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Would The Real ‘No’ Campaign Please Stand Up!

March 11, 2014

I can be a bit of a one, sometimes, for sudden realisations. I had one a few days ago, and it’s been rattling around in my brain ever since. I have to share it with you. What I realised on this particular occasion was that the official ‘No’ campaign, Better Together, are not the real ‘No’ campaign. They are the political equivalent of fields full of wooden Spitfires in the second world war. Those did work for a while, and no doubt bought the RAF some valuable time as the Luftwaffe went about trying to destroy as much of the RAF as possible on the ground. But that’s all they did – bought time. That was their purpose. The Germans were always going to figure it out sooner or later.

Well, one day they did. Two young RAF conscripts were sitting in a hut, minding one such field of fake Spitfires when they heard an approaching aircraft. Assuming it was an air raid, they left their hut in order to take cover, but when they got outside they saw just a single German bomber approaching. This was sufficiently unusual that they hid behind their hut and waited to see what would happen. The bomber came in for a very low pass, which was also unusual because normally they would have bombed from a much greater altitude, in order to avoid the airfield’s defences. As the two incredulous young men watched, the bomber reached the middle of the field, and dropped a single wooden bomb. The message was clear – we’re onto you.

So this is my wooden bomb, and I’m dropping it on Alistair Darling and Better Together today. I’m onto you. I know you’re not real. You are a distraction, set up with the sole purpose of taking the attention of the ‘Yes’ campaign away from the real ‘No’ campaign. One of your main tactics is known as ‘astroturfing.’ This, as the name suggests, is the creation of a fake grass roots campaign. You do this by having your paid workers run multiple false social media identities, giving the impression of a level of grass roots support that simply doesn’t exist. We can witness this on any of the ‘No’ campaign Facebook groups and pages. Even those which claim to be unofficial and not connected to Better Together turn out to be staffed by exactly the same people. And, like the wooden Spitfires, it worked for a while. But it’s over now, you’ve been rumbled. You see, there is a real ‘No’ campaign. It is organised. It is running. It’s just not you, Darling. You’re a wooden Spitfire.

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Here my WWII analogy breaks down, because this is not a military campaign. It’s not even a political campaign, in the conventional sense. It is a marketing campaign. Not a marketing campaign for something, but the kind of rearguard campaign against something that we have seen in the past from the tobacco industry, and currently the climate change denial campaign being waged by Big Carbon. The campaign strategy has been described as F.U.D. – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Sound familiar?

Recently we have witnessed a series of announcements, a steady drip of one or two a week, from banks and big businesses. If you actually read the statements they are all fairly innocuous, as indeed they have to be. Can’t risk spooking the markets after all. But each has mentioned, in passing, the prospect of Scottish independence. Something the mainstream media, in particular the BBC, can spin, or just flat out misrepresent, as yet another ‘In another blow to Alex Salmond…’ story. It seemed to start with David Cameron’s bizarre and surreal ‘lovebomb’ velodrome speech, and has been regularly punctuated with far more threatening interventions by a succession of Westminster politicians, as all three Westminster parties have fallen into line on the matter of a currency union.

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That in itself is worthy of comment, because it is such an obvious bluff. It’s a very common saying, but I’ve never actually seen someone cut off their nose to spite their face before. It would be fascinating, in a macabre sort of way. But it’s not going to happen, as I’m sure the politicians have assured their friends in the business community. This is because Westminster needs a currency union, far more than Scotland does. Serious economists not associated with the ‘No’ campaign have lined up to explain that Scotland could easily launch her own currency. The chief danger, identified as far back as the McCrone Report, would be of that currency being too ‘hard’ and so with a tendency to appreciate in value, to the detriment of Scottish exporters. However that problem could be easily solved by pegging its value to that of another currency, the Pound, the Euro, or (perhaps more prudent, for reasons I’ll come to later), the US Dollar.

England, on the other hand, desperately needs a currency union with Scotland. You see, Sterling used to be backed by gold reserves. There was a vault at the Bank of England full of gold bullion. Margaret Thatcher decided it would be a good idea to sell most of it off. That was kind of her thing. She chose the worst possible time to do so, just before the 80s gold boom. The USSR, which bought quite a lot of it, proved to have a better handle on the state of the markets, and made a killing on it. Gordon Brown later sold off much of what was left. All this happened, however, without much effect on the strength of the Pound. Now why could that be? Could it possibly be due to the fact that the UK had by then discovered an alternative? A different kind of reserve to underpin the currency? Black gold?

The other thing which can underpin a currency, and enhance credit-worthiness, is of course income. This is not difficult to understand. If you or I want to borrow money from the bank, there are two things they are going to want to know in order to assess our ability to repay – our income, and what collateral we may have to put up. Now Scotland is an exporting country. We have a positive balance of payments (income). England has a negative balance of payments, it imports more than it exports. Scotland’s trade surplus does not wipe out England’s deficit, but it makes the UK’s balance of payments look a lot healthier. If Scotland’s offer of a currency union is refused, that will no longer apply. Furthermore Sterling will no longer be associated with that oil reserve.

The likely outcome of all this would be a collapse in the value of Sterling (which is why a Scottish currency might be better pegged to something a bit more stable) and a downgraded credit rating, perhaps by several notches. Given the projected size of the UK’s debt, and deficit, by 2016 (the proposed date of Scottish independence following a ‘Yes’ vote) this would be an economic catastrophe, leading to a deep recession, coupled with runaway inflation, a phenomenon known as ‘stagflation.’ Such a situation often leads to a debt default. Scotland, by contrast, would have a strong currency, a trade surplus, a Triple A credit rating and no debt*.

So it’s a bluff. Obviously. Scotland would be fine, suffering only a few minor inconveniences, but it would be an unmitigated disaster for whoever wins the 2015 Westminster election. It can only be a part of the aforementioned F.U.D. strategy, which would be instantly abandoned on the 19th of September following a ‘Yes’ vote. Just watch them scramble to portray the reversal as an act of pure altruism!

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So who is running the real ‘No’ campaign? David Cameron? No, he clearly went ‘off piste’ with his performance to an eerily empty Olympic velodrome. He admitted as much, telling us that his advisers had counselled against such an ill-conceived intervention. It’s not even clear that there is a single co-ordinator. It’s often hard to tell with the Eton/Oxbridge establishment whether there even needs to be a conscious conspiracy, or if it’s simply a case of everyone knowing what is expected of them, rather like Rupert Murdoch’s editors do.  We do know who is involved however. The Westminster establishment (all parties), big business, and the BBC. The BBC are clearly up to their necks in it**.

So my advice to Yes Scotland, and to all grass roots independence supporters, would be to stop paying attention to Better Together as of today. Cease all engagement with them. Joining their groups and ‘liking’ their pages gives an exaggerated impression of their support. If you make a good point or ask a difficult question, it will be removed. Do it twice and you’ll be banned. The official Better Together Facebook page removes over a third of all comments posted (Facebook still shows total comments, which can be compared to the number still there). It is a complete and utter waste of your time and energy. What you’d be better doing is starting to identify those behind the real campaign, publicly ‘out’ them, and begin to engage with them directly. Expose their lies and duplicity. Explain to the public exactly what they are doing and why.

The phoney war is over, and the battle for Scotland has begun. But let’s be clear about who we’re facing. It is not Alastair Darling and his amateur hour operation at Better Together. As if anyone would leave him in charge of anything. No, Darling has a boss. I can’t tell you exactly who it is that he answers to. Not yet anyway. But I’d be willing to bet that their last conversation went something like this:

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*I shall be writing in detail of the debt issue in a forthcoming article

**Please see this similarly-named article (I hadn’t seen it when I named this one) in Newsnet Scotland for a detailed analysis of the BBC’s role in the debate.

 

Update – 3 October, 2014

IT WAS THE MEDIA!!!

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9 Comments
  1. thomas spencer permalink

    I must congratulate you on your fantastic article and, wholeheartedly agree with you.

  2. Iain Stewart MacLean permalink

    Ta very much, you inspire us to battle on with a better understanding of where we are at.

  3. Admin, i think you overestimate Scotland’s economic strength (which scotland is strong) and underestimate the rUK’s economic strength without scotland (which is also strong, but not as with scotland.) First, the deficit has been shrinking (albeit slowly) the United States is going through a similar process but did not have a down grade to AA until 2012. Also, Scotland will have to accept a share of the debt to establish a national credit. Debt free nations don’t get AAA ratings.

    • Well, debt-free nations don’t need AAA ratings. Nonetheless, Standard and Poors has already issued a statement to the effect that an independent Scotland would be an ‘investment grade’ economy, qualifying for their highest rating. All current UK debt is guaranteed by the Bank of England, and as such an independent Scotland would by definition be debt-free. Even if in negotiations a proportional share is agreed, repayments would be made by arrangement. On day one nobody in the world would be holding any Scottish gilts, as they do not exist yet. But whether Scotland takes responsibility for any debt at all will be dependent on the outcome of the successor state issue. New states, by definition, have no debt.

      Furthermore, the current economic policy orthodoxy in the UK and Europe, austerity, is illogical and just plain wrong, and will not reduce the deficit in the medium term (if it does so in the short term that will soon be reversed as tax receipts dwindle), and will not ever reduce the debt by even a single penny. This is why the US has not gone down that road. The major(ish) OECD economy which survived the events of 2008 the best, Australia, does not refer to them as a ‘credit crunch’ or a ‘recession,’ because neither of those things happened there. The call it the GFC (Global Financial Crisis). They avoided those things because they implemented policies exactly opposite to austerity, they went early and they went hard. They just started sending cheques to everybody. Even so, their debt and deficit levels now are tiny by comparison to most European countries.

      The US is a special case as the world’s largest economy. It is not only too big to fail, it’s too big even to downgrade by much, because if it falters it takes the entire world economy with it. The UK is not in that position. It could be cut loose and the world economy would recover. Its debt-to-GDP ratio is already approaching that of Germany in the early 30s. This cannot end well. The structural deficit is massive, and without revenues derived in Scotland over the last 30 years, it would have had to implement major reforms by now, or it would already have collapsed. The reason it seems incapable of reform is because it is a kleptocracy, and those in charge will subject its citizens to whatever levels of poverty and deprivation are necessary to maintain them in the excessive style to which they have become accustomed. The system is rotten to the core and, I believe, now impossible to repair, at least not without things being brought to a head by a major crisis.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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