Yesterday’s launch of the ‘Scotland Yes’ campaign 29 months ahead of the Independence Referendum on which it is targeted, could not have been more disappointing or more vacuous.
Here was no substance, just a sentimental wish to go it alone, plenty of loose passion but no sense of what we would be doing with our independence and none at all of the context in which we would be doing it.
At the heart of it was a breathtakingly audacious sleight of hand only Alex Salmond would try to get away with.
The First Minister, assuming a gravity of language far in excess of what it had to carry, dangerously devaluing the spirit of the words he used, said ponderously:
‘We unite behind a declaration of self evident truth: the people who live in Scotland are best placed to make the decisions that affect Scotland.’
Headlining the launch were two present actors and a third absent one: Alan Cumming, Brian Cox and, of course, Sean Connery, who sent a message of support.
Alan Cumming and Brian Cox live in New York City. Sean Connery lives in the Bahamas and has a villa in Greece.
Yet these actors, who do not live in Scotland, ex-pats – were there specifically to influence those who do and will continue to live here to vote for something almost entirely nebulous.
The launch was a soft centred event for a people with hard heads.
There was no business case for independence yet more than anything, the specific nature of a different economy – we have to assume it would be different – determines the quality of the lives that would be led in an independent Scotland,
No one from the business world addressed the audience and it is being said none was even invited.
How is it possible to advocate an independent Scotland, without even indicative directional detail and with the absence of any reference to the crisis in the eurozone?
While the music decoyed the mind yesterday in the Edinburgh cinema yesterday – a palace of dreams – the Spanish were looking at major problems long known but now surfacing at its fourth biggest bank, Bankia. This bank had to be nationalized a week or so ago and had its shares suspended yesterday.
But, as reported by El Mundo on Thursday, there is now a run on Bankia, with its customers taking out $1.3 billion from their accounts since last Wednesday.
Bankia is admitting at least to the foothills of its troubles, revealing that it was asking the Spanish government for $23.8 billion in support. Earlier yesterday, credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s cut Bankia‘s credit rating to junk status (BB+) because of increasing uncertainty over its plans for restructuring. S&P had also cut the ratings of four other Spanish banks (two more to junk status).
Oh and Bankia admitted that the modest profit it claimed only in February 2012 had actually been a major loss. It ‘restated’ its 2011 accounts, reporting a €2.97bn loss, having in February declared a €309m net profit. What else have they not told us?
The notion has been that the obvious structural problems in Spain’s finances would surface in the knock-on impact of irrecoverable debt after an exit from the single currency and the eurozone of a defaulting Greece. But here we were on Friday 25th May with Spain’s problems coming to the fore already. This is a situation of accelerating concern, threatening to be overwhelming,
Yet the music played on in Edinburgh as if Scotland existed in a molecular environment of its own, unaffected by these frightening and barely controlled shifts in economic survivability.
As well as this absolute divorce from reality, what was patent at the launch was the attempt to eat further into the vote of a philosophically socialist Scotland in the adoption of its clothes in some of the statements made.
Demons old and new were hauled into the stocks – Thatcher (Yeah, yeah, yawn – yes we hated her too at the time but reflection suggests that history will judge her differently); Blair (Why bother? History will strip what’s left of the rags off the back of this pretender).
It was all pretty old and very empty.
It was also blinkered to the point that no one with a head on their shoulders would contemplate supporting this leadership of a move to independence.
Scotland has around two and a half years to think about the issue, to ask searching questions, to insist on answers and to decide if it is happy with the answers. Can it be?
The euro was at just over 1.25 to the US dollar yesterday and remains there today – it’s lowest point for over two years and one from which recovery is unlikely. Spain is starting to wobble like a spinning top losing motive force. On 17th May, as well as downgrading the credit rating of 16 Spanish Banks, including the two biggest – Santander and BBVA, Moody’s knocked down the credit ratings of four of its regions.
The big one, Catalonia, producing 20% of Spain’s GDP and 26% of its exports, had to ask for Government help yesterday (25th May), unable to pay the cost of refinancing its €10 billion debt. Its President, Artur Mas, told foreign press: ‘We don’t care how they do it, but we need to make payments at the end of the month. Your economy can’t recover if you can’t pay your bills’.
Then there’s Greece to come – and more.
By the time we get to the Autumn of 2014 and the independence referendum, there is going to be only one possible answer, whatever the actors who don’t live here may say.
This answer will not reflect upon Scotland’s ability to survive on its own. It will simply reflect a necessarily common sense population saying ‘not now’.
Yesterday’s launch of ‘Scotland Yes’ lacked both integrity and credibility. It was out of touch with the time. Whether that disconnection was deliberate or accidental is no matter. Neither offers comfort.
Scotland deserved to be taken seriously, to be given a lot better than this vacuous folly.