Cuddly Bear Attack

Well, we certainly got some answers in the last 24 hours. Alistair Carmichael let it be know he would be asking the questions and the nationalists had better have their responses ready. The Bruiser was coming out fists flailing. Duck, Salmondo…Run, Nicola…Take that, Separatists! Whack! Thump!

But sadly Big Al turned out to be as tough as my wee lassie’s teddy bear. For all the choreographed trailing ahead and the dutiful headlines by the cheerleaders among the Press, what he actually delivered was a plodding, predictable tick-a-box list that those of us who haven’t been hibernating in the Westminster undergrowth for the last two years are already bored with.

That part didn’t come as a surprise. Alistair after all is reinventing the role of Scottish Secretary – in his mind. He’s trying to give us a taste of the red blood that he thinks Moore recoiled from. The trouble is that Alistair is proving that he doesn’t really have an original thought or a new way of doing things at all. He just sounds behind the times. But he’s now in danger of becoming ridiculous because he has a somewhat inflated opinion of himself and believes he is bringing new gravitas and insight to the debate.

That’s why “his first major set piece speech” in Inverness was puffed so highly by his taxpayer-funded PR operators and why he agreed to stay up late to appear on Newsnight. Dearie me! I saw in the set-up package he was having a dram – proving what a full-throated Proud Scot he really is – and after his interview I wondered if it might not have been the only one over his throat.

This was 100 per cent proof bluster. Like a drunk doggedly wrestling with the language, he became hilarious as he verbally bounced from side to side off each question getting increasingly outrageous as it went on.

It wasn’t even difficult for Gordon Brewer because Alistair set up the premise himself. Anybody telling the media he is going to be “asking the questions” can guarantee to have it turned round on him. (See previous post before he spoke).

Alistair says he wants clarity – from the nationalists obviously – but did it really never occur to him that it cuts both ways? Isn’t it blindingly obvious that nationalists have been asking questions too? Are the British nationalists so used to getting a comfortable ride from the media that they think they don’t have to try?

So key question to British state: Will you rule out Scotland using the pound?

Much faff and fluff from the “combative politician” but no answer. (Even confuses Gordon Brown with George Osborne.) Osborne refuses to rule it out so will Alistair? Of course, not. And as he is pursued he fishes for an explanation which turns out to be that if they said No at this stage, it would only bring “howls of outrage from the nationalists”. So, UK government policy is not to upset Alex Salmond…the British refuse to clarify their position on sterling because it would annoy their opponents. What a precedent.

Correct answer: We won’t rule it out because it will be in the interests of the British economy – including the strength of sterling – and the interests of British business and of free movement of goods, services and people to share a currency. Where Salmond does have difficulty is in persuading the Treasury and the Bank of England to agree an arrangement that suits his needs when the Bank will focus on the rUK’s interests first. Lender of last resort requires oversight of Scottish spending and borrowing plans. (It seems to me this is a stronger and more logical case against a Yes because it can be made to sound like very limited independence when the Scots are being asked to risk such a lot. It also eliminates the implied slur that sterling is somehow England’s and not Scotland’s, an anti-Union position).

Then on the European question, did Alistair not go through an interview rehearsal with his PR team? He was bound to be challenged on why the UK doesn’t seek clarification on Scotland’s entry to the EU so why didn’t he have a coherent answer?

This time it boiled down to his notion that it was for the nationalists to make the case for European membership and it was not the job of the Unionists. “The onus is on them,” he says. This sidesteps the whole thrust of Alistair’s “first set piece speech” which was to seek clarification. Brussels says it will not answer Edinburgh but will answer London so in this case there is nothing Salmond can do. But there is something the British can do if they want clarification. They just won’t because it would clarify the situation. So this is how those Nasty Nats are “dodging awkward questions”, eh?

He also said the nationalists had never come forward with a reasoned case for Scottish membership. How about the treaties, Alistair? Can you point to the section that says a country can fall out of membership or be thrown out? Can you point to the text that explains the process of exclusion and what happens to the rights and citizenship of the population?

It strikes me that to suggest a democratic vote in a member state automatically leads to exclusion from the EU is a profoundly anti-European sentiment to come from one whose party preens about its European credentials. Are those the same credentials as the social democratic ones so obvious in Coalition policy? I suspect Alistair is threatening to become a liability already. The truth probably is that he works better when he’s angry because the cool rational version is missing. He looked like someone getting his just desserts for thinking he could walk in and do a better job than Moore but is finding out it’s not as easy as he thinks. Getting the headlines in advance is the easy part, backing them up is much harder.

If this is the first in a series of outings for the Beast of the Scotland Office, we can all relax and enjoy Christmas. My wee one wants a big cuddly bear from Santa and I know just where to find one.

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0 thoughts on “Cuddly Bear Attack

  1. Och, maybe Big Al was nervous about his interview with Brewer and was quaffing to his knees in anticipation.Or past his bedtime, or a just a bit dozy?

  2. Another great article.
    Fascinating to watch the early bombast of SNP positions on Europe, currency and defence crumble in the face of reality.
    Amusing also to see supporters of separation demand that UK tax payers should underwrite the costs of seeking clarity for SNP separation policies.

    • Graham, old son, who underwrites the costs of the Westminster committees designed to denigrate Scottish independence?

    • Eh, Whit? That one’s been through the famous Falkirk mincer, obviously.

      • Steady that will be misconstrued. Who is the famous Falkirk mincer by the way? Falkirk is the no go area for Labour, “sssh pretend it never happened and wir pals in the BBC will bury it.”
        Carmichael is one bombastic arrogant twerp of a man, who because he takes part in some Viking festival thinks he is a tough guy. His babbling incoherence on Newsnicht was just dreadful. And this is what we are being asked to accept as our voice in the UK cabinet. More like the cupboard under the stairs, where the mad and bad hang out.
        Brewer ripped him a new one without even trying. Carmichael not only tells lies but he also invents stuff, such as his twittering nonsense on the EU. Not so much a car crash as a face plant straight in to the sewer he tried to get out of.

    • Oh, Graham, ‘underwrite the costs’? Might it not be an e-mail, followed by a brief telephone conversation? We could have a whip round, if really necessary. Nice use of ‘bombast’, though. Another great post 😉

      • Cheers, matey! Of course that’s how Europe works; lift the phone and call ‘Europe’: “Hi, Europe, this is UK gov here, did you get my e-mail? You did? Fab, well can a separate Scotland join or not? It can? Fantastic! Bye now, let’s do lunch! Love you!’ Yep. Sounds exactly how the EU works. An e-mail and a phone call. Priceless.

    • Well as yet the chancellor has NOT ruled out a sterling zone and the EU haven’t said they would throw Scotland or rUK out in the case of a vote for independence. On defence I’m also confused by your certainty. Have you actually seen the white paper already? Were you party to any SG research or meetings? Not that I’m doubting you, you understand I’m sure if you say that proposals none of us have seen yet are poor, then that must surely be the case. I’m just wondering how you can be so certain of crumbling policy when clearly there have been no definitive statements?

      • Nobody is saying there definitely won’t be a currency union.

        However, the chances of a currency union without a separate Scotland agreeing to the Bank of England having control over our economy is somewhat remote which in turn rather negates the ‘levers’ argument peddled ad nauseum by the YESnp campaign.

        Nobody is saying a separate Scotland definitely won’t be allowed to join the EU.

        The doubt comes from folk like Nicola Sturgeon asserting that a separate Scotland would automatically be a member of the EU..

    • I see.

      But aren’t we a member still during a negotiation process? There really would have to be a serious falling out between EU leadership and Scotland before any form of either a. expulsion or b. voluntary withdrawal on our part. And on currency wouldn’t the bank set such things as interest rates and borrowing caps anyway whether it be a new Scottish central bank or the BoE? If the SG are confident in the handling of the BoE isn’t that a good thing for cross border relations and trade? So long as tax and spend is in our control, then the worst that could happen is a borrowing cap, I could live with that. I certainly don’t see it as a crumbling policy.

      I’ll keep my powder dry on defence till I’ve actually read the detail, but again on what little of the premise is available, I’m not seeing anything I disagree with so far. Trident out, defence force with limited force projection capabilities, cooperation with standing allies sounds pretty good for anyone with a socialist background surely? If the sums add up on that then once again I’m not seeing where that’s crumbling policy.

      • Hmmm..we are in the EU because we are part of a member state (UK). If we leave the UK we cease to be part of a member state and would have to negotiate entry for a separate Scotland. It is a hope rather than fact that the other 28 member states would be willing to negotiate with a seceding part of an existing state. I suspect Spain, Italy and France would have concerns on that.

        The Bank of England is owned by the UK government, its targets and policies are set by the UK Chancellor (who incidentally, reserves the right to intervene whenever he sees fit). The idea that the Bank of England will allow a separate Scotland to diverge on tax policy to the detriment of the rest of the UK is absurd. However, that won’t happen as Mr Salmond has already said that in the unlikely event of a YES vote a separate Scotland will keep the same income tax rates as the UK.

        On defence, if a separate Scotland joins NATO then nukes stay in Scottish waters.

    • Again though, there is no precedent in the history of the EU to date for this situation. As a population with 40 years accrued member ship status we would remain members until one of three things happened. 1. Immediate expulsion (no precedent) 2. End of negotiation process which will be either successful or not and I’m struggling to see why it wouldn’t be. 3. Voluntary withdrawal. And under the current government’s pro EU stance this seems least likely of all. The fact remains that we remain a member till that point.

      On defence again, the nukes will not remain on Scottish soil for two reasons one of which being a point of international law, NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty, which really isn’t up for negotiation), the other of course being long standing SNP policy. The only way round that is for a nuclear country or partner to seek the specific permission of a sitting government to base nuclear weapons on ‘foreign’ soil. So no I don’t see nukes staying as being a statement of fact.

      On the BoE its my understanding that its the other way round the bank advises the exchequer.

      Our 8.4% stake in this bank is also up for negotiation yes? As is our net trade figures, underpinning of national debt and balance of payments from exportable resource. I think we have a fair negotiating tool in that. And just why would we be so callous as to damage our trading partner’s currency anyway? The onus remains not on the SG to explain their reasoning. They’ve made that quite clear, both in the basis of their advice from the fiscal commission and their own wish to see a smooth transition with as little impact on the economy as possible. The onus is on the Exchequer and in particular Messrs Osborne and Cameron to explain why they may not.

      Further required reading from George Kerevan:

  3. According to Prof Sir David Edward the EU is obliged to avoid the “midnight hour” scenario of Scotland exiting the European union.

  4. So anyway, there’s Dave & Nick & George on the sofa last night, looking forward to Alistair asking and answering the tough questions on Newsnight Scotland….

  5. Roibert a Briuis

    I think BIG AL is Charles K in disguise just a ‘nice’ drunk fairly harmless and best left to sober up on his own

  6. The No Scotland campaign is based on their opinion that they don’t have to make any case because people are satisfied with the status quo.Their failure to understand that the status quo is not acceptable to most Scots will be their downfall.They should have taken up the option of a looser federal/confederal arrangement when it was offered.It may not be too late for that but time is getting short.

    • The Westminster “Better Together” proxies could drop their “Project Fear” campaign and re-start again by telling Scots how they will create a positive future for Scotland within the UK that addresses the political and economic deficits and imbalances that exist under the present antiquated and dysfunctional Westminster system of governance.

      However the fact that the unionists rejected the inclusion of a devo-max option on the referendum ballot paper plus all the threats of retaliation being made by some unionist politicians against Scotland if she votes NO in the referendum leaves we Scots without hope that this will happen and tells us instead that the unionist cupboard is completely bare so far as any further meaningful devolution is concerned.

    • Whether “No Scotland” are that complaicent or not (and there is more & more evidence that they are, judging by the increasing regularity of foot shooting incidents), it is still Yes Scotland’s job to sell Independence to a, to date, sceptical populace. Yes, their failure to see that what’s on offer from Westminster is not good enough will be their downfall. Just not in time for next September.

  7. Can any of the Better Noes direct us to ONE occasion where the Bank of England put the interests of Scotland ahead of those of the London?

    Because frankly, it’s hard to see how “not being able to influence the Bank of England” when we’re independent is supposed to be different from the situation at the moment, where no-one outside the City of London (in its financial sense) has any influence.

  8. To be fair to Carmichael, at least he knows where one of “Yes Scotland’s” bigest weak spots is (or should that say even Carmichael knows where the yes camp’s big achillies heel is?). Swinney made a tactical blunder in saying an Independent Scotland would adopt the English Pound as our currency, when there were better more common sense alternatives. Don’t be surprised if this blunder proves to be a rich seem for pro-Union campaigners. And Alistair Carmichael.

    • cynicalHighlander

      Swinney made a tactical blunder in saying an Independent Scotland would adopt the English Pound as our currency

      I am sure you can find a link to back up that statement!

      Euro, Pound Sterling or Scottish Pound?

      Sterling is a fully convertible currency, this means that if any country in the world wants to use sterling it can. Examples of a fully convertible currency being used by other nations include Panama and El Salvador using the US dollar.

      Because we have an inept biased MSM the only truth you will find is online.

      • Cynical Highlander.

        As I’ve said before, the common sense approch would be for I-Scotland to adopt the Scottish Pound (which, is our current currency) which would be tacked to the Pound Sterling (which is what happens now). The preferred lender of last resort would be rather more tricky. Bank of Scotland anyone?

        Creating a Sterling-zone where we adopt the English Pound would not end the current situation where the Bank of England creates policy to suit the ecomony of the South east of England, whether it helps the rest of the UK or not. You only have to look at the pitfalls of the other currency union on our doorstep to see that.

  9. ‘Don’t be surprised if this blunder proves to be a rich seem for pro-Union campaigners. And Alistair Carmichael.’

    But not Alistair Darling?

    ‘When pressed by Brewer on whether a monetary union with Scotland would be in the interests of the rest of the UK, Darling replied: “Of course! If you have independence, or separation, of course a currency union is logical.”‘

  10. “The truth probably is that he works better when he’s angry”

    Alistair Carmichael is the Incredible Hulk of Scottish politics.

  11. I switched over to Newsnight after Poirot finished in time to witness another suicide by lack of redeeming input. Carmichael managed to make it look as if Brewer was giving him a hard time when in fact he was only trying to get an answer that made sense.
    When will someone in the SNP be brave enough to point out that currencies are not owned by anyone, any currency can be used between parties who accept its usage (possibly subject to an agreed exchange rate) and if the rUK cut off their nose to spite their face by not entering into a currency agreement then we can just go ahead using Sterling until we get round to converting to the Euro (or the US dollar, as used to price Brent Crude, or even bitcoin).

  12. Or do what Australia did, use the Great British Pound for a few years until they changed to the Aussie dollar? No currency union.

  13. Grahamski,
    I assume when you say ‘But for a separate Scotland to continue to use sterling without a formal currency agreement would be catastrophic for our economy.’ By ‘our economy’ you mean, what would have been considered the entire UK’s economy pre Independence ?

    If so, well yes I agree, and that’s why nobody with any power or responsibility in Downing Street or The Treasury is willing to advocate refusal of a currency union as policy. Not even willing to agree in principle to it, but with punitive conditions for an Indy Scotland as the price to be payed.

    That is because, even that threat would be economic suicide for the current £Sterling, considering the likely effect it would have on the UK bond markets.

    Scotland makes up 40% of the UK’s current balance of payments. That alone means, without a currency union agreed and in place post Indy, rUK’s international balance of payments deficit will almost double over night! That would easily be enough to cause a run on the rUK’s £Sterling currency, leading to rocketing interest rates and economic armageddon.

    Not in Scotland’s interests, as we trade heavily with rUK, but then, as we would not be using £Sterling as our currency, our interest rates and economy would just about survive.

    These are just some of the reasons why Scotland’s hand in this negotiation is not at all weak. As can be seen by the UK’s actual opening bet, (refusal to rule out a Currency Union). As A. Darling already has stated, it would suit both parties interests very well.

    So why all the melodrama Grahamski……………….I just can’t think?

    • “Scotland makes up 40% of the UK’s current balance of payments.”
      Are you sure about that?

      • Grahamski, Yes.
        As part of the UK and £Sterling, Scotland currently exports (excluding Oil and Gas) far more to the rest of the world than our % population share of UK exports would suggest, I don’t need to list the different sectors do I?

        Agreed? Good.

        Given that fact, we should then consider the real problem facing rUK’s economic position should Scotland for any reason no longer trade in £Sterling.

        At the moment oil landed in the UK from the North Sea is worth circa £40 billion per annum (of which England, Wales and NI consume circa £36bn per annum). At the moment it is an internal market within the UK and any dollar requirement is offset by an equal and opposite contra trade back to sterling.

        After independence the trade in Scotland’s oil will be international and (unless Scotland uses sterling) there will be balancing contra trade and a rUK will have to find £36bn worth of dollars to purchase its oil from a non-sterling Scotland (or other foreign supplier).

        This sum is roughly equal to 1/3 of the current UK foreign exchange earnings (plus Scotland’s other overperforming world export sectors adds up to approx. 40%) .

        Of course, not only does this oil trade cause rUK a balance of payments deficit. It simultaneously generates a Scottish current account surplus.

        The reality is that a separate Scottish currency (say pegged to the dollar or a basket of currencies) would be an economic disaster for the rUK economy and I rather suspect that (despite general Unionist scoffing) the rUK Chancellor will agree to almost any Scottish demand to keep us within a sterling zone.

        It is an all too common mistake to consider North Sea Oil in terms of Government tax receipts. It’s real value is in the context of the balance of payments and current account.

        Additionally, the dollars flowing into Scotland (remember we only consume circa £4bn of the oil landed) would generate the volume and flow of funds necessary to develop a viable international capital market.

        I think the above adequately explains the theory, practicalities and risks the rUK would be taking in denying agreement on continued shared currency with Scotland after Indy.

        It also explains why no serious player with power in Downing Street or the Treasury is proposing a policy of refusal, even as an initial bargaining position, such would be it’s damage to the current UK£ Sterling and therefor our economy.

        (with great thanks to Alasdair Stirling!)

      • Oh by the way, the numbers are from 2011-12, but they do give you a feel don’t they.

  14. You have to pay back your debts which are more than your earn.Although at a special interest rate, if you don’t ,the interest rate rises or you lose the house, car etc.
    Your lodger moves out and it becomes clear their dig money paid the weekly shopping, filled the tank, paid the gas and electricity.
    You now have a choice.
    1.try to pay off the debt by borrowing more at a higher interest rate, but this will take years and mean no house , no car, no holidays.
    2, come to an agreement to pay a little for decades again means no house, no car, no holidays,
    3. Sell the family silver- can only be done once and still does not cover the debt.
    4. Try to get a job with a better salary , not qualified enough, not enough vacancies.
    5. Declare yourself bankrupt.
    6. Come to an agreement with your lodger before they move out they will contribute to running repairs, insurance etc .
    Now replace shopping , gas etc with crown estates, food and drink, exports , renewables, research, fishing,farming oh and gas and oil and tell me again why Westminster won’t agree to Scotland using the pound?

  15. Braco & PQsCPRteam, excellent response. Where’d he go?

  16. In order to counter his bruiser reputation Mr Carmichael attempted to play the Statesman. He set out to out Salmond Salmond, a bit like a spider trying to out octopus an octopus. Yes they have a similar number of legs but HELLO!

    The article questioned his ability to think original thoughts which was really a polite way to question his ability to think at all. Michael Moore has style, Class and considerable intelligence whereas ‘Olly’ has no style, no class and will never be mistaken for an intellectual.

    Nicola will make mincemeat of him during their forthcoming STV debate. His biggest problem is he probably genuinely believes he has what it takes to tame Nicola.

    This has been another enjoyable article from the pen of Derek Bateman. thanks Derek, I look forward to many more.

  17. Hello………..Grahamski?

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