Better Together: Proud to Fail

better together_0


Ian Martin in an article spread over two pages in the Sunday Telegraph (30th March p.18-19) concludes after what we may now fairly term the ‘Apertiv-gate’ currency fiasco, that if Better Together “make many more foolish mistakes like last week’s, [the Union] could be gone for ever (sic) in six months”. Martin’s problem is that Better Together’s campaign has been much worse than a foolish mistake; it has been one long blunder.
 The significance of the catastrophic blow dealt to the Better Together campaign by the acknowledgement of a senior Government source that “of course there would be a currency union” cannot be understated. It is not simply that it contradicts Better Together, Westminster Government and Official Opposition policy, but in a swift coup de grâcethe leak comprehensively destroys the future credibility of Better Together pronouncements, if not the furtive coalition of inconsistent interests it uneasily represents, or of Westminster itself as a reliable source of information.
There are four crucial points about the statement of the unknown but candid Government ‘mole’ that it is important to remember: first, this is not the fevered imaginative leap of some second-string coalition political backwoodsman seeking instant fame, but a “government minister at the heart of the pro-union campaign … … who would play a significant role in negotiations after a Yes vote”. Second, as the Sunday Telegraph is obliged to admit, there “was no attempt made to deny the veracity of the report”. Third, the wording of the minister’s statement is extraordinary; “of course” there will be a currency union. “Of course”, means that it is obvious there will be a currency union. Currency Union, because there are mature, serious commitments required of both sides, represents for Scotland and rUK a workable compromise: independence without ‘separation’ on the Scottish side; an open, free, common market that actually works for rUK on the other side. Fourth, the conclusions drawn easily by the ‘mole’ fit well with the facts presented by other sources – corroborative facts: Professor Leslie Young’s comprehensive demolition of the Treasury case against currency union (download at on 24th March was unusually polemical for an academic paper, not only trenchantly unpicking the Treasury’s weak argument and demonstrating the flaws, but in the vigour of Young’s forensic and polemical delivery, appearing to argue that the case was not just wrong-headed, but quite obviously wrong-headed. The flaws in the case against currency union are obvious to virtually all informed opinion, except Better Together. 
It always was obvious; why wouldn’t there be a currency union, there is no better case for it anywhere on the globe than Scotland and rUK, on any economic or political grounds you care to choose; there is no good reason not to come to a mutual agreement, except “of course” if you wish to deploy a misleading argument to influence voters before the vote; and rescind it immediately afterwards if the ploy fails. “Of course” in these activities the UK has ‘form’, all the way back through the 307 years of the Union; or more precisely back 302 years to the Patronage Act, 1712 for those interested in ironic precedents for the UK first agreeing to do one thing, and then doing quite another.
The wording of Martin’s statement that there was no attempt to deny the “veracity of the report” is also interesting; clearly the report is well-founded but in that case if we are to believe the veracity of the report, why are the Better Together politicians continuing to claim there will be no currency union? The report must be both true and false, or perhaps we are supposed to believe that a minister deliberately ‘leaked’ a story that was not true? So it wasn’t really a leak, or it wasn’t really a story? So what are we supposed to believe is the story? Is the real story supposed to be that Westminster is so hapless that a Government cannot be sure its own ministers even understand its own most important policies? Is that it? It isn’t much, but what would that tell us about the way we are governed or the real qualities of the people in government?
Scrutinising the curiously aggressive, irascible performances of Alistair Carmichael, Danny Alexander, Alistair Darling and George Osborne in representing Better Together in Scotland (and what strange political bedfellows they are), the sense of profound inadequacy of argument and leadership from the top down (the posturing, the hectoring, the lecturing), makes it a great deal easier to believe that they are merely hapless than they may hope or wish; but in any case their campaign, their judgement, their activities scarcely musters between them a persuasive, still less a compelling argument for continuing the Union. Who would actually follow Alistair Carmichael or Alistair Darling back into the UK, for the reward of the status quo-ante; inspired by no more than their joint ‘Rev. I.M. Jolly pastiche’ of doom-laden rhetoric; carrying subversively within it a deliberate, unpleasant, implicit disparagement of Scotland, combined with a vague suggestion of further powers for Holyrood that carries not the least guarantee of delivery  – the gold standard ‘certainty’ clause required by Better Together for absolutely everything else in the referendum?     
Suddenly the Better Together case has collapsed and almost instantly the whole manipulative scheme for Better Together’s “ace”, the anti-currency union propaganda strategy, is now being set out in hindsight to be picked apart by the mainstream newspapers (Sunday Herald leader, 30th March). Once all the Westminster parties announced that there would be no currency union for Scotland the efforts of Better Together were then concentrated on attempting to force the Scottish Government to announce ‘Plan B’. This has been the central Better Together tactic for the last month. Once the Scottish Government fell into the trap and shifted their ground to Plan B, then Better Together would tear Plan B to shreds for “deviating from Plan A”.
How gleefully we may have expected Alistair Carmichael to claim that the SNP were now ‘all over the place’ with Plan B; how happily Alistair Darling would have delivered a mournful premonition of doom for Plan B. Only the Scottish Government did not crack; and in conformity with Better Together’s appropriately doom-laden tactics, to say nothing of an overwhelming sense of impending farce, Westminster cracked first.
It is worth noting that the Better Together/Westminster tactics were not to attack Yes, Scotland but the Scottish Government, and in reality the SNP. The attack had to be made against a political party and not against Scotland, in spite of the fact that Scotland was the inevitable target. The reasons for this careful distinction are not hard to find; the tactic had party political advantage for the Unionist parties attacking their prime party political opponent in Scotland. This also made it easier for the Unionist parties together to deploy a case that was not merely negative and anti-SNP but quite clearly carried the implication that rUK would implement currency policies that Westminster wanted Scots to believe would hurt Scotland; but somehow without Unionists appearing to have a direct hand in the policy. The deleterious outcome would be brought on not by Unionists or Better Together, who had made the case for rUK’s hard line, but by the SNP or the feckless Scots themselves who gullibly voted Yes.
This is what “negative campaigning” really means in this referendum once the sophistry is stripped out, and it highlights why Better Together has such difficulty being ‘positive’; it is an uncomfortable part of Unionism’s DNA that most Unionists (unused to having to think about the Union or about Scotland) have some difficulty even understanding. In spite of the Edinburgh Agreement clearly independence was not going to be portrayed by Unionists as an amicable divorce so much as a case of being cast out in the wilderness. The Better Together anti-currency union policy therefore inevitably carried with it the sorry whiff of the gratuitously vindictive.
Of course Carmichael, Cameron and Darling can do this only because they have wrapped this tasteless brutalism in partisan party politics; not Yes, Scotland versus Better Together; but a happy Westminster Union versus the partisan SNP. They do not really want to discuss Scotland at all; somehow the crude threats are not about Scotland at all, but the SNP. Sadly for Better Together their problem is twofold; they have no vision for the UK (never mind Scotland), which is the reason that the only problem for their own case that they seem capable of noticing or articulating, is the fear of “complacency”: but the question is, complacency about what? What on earth is there in Britain today to be complacent about? Furthermore, and with all due respect, the Better Together (indeed the Westminster) coalition manifestly lacks both talent and competence to govern either the UK or Scotland – as the Credit Crunch and its consequences, still being played out to our long-term detriment, proved demonstrably and beyond peradventure. Better Together finds it difficult to be positive about the UK because there is so little that is genuinely positive in the UK; unless perhaps you are an estate agent in London, enjoying the latest property bubble; that is deftly redefined by government as UK “growth”. But that is London: different rules apply.
It is rare indeed for politicians to prove to be competent managers, but we have reached a new low in the UK when all the Unionist parties acting together cannot even front a political campaign without falling flat on their collective face.            

Comments (24)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. john gallagher says:

    I could not have put this better myself A must read for every SCOT

  2. Alex Buchan says:

    As Robin McAlpine says its a scorched earth approach. They don’t really care what damage they do because they reckon that come September 19th they are going to have the upper hand and because they can trust their loyal supporters in the BBC, STV and press to assist them in drawing a veil over all this and argue that Scotland has shown its approval. Their concentration on Alex Salmond shows what their reckoning has been from the start. Immediately after the SNPs election victory they hatched a plan to turn victory into destruction for the SNP through, what Alan Trench has called, the policy of the excluded middle. So there was to be no concessions on the SNPs immediate demands and no devo max option in the referendum. They want to use this referendum to drive down the yes vote so far that the resulting derisory yes vote has the SNP demoralised and caught up in internal recriminations for years. They don’t just want to win they want the yes vote to be miniscule that’s why Alistair Darling is hoping mad and is in over drive to try to regain the momentum, even today trying to whip up English Xenophobia by suggesting a English referendum on the currency union; anything to reinstate project fear. Their long term plan is to reinstate Tory Labour binary politics in Scotland and turn the clock back by marginalising the SNP. This article is important because we need to show solidarity with Alex Salmond and with anyone one else that they try to pick off. Truth is the first casualty of war and they are treating this as a war, and, of course, they are saying that it is a junior government minister with no importance, so we need to somehow keep getting out the fact that they haven’t denied the leak and the leak was not from a junior minister. We also need to make people more aware of Professor Leslie Young’s detailed analysis, perhaps by presenting a summary on Bella. Their irascibility and anger can only help the yes vote because people can read their behaviour and work out what their real motives are.

    1. Yes, BT had three aims and three outcomes — an overwhelming No vote, the demoralisation of the SNP and the destruction of Alex Salmond. That way independence would be buried for decades, oil money would continue to flow to Westminster, and the UK would retain its seat at the top table.

      They want to shackle Scotland to the past rather than allowing it to move forward.

      There has been criticism both in this article and from others about the SNP and the Yes campaign. My feeling is that both decided at the outset what topics they would take a stance on, leaving others to a position of less importance. If they tried to tackle all issues their focus would be lost. Also, as people tend to believe what they are told by friends and family to a far greater extent than they believe what they are told by politicians, it makes sense for the Yes side to let folk campaigning on the ground address many of these.

    2. Indion says:

      Ignore the date [and time!], it’s good to see you back online Alex.

  3. JimW says:

    Carmichael, Darling and Alexander haven’t realised it yet but in Corporal Fraser’s words they are “all doomed”. In the event of a NO vote they will go down in history as despised villains, who lied, obfuscated and blustered Scotland out of its one opportunity to take its rightful place in the world, probably in return for their eventual seats in the House of Lords. In the event of a YES vote, if they are remembered at all, they will go down in history as irrelevant nonentities. Either way they lose.

    1. Your comments are right on the button, JimW. I can’t wait to see their faces on the 19th, September.

  4. Clootie says:

    I would love to know why Ed Balls took part so quickly. Was he duped – if so that doesn’t look good regarding his judgement.
    Did he willingly join the Westminster club to mislead Scottish voters.
    I think the latter is the case and that is the perfect example of how the cosy system really works. Keep the club / turns each in power / retain the House of Lords retirement fund.

    Westminster is in decay, a rotten festering abomination.

    This one example has highlighted that the main parties are the same party

    The debates are for show. Look at Labours enthusiastic support for the welfare cap last week.

  5. Muscleguy says:

    We need to hammer out on the doorsteps and online that Labour, including much of Scottish Labour voted for the Welfare cap. As well as pointing out that Labour are stealing SNP policies (childcare, bedroom tax) so why go with the monkey that can’t generate its own ideas?

    1. Catrìona says:

      Have a look at the end child poverty website to see the poorest constituencies in Scotland, then compare that horrendous list with the names of the Labour MPs who trotted in to the government lobbies to show their solidarity with Cameron’s plans. 32 Scottish Labour MPs saw fit to support a cap on benefits spending. This is what Better Together UKOK means.

      1. Here’s that list with all info in one place!

  6. Alex Buchan says:

    The Financial Times says “No10 scotches Darling on pound vote”. This is to be expected and is more ammunition we can use on the door step to show what a pack of lies all this stuff about no currency union is. The hypocrisy of the No campaign is breath-taking. But it also tells us something about Darling. Darling was a very senior member of the last government and so he surely knew that no government would want its hands tied in potential negotiations through an English referendum. Darling is therefore going for broke. He wants to UK government to commit to whatever it takes to get a no vote, but they are holding back.

    1. If there were to be a referendum in rUK on a currency union then, if comments in the Guardian are an indicator, there would be a resounding no vote. There seems to be almost universal antagonism to the idea that rUK will have to bail out an indy Scotland at some point in the near future. There appears no understanding of the precarious finances of rUK.

      A no in such a referendum would be seen by us in Scotland as yet another dictatorial stance, forcing Scotland to tread a path it does not want, so pushing more voters into the yes camp.

      The No side are skating into a cul-de-sac.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Not sure if I follow your logic. The aim was to show that there wouldn’t be a currency union because, even if the UK government agreed, the voters down south wouldn’t. If Darling had persuaded the UK government to follow his lead on this he was aiming to return to the “what’s Alex Salmond’s Plan B?” tactic. Darling is out of touch because he is out to prove that the tactics of the campaign he leads were right after all and all that is needed is for others to keep their nerve.

        1. I am aware the voters down south would not agree to a currency union. I’m not totally convinced a currency union is necessarily what the Scottish Government ultimately wants. What better reason for dropping it than antagonism from down south voters who then can’t complain if there are negative repercussions for them.

          Many yes people do not want a currency union, but would rather have a Scottish currency. I am merely speculating that this might be the SG’s way of coming to this decision, just as there was an offer of devo max on the ballot paper which was refused as it was considered to provide the dastardly AS with a back door win when in reality he wanted a straight yes/no option which provided the greater chance of independence.

      2. Alex Buchan says:

        “Once all the Westminster parties announced that there would be no currency union for Scotland the efforts of Better Together were then concentrated on attempting to force the Scottish Government to announce ‘Plan B’. This has been the central Better Together tactic for the last month. Once the Scottish Government fell into the trap and shifted their ground to Plan B, then Better Together would tear Plan B to shreds for “deviating from Plan A”.”

        “How gleefully we may have expected Alistair Carmichael to claim that the SNP were now ‘all over the place’ with Plan B; how happily Alistair Darling would have delivered a mournful premonition of doom for Plan B. Only the Scottish Government did not crack”

        That was their plan, Alistair darling cannot accept that that plan is now dead in the water. They will continue to hammer away that there will be no currency union but it has lost its tactical purpose and will instead come over as merely vindictive. Labour, in particular, will start to see how much this vindictiveness is damaging their image in Scotland. We have 6 months for this image of a vindictive Labour party, joining the vindictive Tories, in dictating to Scotland to seep into popular culture. Whatever the result of the referendum, Scottish politics will have shifted. It’s difficult to credit now that after the devolution referendum Labour were seen as the respectable establishment in Scotland, they are throwing the chance of ever regaining that away in a doomed attempt to try destroy the SNP. I hope a new Scottish Labour Party will emerge whether or not we get a yes in September

        1. I just have a feeling in would be totally like Alex Salmond to take this all the way, win the currency union argument and then ditch it in favour of, for example, a Scottish pound/merk/whatever. Just to enjoy the fury of the unionists. Meanwhile, like others, I will be promoting the value of a currency union, certainly for the short term.

          I do agree about Labour. It seems unbelievable they have reversed into such a position. If there is a yes vote, they are left, irrelevant, with no policies to drive forward a vibrant reborn nation. If there is a no vote, then their stick-in-the-mud stance will fail to appeal to all in Scotland who want to see us move forward and become a more equal, more successful country. So yes, whatever the result, Scotland’s relationship with rUK will never be the same again.

          Interestingly, a no vote, far from rubbing out the changes unionist politicians fear, may in fact intensify pressures for changes at a UK level, starting with the House of Lords. So hard cheese, Darlin g — though I suspect your promised ermine cloak has now been binned.

      3. andyshall says:

        In what way is rUK voting in favour of it’s perceived interest “dictatorial” ? The English, Welsh and Northern Irish are not obliged to meekly fall into line simply because a section of Scotland happens to advocate a particular line..

        1. I think it would be perceived as dictatorial as it would be viewed as yet another decision we didn’t have much of a say in…just like many of the policies rolled out by a government we didn’t vote for and which has only one MP in Scotland. But I may be wrong. Scots might well welcome people in England determining the future of an independent Scotland.

  7. Dave Coull says:

    Although they belong to different parties they are fighting what is essentially a party-political campaign by doing the only thing they can agree on, attacking the SNP and Salmond in particular. Unfortunately for them, most folk in Scotland have realised this isn’t an election, so it’s not about whether you support a particular political party, or a particular politician.

  8. Wullie says:

    Anent the Rev’ I.M.Jolly,s better half, Euphrasia Lamont , has a fine ring!

  9. Alex Buchan says:

    I should have done this initially. I just wanted to congratulate John Warren on an excellent analysis.

  10. Gordon says:

    It strikes me that the BT campaign would all be better just shutting up and leaving the Scottish electorate to make up its own mind on the matter of independence. Project Fear seems to be incessantly Project Foot-in-Mouth. Mind you, we have a history of Better Together going back 300 years and it has not been good for Scotland and so they don’t have much of a leg to stand on. From the viewpoint of exploitation, deceit, neglect, faux-democracy, and insouciant disdain over the years, we know Westminster’s form. Is there some reason BT don’t want to win this referendum?

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.