Friday 8 August 2014

Scotland's Vote 11: Childish Reasoning

In recent days, Alex Salmond has reiterated his claim that Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) will retain a monetary union after Scottish independence:
It's Scotland's pound and we are keeping it.
It is entirely possible the rUK government will refuse its consent for such an arrangement. All three main UK political parties have said very clearly they will do just that. Salmond himself has tacitly recognised this, because he has threatened retaliation in the form of refusal to take on a share of the UK national debt.

Edinburgh Castle belongs to the people of Scotland.
Can the same really be said for a negotiated agreement between Scotland and the rest of the UK?

Let us suppose the UK government is not bluffing; and it regards increased transaction costs between rUK and Scotland, and taking on the entire UK national debt, as a price it is willing to pay. In this case, what is the SNP's preferred fallback option? Absolutely no one in the SNP is willing to say.

As I have said before, this is a serious decision with far-reaching consequences. A government which makes the wrong choices for its currency can have a devastating effect on the jobs, savings, and mortgages of ordinary people. For an example, we need look no further than Black Wednesday and British membership of the ERM in 1990-92.

Demands for clarity on this point, from the Labour leader Ed Miliband among others, have been met with further obfuscation from the SNP. John Swinney, the Holyrood Finance Secretary, said:
The option of an independent currency is perfectly viable but the fiscal commission recommended to us that it was not as strong and not as beneficial to the Scottish interest as sterling would be.
The arrogance is breathtaking. Monetary union would require negotiation between rUK and an independent Scotland. The rUK negotiators would have a duty to represent the interests of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whether monetary union benefits Scotland is not their concern, except insofar as it affects rUK. Swinney, on the other hand, appears to be saying Scotland's well-being should be the only concern of rUK. This may or may not sway the Scottish electorate but it is unlikely to impress an rUK negotiating team.

It is interesting to parse what the SNP means by saying the pound belongs to Scotland.

Human rights belong to the people of Scotland and cannot be taken away. In the ringing words of the Declaration of Arbroath:
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Clearly, the pound sterling does not belong to Scotland in this sense. The rUK government could refuse a monetary union, and the UK political parties say that they will.

Edinburgh Castle belongs to the people of Scotland. It has been a UK army barracks for centuries. In theory, the rUK government could order the garrison not to surrender it to an independent Scottish government. Obviously, this would be a ridiculous course of action and they would not get far. The Castle is Scottish territory in law, and Holyrood would be within its rights to starve the garrison out or take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

The pound sterling does not belong to Scotland in this sense either. It is notable that the SNP has not claimed a refusal of monetary union would violate the law. In fact, by refusing monetary union the rUK government would simply be exercising its lawful authority. If it was making the wrong decision, it would answer to the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, not the people of Scotland.

In what sense does the SNP claim the pound belongs to Scotland? It appears they believe they have a moral right to monetary union with rUK, on the grounds it would benefit the Scottish economy.

In simpler terms: I want it, therefore it is mine.

It is the reasoning of a small child pointing at a cake and shouting, "I want it! It's mine! It's my cake!"

This behaviour on the part of the SNP is embarrassing to watch. It is unbecoming of men and women who hope to lead a dignified, sovereign nation. Scotland deserves better.

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