Editorial: Fear No More


A campaign defined by its negativity reached for the nuclear option last month.

George Osborne came north to lecture the Scots, with the UK Chancellor telling a packed press conference that should we vote for independence then the cooperative approach proposed by the Scottish Government would be rejected. Leave the UK, we were told, and we were leaving the UK pound.

This threat has failed to make it past springtime, with a UK Government Minister admitting that a currency union would happen. This pivot on the pound has left the No campaign in utter peril.

Osborne’s speech appeared to be designed to put the final nail in the coffin of the Yes campaign. Lacking a coherent, positive argument of their own, the central strategy of the No campaign has been to make the process of becoming independent look as difficult as possible. A series of obstacles have been piled up that, together, were designed to make it all look like a risk not worth taking.

And the pound was central to this. To No campaign strategists, nothing could represent the security and continuity of the UK as much as the ‘pound in your pocket’. If independence meant losing this security, surely only the most foolhardy of Scots would still want to vote yes?

The first problem was that these currency claims weren’t quite true. The No campaign have repeatedly argued that ‘the only way to keep the pound is to vote to remain within the United Kingdom’ – a blatant lie. As a fully tradeable currency, the pound could in theory be used by any country in the world. Where Scotland differs is that the Bank of England, as a publicly owned institution, is as much ours as it is George Osborne’s – and the Scottish Government have been clear that any attempt by the rest of the UK to prevent Scotland receiving our fair share of assets, including the Bank of England, would result in Scotland refusing to take our share of liabilities. No deal on currency, no deal on debt.

But the bigger problem for the No camp was that the public never quite believed the threat. The sight of an out-of-touch Tory threatening Scotland pushed many undecided voters to Yes, and an opinion poll published earlier this week by the Times newspaper showed that a majority of Scots believed Osborne was bluffing.

This, on top of successive opinion polls showing a steady growth in support for independence, has obviously left the No camp in something of a panic. Even the arch-unionist Daily Mail carried a front-page this week with the headline ‘Campaign To Save The UK In Crisis’. While talks of crisis-meetings amongst anti-independence Chiefs might have begun to raise the eyebrows of No activists, nobody was prepared for the shock admission from the heart of the UK Government that the currency threats were just bluff and bluster after all.

Today the Guardian reports an anonymous quote from a senior UK Government Minister who admitted that ‘Of course there would be a currency union’. While anti-independence politicians have scrambled to deny the comments, the Guardian’s reports that the hard line on currency was taken at the urging of Alistair Darling is further proof that the threat to deny Scotland the pound was nothing more than a campaign tactic and not a serious proposal.

Ultimately, this referendum should be about more than the back-and-forth of politicians or the question of short-term obstacles. Independence is an opportunity to change the country we live in for the better and the debate should reflect that. But the No campaign have attempted to win through fear, through bluster and through bullying. And this negative approach has now left them with falling support and an argument in tatters.

Project Fear has failed – and this pivot on the pound can only add to the Yes campaign’s momentum. As we enter our summer of independence, Scotland will fear no more.

National Collective

Image from Documenting Yes


There are 3 comments

  1. phil horey

    An anonymous junior minister gets quoted in or out of context and you all latch on to it.
    What part of ‘NO the pound wont be shared’ do you not fully understand. The people of the Uk including over half those in Scotland are mystified by this. If Scotland chooses to go its own way why should the rest of the Uks economy be put at risk by our incompetant Scottish politicians . It will be electoral suicide for any Uk politician or party to go back on their word and share the pound.

  2. phil horey

    A quote from Prof Adam Tomkins glasgow Uni. Read more sobering facts if you dare or can stomach it at http://notesfromnorthbritain.w..

    The Governor’s speech should have left no-one in any doubt that, for a currency union to be successful, the rUK would have to cede a degree of its national sovereignty to the newly independent Scottish state. To anyone with any sense of British politics, that should have been more than enough for folk to realise it was never going to happen. Sovereignty over fiscal affairs cannot be ceded by Chancellors or Prime Ministers acting alone (or even by “three Chancellors” acting together): such a move would require legislation. And the House of Commons is famously reluctant to cede sovereignty to anyone, never mind ceding it to a newly foreign power that had just decided to leave the jurisdiction! Be under no illusions about this: if Scots vote Yes in September, the rest of the UK will feel rejected. And why should a state which has just been rejected then turn round and offer to cede some of its sovereignty to the very country that has just rejected it?

    For these reasons, the clarity of the Governor’s January speech confirmed in my mind that the Chancellor’s 2013 position that currency union was “highly unlikely” really meant that it was “inconceivable that the rUK would sign up to it”. There would have been a case, in my view, for leaving it there.

    But that’s not how the SNP interpreted the Governor’s speech. They spun it as if it was a slap in the Unionists’ faces. The Governor said that there is a way to make a currency union work — and, moreover, that he could make it work — as long as the political will were there. The political will may be there on the SNP side but, for the reasons given above, if they ever truly believed it was there equally in London they are fools. The SNP misread the Governor’s “we could make this work” speech as an endorsement of the idea that “it will happen”. In other words, they completely overlooked the basic distinction at the heart of his speech between economics and politics. What he actually said was that, economically, a currency union could workbut only if the politicians agreed to cede a degree of national sovereignty.

Post Your Thoughts