Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Independence, Scotland's Magical Mystery Tour

When our children were first in school the counties of Clackmannan, Radnor and Rutland all had authority and responsibility greater than the United Kingdom has at present. Even the lower tiers of urban and rural district councils might have more discretion in the exercise of many of their functions.

Even then those of a radical frame of mind pointed out that the UK was not longer “independent” by reason of its membership of NATO, the United Nations and various other international bodies as well as the requirements of its “Special Relationship” with the USA. This view was unpopular, especially as it was true.

Looking back to when I was first in school people believed in British might and authority. However, we had a number of binding treaties to conform to as well as other limiting conditions, such as the League of Nations. Again, it is arguable that even then the UK had become a prisoner of its Empire rather than its ruler.

Having been damaged by one major war The Empire became involved in a second that it could ill afford if it was to survive. The decision to fight on after Dunkirk was the last gasp of any independence. When the USA was drawn into the war at the same time as the UK’s money began to run out it bought a little time.

The rest was a polite charade when we went through the motions of independent power until that party was over and we ratted on The Empire to sign up with Europe to save our economic skins. But it was North Sea gas and oil that did that for a while and not the help of our European neighbours.

When the SNP talks of an independent Scotland offering a vision of medieval internal authority coupled with a national identity owed to the Prince Regent and Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha it is a bogus prospectus.

Even in the Middle Ages there was the Church to worry about and the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath was addressed to Pope John XXII, then resident in Avignon courtesy of the King of France. The present border was the result of a grubby marriage settlement a few years later and could well have been drawn much further to the south at some time earlier.

Indeed, Scotland may detach itself from Westminster. Given the gross incompetence of the UK Westminster government machine, courtesy of a New Labour led largely by Scottish Labour members, the vast scale of the waste involved and its real work largely a retreading of EU directives, regulations, guidance and judicial decisions it is quite sensible to attempt some sanity in their own government.

One difficulty is the way what sort of independence might be achieved and this has changed its colour and pattern down the decades. At one stage it was torn between some kind of Dominion status akin to Canada’s and the leftist preference for the East German model. Ne’er the twain shall meet.

Then under the influence of wealthy expatriates it shifted to the prospect of a second Irish Tiger or Singaporean or Hong Kong model. Edinburgh would become the ultimate tax haven and a world centre for shifty and shifting money to rival and overtake the City of London.

The implication given some of those involved was that any Scottish Currency would relate to the US dollar. This might allow a good measure of political discretion, on the lines of Delaware or California, but it would not be independence. Just look at other countries that are tied to the dollar.

The tricky question then was how this fitted in with the EU. When the Euro currency was created this posed a dilemma. If Scotland went into the EU and took the Euro shilling (sic) then it would not be independent. What may happen to the Euro now is not known, but it will be different.

If it had stashed enough international capital in the wonder banks of the RBS and BoS and their related financial bodies, allied to North Sea Oil it might have a weight and influence greater than its size. As Blair and Brown used to say, all too often, this was “punching above your weight”.

In short there are a number of things that should be known and be prominent in any debate. The key one is certainly what currency and financial structure is proposed for Scotland. Anything based on any other currency, including the pound, is not independence and cannot be

Then there are the basics of governance, The Defence of the Realm, Law and Order, the structure of local government, border controls and migration policies and what taxation systems are envisaged.

To return to money, one key area is the nature of financial regulation. Scotland, if it has its own currency will need its own Central Bank. What will be the basis of this? How will it be governed and who will be the Governor?

Step forward Sir Fred Goodwin?

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