More than a spreadsheet!

It is difficult to dispute anything George Kerevan says about the need to address the economic questions around independence. He is undoubtedly correct about the need to have ready and convincing answers on matters such as currency, fiscal management and medium- to long-term economic planning. If, that is, we are to allow that #indyref2 be turned into a joyless joust in which troops of mercenary experts garbed in the drab armour of academic authority have at each other with brittle lances of arcane equations and flimsy swords of statistical data.

If it is proposed that, as with the first independence referendum, the debate be reduced to an arid contest of contrived cost benefit analyses, then Mr Kerevan makes some critical points.

If, however, we aim to keep the debate on constitutional ground where it belongs – and, not at all incidentally, where unionists are weakest – then these economic arguments necessarily slip down our list of priorities.

If, instead of giving over the debate so entirely to the dour doom-mongers of the dismal science, we preserve the larger part of it for a conversation about the promise and potential of independence in terms of the way it opens up the possibility of transforming our nation and society, then perhaps we will better engage with people who previously felt excluded.

Of course, it all has to be paid for. The “beautiful dream” comes at some cost. But there are two sides to every transaction. British nationalists will use the “malleable” nature of economic data to massively exaggerate the cost of realising the dream of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. We can either get caught up in a largely futile effort to refute every one of their self-serving calculations; or we can devote a larger part of our campaign to emphasising the positive and aspirational aspects of our vision for Scotland.

If there is a flaw in George Kerevan’s article it is the apparent assumption that the next independence referendum campaign will replicate the first one – with the same arguments being rehashed in a prolonged episode of nightmarish déjà vu. It doesn’t have to be that way. The anti-independence campaign will undoubtedly resort to the same distortions, dishonesty and scaremongering that characterised Project Fear 1. They will do so because they have nothing else. If there was no positive case for preserving the union then, how much less possibility is there of such a thing now?

But we need not let them set the agenda to suit themselves. Their grindingly negative economic arguments will not have the same potency second time around. The scare stories have been debunked. The lies have been exposed. The emptiness of the promises is revealed. We can create a completely different debate this time. One which is as much about democracy and social justice as it is about deficits and interest rates.

Yes! We need facts and figures. But we also need aspiration and ambition. We need to reassure. But we also need to inspire. We need a message that will placate “The Markets”. But we also need a message that will motivate the people. Most of all, we need to communicate that message with power, clarity and confidence.

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13 thoughts on “More than a spreadsheet!

  1. Sandy

    Agree with this, a positive case for independence, based on true democracy and social justice should be a winner.

    However, I also believe that there is a lot of merit in pointing out just how dishonest and deceitful Westminster has been. From all the lies told through Project Fear 1 (and even before with McCrone and the Iraq war), the let-down of the Smith Commission, the attempt to rob £7bn in the fiscal negotiations and both the Leave and Remain campaigns, I think we should paint out Westminster as something only a masochist would vote to remain with. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, etc.

    I’m also fascinated by which ‘big beast’ they’ll get to front Project Fear 2. Who has any credibility left from the Better Together side in the last campaign?

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      It is intriguing to speculate on who might be the face of Better Together 2. It is, of course, entirely possible that Michael Gove could be looking for a job. And a leg-up to the sinecure which he doubtless considers to be his due.

    2. John Smith

      We could start a sweeper, my money is on Gordon Brown again the English think that he is a Scottish God.

  2. DW1

    Make no mistake, it will be Project Fear x2. The tabloids and the BBC following them will set the agenda.

    It was the tabloids that won it for the Brexit mob. At least we will have an opposing voice on the news stands next time, and there will also be uncertainty on the NO side as well.

    One of our major poster campaigns should be about not letting the fake-Scottish tabloids scare people into voting against their own country. Make people angry about their propaganda.

    I agree with you that we should try to make it about more than economics.
    We need an emotional argument about democracy and dignity.
    Do we want to be a real nation or a region ?

    That way, even many of those who think we may need to tighten the belts for a couple of years.. that would be a price worth paying for better medium term prospects.

    1. Kate

      Aye! And there will still be patriotic Scots who will vote NO, mumbling about how their wages are not going up, but at the same time, happy to stick with a UNION that will spend every penny of taxpayers money and then some, on TRIDENT or birthday parties for the richest bloody woman in the world (almost) ….It really makes you question who these people are?

    2. MB1234

      “I agree with you that we should try to make it about more than economics.
      We need an emotional argument about democracy and dignity.
      Do we want to be a real nation or a region ?”

      In other words, you want an aspirational campaign full of emotive rhetoric. Because that worked so well the last time.

  3. malcolm pirie

    The msm and bbc will set the agenda so answers must be ready. We must be positive and not give them anything else to attack.

  4. Ian McGeechan

    All the scare stories that Project Fear 1 hit us with have come to pass anyway. We can now confidently point out that they knew this and were waiting for Yes to win so that they could rightly tell us that they warned us and we ignored them, but their argument affected too many, especially older people who feared for their financial security in their latter years. The No argument scraped in and now we get to see that it was all stage managed to make the inevitable look like it was somehow our fault. Not only do we suffer all the ills they predicted with independence, but we also get EVEL which renders us powerless in Westminster. Independence can only ever be an improvement on the shambles Cameron has created for us.

  5. Stuart

    Yeah lets ignore those pesky facts and figures, about how things will be paid for.

    Facts and figures, are the silver bullets to deal with flag waving Nationalism…

    One thing does stand out though, that Scotland needs to be in either the UK or the EU to cover its costs.

    I can’t see Brussels and Berlin wanting to cough up the £15 Billion per annum the UK does.

    As usual Mr Bell has no answers to that, but never mind he can climb back on his constitutional hobby horse, and ride it round in ever decreasing circles.

    After all, now Theresa May has ruled out another Independence referendum, Mr Bells hobby horse, along with the rest of the SNP, are going nowhere…

  6. MB1234

    “British nationalists (read: sceptics of the independence agenda) will use the “malleable” nature of economic data to massively exaggerate the cost of realising the dream of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. We can either get caught up in a largely futile effort to refute every one of their self-serving calculations; or we can devote a larger part of our campaign to emphasising the positive and aspirational aspects of our vision for Scotland.”

    In other words, “We’ve had enough of experts.” Now, where did we hear that recently…?

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