CyberBrits and Spectator Sports
There was something depressingly predictable about the way George Osborne’s intervention in the independence debate last week provoked a spate of Scotland-focused editorials and comment pieces in the London press. For far too much of the UK media, Scotland only becomes a live ‘issue’ when a Westminster big-hitter decides to take a trip north, usually armed with a terribly authoritative departmental report highlighting the lunacy of separatist economic or defence policies. Equally dispiriting was the tone and content of most of the analysis, which tended to reflect unionist assumptions about the inherent silliness of the SNP and its pro-independence allies: I mean, seriously, why on earth would anyone want to leave a country as great as Great Britain?
Here’s a selection of the worst offenders:
In the Daily Telegraph, Ian Martin – a former Scotsman editor and self-proclaimed “leading political commentator” – thinks the Chancellor should spend more time aggravating the precious Nats.
“There are those who say that Osborne should stay out of the debate. That when he opens his mouth he becomes the best recruiting sergeant for the separatists. Nonsense. Enough with this Balkanised approach to politics, in which the Nats can pontificate on whatever they like, but everyone else must tiptoe around tricky subjects for fear of offending them.
Ignore the faux outrage, and the long whining sound emanating from those sitting in the SNP seats in the Scottish Parliament. The Tory Chancellor has put the Nats on the spot in relation to the pound and they don’t like it. Well done, George.”
When have unionists ever “tiptoed around” the SNP? In January, the Prime Minister felt sufficiently confident to invite Angus Robertson to “fuck off” in the House of Commons.
In the Guardian, Martin Kettle offered a softer and more liberal – but just as complacent – account of Osborne’s currency speech, as well as a broader assessment of the referendum and its possible repercussions.
“A wafer-thin yes vote on a 50%-60% turnout, for instance, might be fragile, especially if Labour campaign in 2015 on a pledge to think again. Likewise, Scottish politics after a no vote will depend on the size of the minority: a 45% yes spinnable as a minor triumph for the SNP, a 30% yes more traumatic. Either way, the SNP could well win the next Holyrood elections in 2016.”
A 45% Yes vote is “spinnable” as a “minor triumph” for the SNP? A 45% Yes vote in 2014 would be a catastrophe for unionism, reinforcing the sense that Scottish political culture was drifting further and further away from Westminster and providing the SNP with a solid foundation on which to pursue a massively enhanced devolutionary settlement at the subsequent Holyrood elections. And having – again – managed to squander an enormous poll lead, what would happen to the credibility of the Scottish Labour leadership?
But Kettle’s piece looks positively enlightened when compared to this Spectator editorial, which reads like a parody of hysterical Tory unionism.
This is just one of the many problems. How would an independent Scotland defend itself? It is hard to remain part of a UK military if (like the SNP) you disagree with most interventions. What happens if its major banks go bust? That’s hardly a hypothetical, given that the Bank of Scotland and RBS are both owned by the UK taxpayer. The biggest unanswered question is even simpler: would any of Scotland’s many problems be solved by secession? And since devolution has done little for Scotland in the past few years apart from saddle an ingenious country with perhaps the most witless bunch of politicians in Europe, what possible benefit could accrue from giving them even more power?
How would an independent Scotland defend itself? With an army. What would happen if its major banks go bust? They would be a) bailed out according to the size of their Scottish-based operations and assets or b) allowed to go to the wall. Would any of Scotland’s many problems be solved by secession? Yes. And as for Scotland having “the most witless bunch of politicians in Europe”?