SO FAR I have managed to avoid becoming involved in the Scottish Independence debate largely through avoiding Scotland!
The extent to which I have a dog in this fight — or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a Cairn terrier puppy — will shortly become clear but as an ex-pat living in southern Burgundy my Caledoinan connections are not at first sight obvious especially since both my wife and I are English-born.
And therein lies the conundrum. Apart from being educated in Scotland I started my working life there and returned in 1966 when I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse (there’s a job and it’s there; d’you want it?). Until four years ago that was my home.
Two of our three children live there; one was born in Scotland, married a Scot and has a daughter who will plainly be Scottish. Our children are all the family I have while my wife’s family are scattered across the globe from Canada to China. If we have any claim to a piece of the UK it would be to a piece of Scotland.
And it’s largely for that reason that I watch with a mixture of sadness and horror what Alex Salmond — hereinafter referred to as Eck the Fish (or perhaps just Eck) — is trying to do to “my” country further to boost his already super-saturated ego. Let us be clear about this; Eck claims to be a patriot (the last refuge of a scoundrel, according to Dr Johnson) but in reality he is an arrogant, self-opinionated control freak. And those are just his good points.
You need to be a genuine insider to understand fully what is going on in the upper echelons of Scottish politics and I still know a couple of people who, if not right inside Eck’s Y-fronts, are as close as any human being would like to get.
“Alec is scared s**tless that he might lose this,” I was told. “He knows if the vote is ‘no’ he is as good as dead and the SNP with him. So he is saying anything he can think of that will give him a short-term boost because by the time the everything collapses in chaos he will be either long gone or president-for-life.
“in reality he’d be better off calling himself King — a true successor to the last Last King of Scotland, Idi Amin.
“His big problem at the moment is that Cameron has just started sawing off the branch he’s sitting on. Osborne has made it clear that the currency union is a non-starter and the opposition and the Lib-Dems have said the same. Now Cameron has made it clear that there is no way back from a ‘yes’ vote. The whole project is turning into a nightmare.”
An ally of John Swinney took a slightly different approach.
“You’d be surprised how many SNP members, including some in parliament, are praying to any god they can think of for a ‘no’ vote,” he said. “They know full well that the day Scotland finally gets cut loose and people start to add up the true cost there will be calls for heads to roll and that might mean literally.
“It’s a bit like the gay marriage argument versus civil partnerships. DevoMax would give Scotland pretty much everything it wants and in fact probably more and cheaper than independence. Salmond’s ego won’t stand for that and he’s doing everything he can to bluster his way through till the referendum.
“This is not about the good of Scotland; this is about the glory of Salmond.”
With four months to go to the referendum, Eck and his supporters are still not prepared to come clean about the costs of independence and what is more alarming, they appear to think that Jedi mind tricks (a wave of the hand and “these are not the facts you need”) are all that is needed for victory. If ever there was a recipe for recriminations too late to effect the result this has to be it.
The Scottish people are being promised a paradise built on (declining) North Sea oil and in a desperate attempt to keep the eyes away from the thimble with the pea under it are being urged to look to Norway and Switzerland — two of the most expensive countries to live in in Europe —as examples of how successful Scotland can become. They are being asked to put their trust in a politician whose grip on the reins is so tight that he cannot tolerate dissent in his own ranks let alone in “one of the most democratic parliaments in the world” (so we are told).
None of the facts and figures add up. Yes, Scotland could “go it alone” but it will be a desperately impoverished Scotland. The idea that Scotland will be able to share the UK currency or share the UK embassies or walk into the EU demonstrates the extent to which the Yes campaign is out of touch with anything resembling reality.
Army? Don’t know. Navy? Don’t know. Air Force? Don’t know. Corporation Tax? We’ll cut it. And when Osborn/Balls cuts the UK rate? Don’t know? And where will the money come from anyway? Don’t know? Shipbuilding (the one major heavy industry left)? Destined for the scrapheap as the UK takes its naval requirements south.
And so on. And so on. All questions; no answers. And what about a national anthem? How about Joni MItchell’s Big Yellow Taxi?
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone”