I am surely not the only one to notice the curious contradiction in Michael Fry’s otherwise quite interesting article in The National. He parrots the tired old line about the currency issue being “the weakest point in the Yes side’s case”, then proceeds to demonstrate that it was nothing of the kind.
The reality is that the Scottish Government’s position on what currency Scotland would use after independence was, to coin a phrase, as sound as a pound. It was entirely reasonable to state that the best option, on balance, for both Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) would be a continuation of the existing currency union. This was/is as close to an incontrovertible fact as you’re going to find in the realm of economics.
The Scottish Government’s position on currency was correct, by any commonly accepted definition of that terms, because it was arrived at by a process of rational analysis and pragmatic assessment. Where the anti-independence campaign asked, “What position best serves our fearmongering propaganda effort?”, the SNP administration looked for optimum solutions and what was most likely to happen in reality based on known facts and defensible assumptions.
Having echoed the cosy consensus of the political journalists who are respected by nobody other than their fellow political journalists, Michael Fry then proceeds to explain why this cosy consensus is wrong. What he doesn’t explain is why this cosy consensus was so readily embraced by large sections of the Yes movement who should have known better than anyone not to trust a British media which had almost entirely become no more than a tool of Project Fear.
The problem was NOT with the Scottish Government’s position on currency. It was NOT a weak position. At least, not until it was viciously undermined by a campaign of misrepresentation, distortion and open vilification. The media took a totally reasonable, sensible proposition and portrayed it as a ludicrously half-baked notion. And people fell for it.
But this was not the worst of it. In one of the most disgraceful episodes of a campaign in which the mainstream media disgraced itself in every way imaginable, there was a near-total failure to scrutinise the British establishment’s threat to unilaterally abolish the currency union. With rare exceptions – STV’s Bernard Ponsonby made a brave attempt – no journalist asked the awkward questions about this threat. Nobody asked, for example, when the policy had been decided upon. Nobody asked who had made the decision to issue this threat.
Nobody asked whether this highly significant policy shift had been discussed in cabinet.
Nobody asked if an impact assessment had been carried out and, if so, what its conclusions were.
Nobody asked if there had been consultations with the likes of the Bank of England and the CBI prior to adopting the policy.
As ever, we had to look to the alternative media to find any critical examination of the often spectacularly exaggerated or patently dishonest assertions coming from Better Together, the British parties and the UK Government. Oddly, given his rote repetition of the “weakest point in the Yes side’s case” line, Michael Fry and the Wealthy Nation website produced some of the best analysis of the currency issue – and were not reluctant to lend some support to the Scottish Government’s position.
As Michael Fry acknowledges, there was every reason to concur with Alex Salmond’s view that George Osborne and his British Labour allies were bluffing, and that in the wake of a Yes vote they would very quickly change their tune under pressure from those who recognised the damage that would be done to the rUK economy by abolishing the currency union. Writing in the FT Professor Anton Muscatelli of Glasgow University described abolishing the currency union as “tantamount to economic vandalism” [A currency union would be best for all of Britain – Financial Times April 1 2014].
Can we please have an end to this pish about the Scottish Government’s position on currency having been the main reason the Yes campaign failed. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the position. More generally, can we also have an end to the fallacy that we failed to secure a Yes vote because there was something wrong with the Yes message. The Yes message was positive, aspirational, honest and simple. If it had any flaws they were most certainly not so serious as to bring down the whole campaign.
The problem was not the message, but the communication of that message. The problem was not what the Yes campaign was saying, but the difficulty of making itself heard against the cacophony produced by the British state’s propaganda machine.
On currency, as on every other issue, it is not a new message that we need. What we need is a louder, stronger, more confident, more collective and more assertive voice.Views: 2870
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