While we might be momentarily distracted by the freak weather or the result of the Wythenshawe by election this morning, we need to pay attention to what has just happened in the battle over Scottish independence.
The issue will have big consequences for the economy of the North although debate here has been minimal. Perhaps that will now change because what has happened this week is momentous. For the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems all to say explicitly, and in advance, of September’s vote that there will be no currency union between a continuing UK and an independent Scotland is highly significant.
All talk of keeping powder dry, not showing one’s hand and keeping the Nationalists guessing is out the window. We are now in the business of threats and warnings.
If the Scottish people vote for independence they will either have to invent their own currency or use sterling without any formal agreement with the Bank of England, a risky proposition.
It’s a huge gamble by the unionist parties. It may kill off the lingering possibility of a yes vote. Fear of being personally worse off or risking Scotland’s economy are the key stumbling blocks for Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond. However it could work the other way. The tripartite declaration of war by the unionist parties could galvanise the Braveheart spirit. It could induce a “so be it” mentality amongst wavering Scots.
One has to ask why the unionist parties have taken this step? Up to now the received wisdom was that a yes vote wasn’t going to happen and the less said by politicians south of the border the better. But now we’ve had the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor making interventions in Scotland and David Cameron proclaiming from “Mount Olympus” in London on the issue.
The truth is panic has set in because of a narrowing of the opinion polls.
It may be no bad thing that we are all clear now about what is at issue. I have always thought that Alex Salmond, brilliant politician though he is, was a “cake and eat it man”. Don’t forget he campaigned for a third question on the ballot paper. Devo max would have given Scotland even more devolved power and money, short of independence. That’s what Salmond expected Scots to vote for and David Cameron was right to deny him the fudge.
Salmond used to favour the Euro as his preferred currency but for this referendum had come round firmly to staying with sterling. But an independent Scotland bound into sterling would allow Salmond to pretend he was free whilst retain the insurance that if everything goes belly up, as it did with RBS etc in 2008, he could rely on London bailing him out.
Well now you now Alex, you’d be on your own.