I woke this morning and found myself in bed with Alastair Darling and Jim Naughtie and decided to vote No if only they’d leave me alone. Alastair is now heavily into gabbling mode where every question is an excuse to launch into a tirade of slaisters which goes on incoherently until he dries up. Somebody should tell him he sounds increasingly desperate, as if he’s pleading a forlorn case when surely the drill is that he should be the statesmanlike voice of the runaway winners. I’m going to stop making this point from now on because I think it is helping the Yes campaign that the leader of the opposition sounds like a loser.
I’m also beginning to think the thick layer of complacency may also be working to the Yes advantage. I did my duty listening to Radio 4 and while I enjoyed Jim Naughtie’s forays into our wee homeland it was striking to me that he didn’t seem to find anybody in the entire north east who wanted independence. This seemed to be underlining his thesis that the area – from whence he came – is “different”. Therefore while it is the centre of the oil industry which is representative of the nationalist movement, the “reality” seemed to be contradictory because when it comes to independence, the locals aren’t having it, despite voting SNP. This maybe bolstering Jim’s own thesis about the debate and that, in a campaigning way, is all to the good. The more airily relaxed they are in assuming they know the mind of the Scots, the less observant they will be of what appearing on the radar.
But what has been emerging recently is the major flaw in the No campaign argument over currency. They have chosen this ground because they believe it is a weakness, obviously, but they have based their case on the UK saying no to currency union. The trouble is – they haven’t. And it is becoming clearer by the day that they won’t say it. Interviewing Darling, Jim ended with the killer question. Why don’t you just say No?
Alastair dodged it and said something about it being “a decision for the Scots”. Eh?! I think that’s what he said and quickly moved on into his stream-of-slurry mode which Jim allowed to spray the airwaves until he dried up. Why didn’t Naughtie stop him and demand an answer: What credibility can you have on this topic without ruling out a currency union? We all know the answer – they will want a shared currency if the Scots vote Yes and will look stupid if the say no now. I also think a definitive statement would shake the currency markets. If the polls begin to pick up so independence becomes more likely AND the UK government clearly states Scotland will be excluded from sterling, they will immediately begin factoring in the consequences, i.e. a fall in the pound’s value. It would also encourage business leaders with revenue to lose in the Scottish market – not to mention Scottish businesses exporting south – to speak up and express worries for their business costs and employment. They might begin to blame the Treasury not the Nats.
So next Jim interviewed Nicola and while it was a perfectly acceptable effort, he followed throughout a Better Together agenda, namely doubts over currency union and finally the apparent need for a Plan B – straight out of Alistair Carmichael’s mouth. When she said effectively there wasn’t a Plan B because there was no realistic chance of Plan A failing, he went on demanding until she said the flip side of being denied access to our own currency would mean no requirement to take a share of UK national debt which is the real dog in the Scottish economic case. Oh! Oh! yelped Jim, refusing to pay your debts, eh? when all she was saying was that, if refused by London, there was a response at Edinburgh’s disposal. I followed her logic but would an English audience? I’m not sure. They would think she had no follow up for refusal of sterling except cheating on paying Scotland’s share of the bills. (I think London should be careful what they wish for as turning down a currency union means Scotland starts its own and leaves them in a mess).
What a shame Jim didn’t take the opportunity to put the Plan B question to Alastair. If it were me, I’d take the gist of one side’s argument and turn it round on them. It is common journalistic practice. “You say the SNP has no Plan B, Mr Darling. What’s yours? If the Scots vote yes, what’s your Plan B?” To which he would say there is no need for Plan B because No will win which the interviewer points out is exactly the same answer as his opponent gave.
And what is Plan B? The UK government is not making any contingency plans, despite being criticised by Westminster committees. It has no readiness plans despite the imminent vote. It will not enter talks despite the Electoral Commission urging it to do so. Whole sections of industry and commerce want clarity but the government won’t provide it. The people demand answers to questions on EU membership – and indeed on currency – the government refuses to give it. What Naughtie should have pointed out is that the UK has no Plan B and is sleepwalking into catastrophe. If the vote is Yes, it won’t just be that Cameron lost Scotland, he didn’t even have a strategy to deal with the loss and didn’t have the guts even to stand up for Britain against the nationalist leader on television. As the opinion polls begin to rise, that will become the pressing issue and then we’ll see how Dave – and Jim – react.