It is now inevitable that the euro will not survive. Given the paralysis of the eurozone countries, it cannot even be certain that its end will be a managed and ordered one.
We cannot fool ourselves that we are not approaching the onset of a European if not a global financial crisis whose shape and nature cannot be predicted but whose depth and duration will be significant.
Yesterday the credit agency Fitch downgraded Greece’s credit rating to a Triple C as its fellow agency, Moody’s downgraded the ratings of 16 Spanish banks – and of four of Spain’s regions. The market response to these moves and to the continued slide of the euro against the US dollar was a drop in share values in Europe and the USA.
Theoretically there are two possible outcomes to the situation:
- The euro, the eurozone and the EU will progressively fail, in that order.
- All three will survive but only through the adoption of central control from Brussels of a common and stern fiscal policy – which is effectively the ceding of sovereignty.
That’s the theory.
The reality is the former because the latter is not politically achievable and certainly not in the timescale available. Eurozone member states will also be weighing up the fact that, whichever way things go, they are going to be horrifically expensive – and there is greater certainty in a retreat to the familiar than in ceding authority in a step into the political unknown.
The First Minister would be seriously advised to consider calling off the independence referendum now, in the Scottish and the national interest – and in the interest of an eventual independence.
The financial maelstrom that is coming is not one that Scotland could conceivably survive on its own – or find its way. The crisis will also be long lasting – we are looking at what is already being called ‘a lost decade’.
This situation will also have become an actuality before the 2014 referendum. In these circumstances the substantial majority will rightly vote for safety in numbers and the degree of shelter offered effectively by the powerhouse of London and the south east.
It would be statesmanlike and politically intelligent to postpone and to do it early so that efforts can be focused in preparations for dealing with the reshaping of our political and trading worlds and our financial systems.
Not to take this action would be proof of hardened political arteries and poor judgment.
Mr Salmond has already dropped the ball in failing to see the need for similar action when the banks collapsed in the Autumn of 2008. Not making that move then ended with an enforced retreat from the referendum. A swift and proactive decision at that stage to postpone in the national interest would have gained high ground that would have stood his cause in very good stead.
A major problem here is that the ambition of one man is blinding both himself and his party to the Scottish interest.
Mr Salmond, not unreasonably, wants to be the first First Minister of an independent Scotland.
The trouble is that personally he has little time to achieve this where Scotland has all the time in the world to wait for the right moment. The drivers are out of synchronisation and that is dangerously destabilising.
It is Mr Salmond’s and his party’s remarkable achievement that Scotland is now at a point where, as a nation not as a faction, it is prepared to consider independence without fear and as a rational achievable option – when the time is right.
It would be unutterably damaging and frankly, selfish beyond forgiving, to continue to pursue an independence referendum in the current circumstances – and it could only fail.
A genuinely wise man – and Mr Salmond has that capacity if he steps back and looks objectively at the situation, would see that there is only one thing to be done and that there is political advantage in doing it before the choice is taken from him.
As in Robert Frost’s poem, After Apple Picking, Mr Salmond may personally miss the last couple of apples on the bough but his achievement in the journey on which he has conducted Scotland is one that will never be forgotten, unless he persists in what is now the wrong time.
If he takes the right decision now, there will be no doubt that Scotland will become independent. If he doesn’t, he will make the coming crisis even worse and that may damage the ultimate success of his lifelong cause.