and deception in support of the Iraq War.

    When Cameron & the Tories entered into coalition with the LibDems there were high hopes the he would end the debasement of Whitehall departments and the abusive practices
    prevalent in the Blair Brown eras. For a time this seemed to be working & the Civil Service reverted to its traditional neutral roll of serving the Government rather than being the servant of the Government.

    Things changed all too quickly as particularly Osborne needed facts and figures which served the policies & politics of Cameron’s Government and things, particularly in the Treasury,
    returned to the cronyism and abuse of Whitehall department.

    There are mounting examples of this abuse. The most recent being many of the Government statistics, facts and outright lies used to discredit the Brexit campaign in the EU Referendum

    So when Sir Nicholas MacPherson ( Chief Secretary HM Treasury) ‘intervened’ in the IndyRef by providing the neutral Treasury letter to George Osborne he was in fact being loyal to his political masters Osborne and the Tory Government; presenting pre agreed facts and figures which discredited Scotland’s case for continuing use of the ££ which, of course, Osborne & Darling subsequently & successfully used in telling Scotland to take a hike on currency.

    Sir Nicholas retired from the Civil Service in March 2016. He carries with him a lifetime of work at the highest level. His positive remarks on currency use for an Indy Scotland are to be welcomed and with his extensive financial knowledge I believe he could well be an invaluable asset on the side of Indyref2.

    After all currency & banking were two of our weakest positions in our 2014 offering and these must be strengthened in order to form an important part of Indyref2 strategy. His previous invidious position within Whitehall Government was not directly of his making and in my opinion should not be held against anyone able to assist our goal of an Independent Scotland.

    When the facts change then I

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