If you have the stomach you might want to dip into the Daily Telegraph readers’ threads on Scottish issues to discover the cesspit of Scottophobia, defined by Tom Devine as: ‘the irrational aversion among the English establishment to Scots who, through the Union of 1707, achieved high political office.’ It has morphed into something deeper and uglier – a vicious, quasi-racist loathing for friends and neighbours by people convinced self-determination is designed to spite them.
From politics these English bigots jump seamlessly into sneering diatribes about poverty-stricken, useless Scots whose companies and institutions only exist courtesy of their Britain and will leave if the tartan hordes ever get control. Today there is a contribution from, presumably, a sane, educated Telegraph type claiming London has a superior IQ to Scotland and it is our collective lack of developed intelligence that blights our future. Wasn’t that the Boer’s argument against the blacks? Are we heading not into separate political systems but into apartheid?*
The slurry of unresearched accusation and demonic delight at the idea of a failed Scotland is clearly a psychological outlet for their hatred of us and, I suspect, a personal manifestation of what the UK Government is undergoing now – a crisis of confidence and identity. Without wishing to overplay the metaphor, there is something of the cornered rat at play here. The veneer of mutual respect is torn away as soon as they don’t get their way and in return for making them feel the fear, they fall upon us with teeth bared.
In this online underworld of acrimony can be found the seeds of resentment sown by the Unionists who never correct impressions that Scots are subsidised and therefore dependent, never stand up for their country in public and are blind to the crying need for Britain’s economic and democratic imbalances to be corrected. To English voters, there is only contempt for people who appear to win concessions unavailable to them. When do you hear any Unionist politicians explain how Scotland’s budget is set at Westminster, where there is an overwhelming majority of English MPs?
And does it help that a Cabinet minister, the Highland MP Danny Alexander starts talking about businesses leaving Scotland? I find it irresponsible for someone tasked with defending the economy to deliberately undermine confidence by reckless and unsubstantiated remarks. He is in the Telegraph claiming that Alex Salmond had made a dramatic shift in policy when all Salmond said was that sterling was tradable. Such was Danny’s excitement at Phase Two of Currency Wars that, instead of waiting for Salmond to deliver a Plan B, he just blew off anyway saying that thousands of jobs were at risk, the banks would leave and business would follow…what an irresponsible, knuckle-dragging position for the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to take. Has Britain ever had such an inexperienced, unskilled, juvenile, student politician in the Treasury team? As for defending Scotland’s interests…that concept seems never to have occurred to him. This is a democratic process in which there are two sides, neither of which wishes to destroy the economy either of Scotland or Britain. It may require a degree of intelligence or, heaven help me, subtlety, but the UK really has to try for a higher standard of contribution. I have tired before to explain that there are nuanced ways of putting over a message while maintaining one’s integrity and the dignity of office, but I’m afraid Danny is falling well short on both.
Here’s his argument: ‘We’re able to have that scale of financial sector in Scotland because we’re part of the United Kingdom, because we have access to the Bank of England, the deep pockets fiscally of the UK Government as well, which helped to bail out RBS and Bank of Scotland.’ That means – we only have a financial sector because we’re in the UK. Scots themselves couldn’t have created this because they don’t have the nous. You may have read about 300-year-old banks and the first trustee savings banks and the Co-op and Adam Smith and Jardine and Matheson but Danny was off school that day. ‘I think it’s very hard to see how major financial institutions could keep their headquarters in an independent Scotland if there was no central bank and no lender of last resort.’ And even harder if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
The use of a currency board is a perfectly logical concept which uses its funds to maintain the level of the currency, as far as I can see. It works elsewhere without London’s financial genius which, as you’ll recall made such a spectacular success of the meltdown, aided by Gordon and Alistair’s regulatory system.
And the lender of last resort argument was disproved in Scotland’s case by the banking crash when the brass plaque was found to be all but meaningless. The bail-out money came from the central banks in the countries where the Scottish banks operated. That’s why London paid in £65bn to RBS and HBOS and would have done so if Scotland had been independent. However the US Federal Reserve made emergency loans available to RBS of £285bn and to HBOS of £115bn and bailed out Barclays with $550bn, because they were operating in the USA.
The same principle would apply to banks in an independent Scotland. Most of their trade would be abroad and that’s where the bail-out would take place.
Danny is heaping ammunition into the English bigots’ tray with this latest rant against any logical solution for his countrymen. They are the same ones who said it was wrong for a Scot to be Prime Minister, misunderstanding what their own country is meant to be about. The very fact that Brown as a Scot could be PM was confirmation that the Union worked but they are blinded by their prejudice. Which is what I have always believed about the Union. It is an artifice built on a myth. It only ever worked when everything suited the larger neighbor and now that they are being challenged any concept of “British fair play” and stiff upper lip has evaporated in a vapour of barely-concealed hatred.
One of the legacies of this referendum episode is that it has exposed once and for all that the Union was a con – it was a takeover as confirmed in the UK’s legal advice – and British meant English and if we go along with it we are demeaning Scotland. That’s what the English Scot-baiters expect of us, that we acquiesce and acknowledge their generosity and charity. Their ignorance about their own country, let alone Scotland, has been presented to the world and underlined by Cameron’s fear of debate. And the true nature of our “family of nations” is now out there, not just on the internet but buttressed by the state – Civil Service, ALL the main parties, big business and the media. That won’t go away after September’s vote, whichever way it turns out.
*2 hours ago The greatest threat to the future success of an independent Scotland has nothing to do with oil, nor business’s exodus, nor Scotland’s other physical resources, which are indeed enviable. The greatest threat to Scotland’s success is the intellectual paucity of Scotland’s human capital. It is not widely appreciated that as a consequence of so many intelligent Scots having, since the Union of the Crowns, left Scotland to make their lives elsewhere, the residual population presently has the lowest average IQ in Europe outside of the ‘Boratland’ countries of the former Soviet bloc and France. The Scottish average IQ of 97 is well below the England and Wales average of 100.5 and about level with the IQ of citizens of the Republic of Ireland; not a very high bar to jump. As one would expect, London and the south-east of England scored top in the UK, with an average IQ of 102. Scotland – when differentiated from the rest of the UK – comes two-thirds down the table of European average intelligence, beating Russia by only one percentage point, but France by three. I’m not at all sure that anything can be done about this as the trend looks set to accelerate in a post-Independence Day Scotland, which is a sad thing indeed.