And so it begins.
‘Greece without the sun’, ‘turbo charged austerity’, ‘deficit of £15 billion pounds’. These are the opening salvos in the pre-indyref campaign and as I predicted the next union campaign was never going to be pretty. I have almost been impressed with the enthusiasm that out unionist friends have rattled out the number of ways in which we would be almost immediately impoverished if we had the temerity to run our own affairs.
Their one mission in the forthcoming independence referendum is to persuade the Scottish people that we can not possibly afford to be independent, squash confidence and scare people into believing we uniquely would be doomed to economic failure. With the imminent arrival of the actual reality of a hard Brexit and the experience of the first project fear still ringing in our broken promises, all I can say to my unionists friends is – good luck with that one.
To try and get the Scots to accept this ‘case for impoverishment’ it would require the Scots to suspend belief about the actual state of our nation and discount the very experience of living in this country. Our historic culture of creativity and entrepreneurship would have to be rewritten. Scots would have to discount the example of every other similar sized successful nation and they would have to set aside practically every other country that has secured its independence. The Scots would then have to be convinced that despite our enormous advantages and immense resources we would fail to make a success of running our own affairs. That everything from our whisky exports to our renewable potential to our world class universities are merely mirages and valueless.
We can’t forecast how a future independent Scotland will fare for the very obvious reason that we are not independent. What we can, inconclusively, assess is how Scotland as a nation has fared as part of the United Kingdom. If we are indebted to the degree that our unionist friends suggest then that tells us much more about the failure of UK stewardship of Scotland than our prospects as an independent nation. If we indeed have the ‘largest deficit in Europe’ then that was created as being a dependent part of the United Kingdom. Surely the natural response to such a calamitous situation would be to look at the conditions and political environment that created this situation and resolve to address them as expeditiously as possible? If not, it’s a bit like the victim returning to the scene of the crime and asking the assailant to assault him all over again whilst expressing gratitude for the service.
What we do know is that if we remain within the UK is that Scotland will be Brexitised with all the associated costs to our economy and our place in the world. I’ve lost track of the projected cost of Brexit to the UK and the level of debt that the UK currently endures – though I still sincerely believe that the UK will just about muddle through as an independent country. Nearly all nations have debts and deficits (except similarly sized Norway and now Denmark, of course) but only Scotland’s, secured as part of the UK, seems for some reason seems to be immediate and unassailable. Within or out with the UK we will have a deficit but only one of these scenarios gives us the tools to deal with it.
What the Scottish people will have to consider is if they believe that their prospects are best served within the confines of an isolated Brexitised UK run for a generation by right wing Tories or whether they believe that Scotland would be better served by securing all the powers of independence and our own relationship with Europe? There is no safe continuity option anymore and there will be risks and opportunities attached to continuing with UK dependency or opting for self government. At some point the unionists will have to stop running down our ability as an independent nation and start to sell the virtues of a Tory run Brexitised Britain.
Trying to suggest that we would uniquely fail or that immediate impoverishment will descend upon the people of Scotland feels almost like a parody of project fear and will spectacularly backfire. It’s almost as if our unionist friends have learned absolutely nothing from the lessons of the last independence referendum.