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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Who Is Going To Blink First?

The leak of alleged discussions inside the Westminster Government's Cabinet, to the effect that if there is a Yes vote in the referendum on 18th September there will be an agreement to have a currency union with an independent Scotland, has caused the No side no end of trouble. There is also an alleged quid pro quo - an agreement by the Scottish Government, that Trident will continue to be based on the Clyde. As soon as the Guardian released the report of the alleged leak, the First Minister and the Yes Campaign, immediately claimed they were right all along to claim the Westminster Government, the Shadow Chancellor and the Lib/Dem equivalent, were all bluffing when they said there would be no agreement on the currency union. The media has made a meal of the alleged leak ever since and there is no doubt the No side has been badly damaged.

It is intriguing that the First Minster and the Yes Campaign generally, have been so ready to accept that the unknown minister responsible for the leak was telling the truth in this instance, when they have cast doubt on just about everything else that both known and unknown sources have said throughout this campaign. The electorate in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, have every good reason to doubt any statement emanating from any of the political parties in this country, given the track record for honesty of each and every one of them. The establishment in the UK is corrupt from top to bottom, as can be shown by the behaviour of MPs over expenses, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bankers over financial services, the police, NHS administrators and just about every public body in the country. Unfortunately, the conduct of the referendum campaign, which should have been about honesty and reason, has been marred by the evasiveness and willful dishonesty of both sides.

That said, Alex Salmond and his team have every right to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the No side, by highlighting their duplicity and emphasising that much of the uncertainty surrounding the question of the currency, could be avoided if the alleged whistleblower is telling the truth. Unfortunately, so much time and energy has been spent on highlighting the probability that the Unionists have been lying, that the electorate is in danger of losing sight of the most important factor of the proposed currency union viz the loss of control of the Scottish economy to the Bank of England and Westminster politicians, something which Nationalists have fought to change for as long as I can remember and which has been highlighted in previous blogs. That point was made by Alex Gallagher in The Scotsman of 2nd April, when he wrote, "am I the only one who thinks it is a peculiar lunacy to hail as a triumph the possibility that control of your economic levers might be transferred to a foreign bank and foreign politicians, placing control of your economy outwith your borders.."?

Significantly, the alleged quid pro quo of Trident remaining on the Clyde, has been given very little air time. The possibility of such an event was immediately rejected by both John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon, who added the caveat that the removal would be in the first term of the Scottish Parliament so long as it could be done, having regard to the safety of both Scotland and the rUK. Given the extreme difficulty the rUK would have in finding an alternative site, not least of which would be localised political opposition, "safety" issues could be a stumbling block for years to come. The one other actor who may have something to say on this issue and which has had no mention at all, is NATO. Membership of this club was so important to the leadership of the SNP, that it was prepared to split the party and lose two MSPs, to force through a policy volte face. Unfortunately, the increased tension in Ukraine could not have come at a worse time to ask NATO to consider favourably, an application from an independent Scotland whose first act would be to banish nuclear weapons from its soil.

The announcement that NATO is considering offering membership to Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan is bound to increase the tension even further, to say nothing about what it will do to Putin's already heightened distrust of the West. Georgia was promised "future membership" in 2008, while Ukraine already has an Individual Partnership Action Plan and has been encouraged to seek membership of both NATO and the EU. Russia has always had a difficult relationship with the West, pushing her frontiers as far west as possible, from the Polish Partitions of the 18th century to the Iron Curtain of the 20th. the situation in Ukraine is simply the most recent chapter. If the SNP believes the alleged leak by the unknown minister, they must accept both parts. It is an indication of the discussions which have been held in London and the reaction of the Unionist media and the No side, would certainly suggest there was truth in the leak.

If we assume the leak is true, and I believe it may be, it raises several questions, the first of which is, how important is the currency union to the SNP? Will it be a case of a currency union at any or all costs or, if it isn't, what price is the SNP prepared to pay? - a prolonged tenancy of the Clyde perhaps? If Trident is to be used as a bargaining tool, the Scottish Government will face both the rUK which will find it difficult to find an alternative home, and NATO which will have little inclination to concede to an application for membership of the club on Scottish terms.The question now is, who will blink first in this game of "bluff, bluster and bullying"?

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