The right message

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.

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10 thoughts on “The right message

  1. Bert Logan

    I know, We know, but there seem to be a LOT of people in England currently listening and accepting lies.

    Its the media, its what they believe, even Scots I know – ‘yes’ers – are starting to absorb the ‘Turkey’ crap and the ‘immigrants are the problem’. Even with Tory hell staring them in the face.

    The media – the MSM – their message is the problem.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I may have some thoughts later on this matter of people falling for propaganda. I’m reluctant to start because it’s a rather depressing topic.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        “the difficulty of making itself heard against the cacophony produced by the British state’s propaganda machine.”

        OK – but what is the answer to this? Possibly the “once bitten, twice shy” syndrome will insulate people, but when the next referendum comes, perhaps all the usual suspects such as Wings, WGD, Common Space, this site and even Bella could run a concerted campaign of rebuttals?

  2. Graeme McCaffery

    Yes it was the communication of the policy but a desirable plan B was needed and alluded to, to have a Scottish currency pegged to sterling.

    How to make it desirable, call it the Australian option.

    I think that the reason that we lost is that not enough devomaxers believed that it was futile to ask for it from the UK. I don’t think that we’ve done enough to push for devomax. Its rejection is the proof we need.

  3. Bugger Le Panda

    You are quite right, the currency position was not the failure portrayed stiil.

    It was a failure of presentation, I think.

    If it had been portrayed as our position to shadow the £ and then developed upwards to sharing the £, it would have been better.

    Using the £ is so logical,for the rUK and Scotland, especially for our agricultural exports alone. We export agricultural raw materials to England and the processed equivalents are imported.

    Eck saw it as such a logical step, he assumed everyone else would too.

    Then came the lies.

  4. alasdairB

    True to form the odious Osborne threatens to introduce a Punishment Budget should Brexit succeed in the EURef . This is similar to the threats of Armageddon made during the IndyRef which of course included the infamous and quite incorrect no use of Sterling.

    ÒScare tactics are the stock in trade of this inept and devious Tory Government. It is saying something when even the Torygraph belittles Osborne’s latest attempt at Project Fear. Shame on the MSM that no such judgement was made during IndyRef or the result may have been different.

    The Currency question and non use of Sterling post IndyRef was one of two major defining interventions ; the other being State Pension entitlement & payment. Taken together these false threats were seen by Scotlands ageing population as very personal reasons for voting No.

    The future use of the £ was by far the most contentious. The argument for use was soundly based and in the best interests of both Scotland & rUK. If my memory serves me correctly there was even a statement by Mark Carney which did not specifically rule out use and BofE participation. However,mno matter the extent and weight of expert opinion in the end it was the relentless extent of Project Fear, together with a complicit media, which won the day.

    In the event of Brexit and IndyRef2 we may be pushing at an open door in Brussels and the best currency option second time round may not be sterling.

    Oh, and since the article is about money, the pensioner problem can certainly be sorted. Just make our pensioners more valued in society and pay them more. Simple really.

  5. David McCann

    Can someone tell me how the Isle of Man with a population of 85,500, and roughly the size of Jura, managed to survive the financial crisis in 2008, using their own currency the Manx£, a de facto currency union with the UK£?
    Other than defence and foreign affairs, they are to all intents and purposes an independent country.
    WE are constantly being told that the new powers of the Scottish parliament make it one of the most powerful devolved governments in the world, so why do I get the distinct feeling that once again we are being short changed?

  6. Iain Barker

    And Currency will become an issue at the next Indy Ref and the same Nasty Brit Nat Press and Media will keep pumping out the same propaganda and the suckers will fall for it again. The same UKOK Treasury will feed that same Press and Media on a daily basis. Because most people still refuse to think for themselves and will swallow it again.

    I suppose in theory that after a Brexit then the Brit £ will well and truly become the Brit Peso or worse and thus almost totally worthless. Hell mend them at the UKOK Treasury.

    Using or any plan to keep using the Brit £ is just another example of the Scottish Cringe as far as I am concerned.

  7. David MacGille-Mhuire

    An on the money piece of analysis, as it were. Bravo in the face of all the propagandist, pseudo-intellectual, BritNat pish.

    PS Some advice, please? Depending on which parcel of scoundrels claims victory in this BREXIT omnishambles, will each set to squabbling over who owns the “hallowed” pound sterling as they all go down the Swanee belting out “Jerusalem” whilst really going at it mano a mano over the legality of the outcome?

    Perhaps the SNP and ScotGov should simply put their previously reasonable currency approach to one side, enter direct negotiations with the EU, and let the Little Englanders keep their peso?

    A Scot created their “revered” Bank of England, thus, why not take the collective initiative and create a Currency Board or some other viable alternative given their well-evidenced track record of spiteful opposition to anything Scottish?

    I’m sure the FM and the ScotGov cabinet have alternatives up their sleeve and will reveal them as and when appropriate.

    Intriguing times, indeed.

  8. Kenny Ritchie

    Always suspected the current union was actually our Plan B, and sterilisation was in fact our Plan A.

    On the day that was earmarked to be our independence day, Alex Salmond wrote an article on what that day may have looked like had we voted Yes. Think it was written in The National. The article had Scotland unsuccessful to negotiate a currency union with rUK, and so we walked away debt free, but kept the pound as our currency in an informal arrangement.

    Perhaps this will be our preferred option next time.

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