By Campbell Martin
Nine-years ago, in a pamphlet on Scotland’s constitutional future, I wrote that as we neared a referendum on independence, the full resources of British political parties, the British media and the British establishment would be used to ‘persuade’ us in Scotland that, actually, we really are ‘too wee, too poor and too stupid’ to govern our own country.
I argued that the British would lie, scaremonger, distort reality and mislead. It was always going to happen because there is no positive case for Scotland remaining as nothing more than a region within the British Union.
Having said that, from a position still 13-months from the Independence Referendum, it is worrying to contemplate just how low the anti-independence campaign will be prepared to go.
We’ve had the threat of border guards at Gretna, not being able to watch Coronation Street if we vote for independence, higher mobile phone costs, a Scotland isolated from the world, a country unable to pay pensions, a health service that would not be able to look after the sick, kicked out of the European Union, having to return the Edinburgh Zoo pandas to China, unable to defend ourselves, part of Scotland annexed by what remains of the UK to house their nuclear missiles, Scottish airports bombed by England in case they were used by an imaginary attacker to launch imaginary planes against London, family and friends living in England would become ‘foreigners’...and those are just the scare-stories that immediately come to mind. It is not for nothing that the anti-independence ‘Better Together’ campaign refers to itself privately as ‘Project Fear’.
In the last few days, a new British tactic of only telling part of a story has emerged. Stated as “Facts you need for the big decision”, the unionist campaign claimed, “Savers in Scotland benefit from an £85,000 savings guarantee that pays out if your bank collapses.” Clearly, Scots are to take from the message that such a “savings guarantee” would not be available if we vote for independence.
Now, the starting point for that claim should be the ‘fact’ that the only time banks have collapsed has been while Scotland has been part of the UK. Economic policies of British unionist political parties, and their light-touch regulation of the banks and financial institutions, were major contributory factors to the banking collapse from which we are still suffering. It is also the case that an independent Scotland would not have been liable for all the debts of failed private banks, such as the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Despite the companies’ names, the vast majority of their business was done outside of Scotland.
The government of an independent Scotland would only have had responsibility for safeguarding the savings of Scotland-based investors. The bail-out of failed UK banks involved substantial funds contributed by the government of the United States, which covered investments and business carried out by Americans and in the US.
As for the “£85,000 savings guarantee” currently available to Scottish investors, this would not be affected by a vote for independence next year. The savings guarantee was put in place by European Union legislation, which stipulates that all member states must safeguard the first 100,000-Euros (£85,000) of an individual’s savings. And let’s not give any credence to the British unionist claim that an independent Scotland would be chucked-out of the EU.
Scots have been citizens of the European Union for 40 years and, within the EU constitution and treaties, there is no mechanism to expel citizens. There is also the not inconsiderable matter of Scotland being the European Union’s biggest producer of oil – like they would want to deprive themselves of that!
By only stating part of the ‘fact’ on the £85,000 savings guarantee, the British unionists hoped to create fear and concern amongst Scots.
Another of the British “Facts you need for the big decision” stated, “Public spending in Scotland is £1,200 higher per head than the UK average.” Again, we are supposed to be scared and fearful that if we vote for independence, this apparent benefit would be lost.
What the British unionists did not say, though, is that Scottish taxpayers contribute £1,700 per head more than the UK average, which means we are actually receiving back £500 per head less than we contribute to the UK.
In the past week, a British unionist journalist called Euan McColm wrote an article claiming to expose as a sham the organisation ‘Labour for Independence’. Mr McColm was formerly the Scottish political editor of the shamed and now defunct News of the World.
In his article, Euan McColm referred to a photo, which he claimed showed that ‘Labour for Independence’ was actually nothing more than an SNP front designed to embarrass its British unionist opponents in the Labour Party. He then identified SNP members in the photo standing in front of a ‘Labour for Independence’ banner.
What Mr McColm had actually done, though, was publish a photo taken at a ‘Yes Scotland’ street stall in Kilmarnock. ‘Yes Scotland’ is the pro-independence umbrella group that comprises members of all pro-independence political parties – SNP, Greens, Scottish Socialist Party – and non-aligned individuals, such as Dennis Canavan and Margo MacDonald. Representatives from ‘Labour for Independence’ were also present on the day in Kilmarnock, and a photo happened to be taken with a ‘Labour for Independence’ banner in the background. It was nothing more than Euan McColm’s warped imagination (or a deliberate attempt to misrepresent facts) that asserted everyone present claimed to be a member of ‘Labour for Independence’.
One of the people Mr McColm claimed was an SNP activist passing himself off as a member of ‘Labour for Independence’ was actually Cllr Douglas Reid, the SNP Leader of East Ayrshire Council, which, of course, is headquartered in Kilmarnock. In fact, Douglas Reid is a long-standing and high-profile SNP councillor for Kilmarnock West and Crosshouse. There couldn’t be a less-likely person to masquerade as a Labour Party member in Kilmarnock.
The reason Euan McColm and other British unionists are attempting to damage ‘Labour for Independence’ is because of the impact its free-thinking members are having on traditional Labour voters. ‘Labour for Independence’ acknowledges that a truly Scottish Labour Party would have a major role to play in shaping an independent Scotland.
However, the current so-called ‘Scottish’ Labour Party, which is actually controlled from London, holds to the perverted British unionist position of supporting the Tories in continuing to govern Scotland from Westminster, rather than having a Labour Government in an independent Scotland.
Lies, scaremongering, distortion and misrepresentation: this, apparently, is the positive case for the British Union.