Preparing for Change

Is Mark Carney trying to out-Swinney John Swinney?  He was preternaturally cautious and sober, the poker player from Hell as he delivered his SCDI speech today (See below). It was a technician’s rundown of the potential upside and the obstacles of monetary union and what is needed to make it work. From an amateur’s point of view I thought his opening remarks on this issue, which he ran through at indecent pace, summed up why it’s probably the best option for the Scots.

It reduces costs between markets and there is no currency conversion implications; it reduces uncertainty and evens out borrowing costs and encourages investment; it represents and encourages integration and it aids mobility of people and money.

Sacrifices will be required and that means convergence of debt and borrowing criteria, something already spelled out in the White Paper and, far from being a brake on independence I regard it as imposing discipline on spending ambitions – remember Scotland won’t always have Swinney in the Chancellor’s chair.  It is also what countries around the world are used to and without it you end up like the Eurozone with countries lying to each other about their debt and revenue and breaking the rules such as they are.

It would immediately calm those headless chickens in the money markets if they could see a new country tied into a fiscal and monetary regime of another with a track record of paying up and not defaulting. It was interesting to hear Iain Gray on Radio Four this morning – doing a pretty good job, I have to admit – moving as quickly as he could away from the issue at hand which is our preference for monetary union on to the propaganda campaign ground of asking: What’s your alternative plan? This is the game laid out by Better Together – pretend we will not agree to union and force them on to the back foot by demanding they answer our question which is in reality irrelevant. Deflect and distract.

But do you know what the real gain was from today? It wasn’t the detail and technicalities of monetary union and shared currency or even if it is the best option for Scotland. It was seeing the Governor of the Bank of England standing up in Edinburgh and telling us how a currency might/might not work in an independent Scotland. This is the stuff of nationalist dreams…like the British Prime Minister coming to Edinburgh to sign an agreement to recognise our independence in the event on one single Scot more than the No side voting Yes. These are momentous and historic times. What these events do is normalise the concept in the public imagination of our country becoming independent. It is no longer a pipe dream…no longer an idea to be scoffed at and dismissed. It is mainstream. It is bringing London’s big guns to Scotland to meet the elected Nationalist leader of our country and treating him as an equal.

The next step is to realise they do this because they have to face up to the real possibility that the Union is about to end and provisional plans must be put in place. They are bowing to the will of the Scottish people. They won’t concede anything until they absolutely have to but ask yourself a question: Is this how an aloof and disinterested state behaves when it is convinced it has nothing to fear or nothing to plan for because it has the result in the bag? Or are these the practical and on-going steps of a government and its institutions preparing for ground-breaking change, no matter how hard they try to resist it?

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0 thoughts on “Preparing for Change

  1. you say it so well and like it is.

  2. macgilleleabhar

    Yes Derek. Preludes to playing The Last Post and Striking The Colours.
    It’s all about saving face and retaining some dignity now. The worst thing that could happen to EWNI now is the loss of Scotland to Sterling and Scotland not a Successor Nation thereby having no obligations towards EWNI debt..

  3. Derek, I’m afraid you leave out the issue of spin. Despite a speech and press conference measured almost to a sub-atomic level, those with axes to grind have been at it all afternoon. Your ex-colleague Norman Smith could hardly contain himself on BBC News 24 as he reported (anonymous) ministers’ “glee” at Carney’s comments, welcoming them as having once and for all put a tin lid on “Salmond’s plans” for a currency union.
    Bizarre, partisan and hopelessly at odds with reality that may be but once the BBC puts its stamp on it (and Peston has been hardly less one-eyed in his take) and our entirely unionist newspaper industry gets to work tomorrow, the average punter with only a passing interest will conclude Carney came up to Edinburgh, opened his fly and pissed all over a copy of the Scottish government’s white paper.
    Winning the argument is of no use whatsoever if the media decides you lost.

    • I couldn’t agree more.

      I posted a bit of a rant on Iain Martin’s article today in the telegraph, so disgusted was I by his shamelessly dishonest spin on Carney’s speech.

      Pitiful but so frustrating.

  4. BBC news website still managed to give it a negative spin with the headline –
    “Carney warns Scots over pound plan”.
    Bias, what bias ?

    • To be fair, STV are not any better than the BBC. STV’s headline today, which was in place by the time Carney finished speaking was
      ‘Bank of England Governor warns of problems with Scots currency plan’

    • Speaking of bias, I thought you might be interested in this reply I received from the BBC. So far no reply from STV, or the BBC Trust. Perhaps Derek can also pass on to the appropriate quarters.
      I leave you to decide if they have addressed my concerns or quite simply, just dug a deeper hole in which to hide.
      My complaint:

      Complaint Summary: Failure to report academic report on media bias

      Full Complaint: According to a recent academic study by University of the West of Scotland, ‘Fairness in the First Year?’, both BBC Scotland’s and STV’s news reporting of the referendum has shown a heavy bias to the No side. Why then, has this study not been reported by either organisation? Worse still, we now find that BBC Scotland have described the findings as of ‘questionable legitimacy’. Does your organisation subscribe to this analysis of a report you refused to cover in your in your news bulletins? I am copying this to the BBC, BBC Trust, STV.

      Dear Mr McCann

      Thank you for contacting BBC Scotland.

      We have received a wide range of feedback on this matter so the response below strives to address the majority of those concerns raised but may not address all of the specific points you have mentioned.

      Please be assured your comments have been registered and sent to senior editorial staff at BBC Scotland who have asked that I forward their response as follows:

      “Thank you for getting in touch concerning the report ‘Fairness in the First Year? BBC and ITV coverage of the Scottish Referendum campaign from September 2012 to September 2013’ by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland.

      Firstly we do of course welcome any academic study and research into our broadcasting standards and respect the right of academics, and anyone else, to scrutinise our output. We do, however, also reserve the right to examine and question such research and also ask institutions for more information on their findings to enable us to do this.

      It took us several days to review the research available to us within the report and when doing so we identified a number of inaccuracies within it. In addition we would also question the methodology as well as the fundamental validity of the conclusions it reached.

      It is our view that the report consistently fails to support its contentions with factually accurate evidence; for example there are several substantive factual inaccuracies within the references it makes to Reporting Scotland news output. We are also concerned, for example, with the inclusion of a number of non-referendum stories within the data outlined in the report.

      We also believe that the report failed to define terminology used within it; for example ‘fairness’, ‘insulting language’ etc. or whether any account was taken of what the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines or the Ofcom Broadcasting Code have to say in this respect.

      The report concludes the authors have “evidence of coverage which seems likely to have damaged the Yes campaign.” Our strongly held view is that there is no evidence whatsoever, as contained within the report, that supports this contention. It is no more than an assumption, based on the report’s findings which, themselves, we contest.
      We have raised these concerns directly with the University of the West of Scotland and Dr Robertson and we await a response. It should also be noted that Dr Robertson was invited onto Good Morning Scotland on Saturday 25th January to discuss his report. This broadcast can be found on the BBC iPlayer via the link below.

      As an organisation, we place the highest value on accuracy and impartiality within our journalism and rigorous editorial standards are applied across all of our output. Please be assured that senior editorial staff and the BBC Executive view those responsibilities on impartiality with the utmost seriousness.

      We hope this explains our position and addresses your concerns.

      Details of the BBC complaints process are available online at

      Kind Regards

  5. You’ve said it, Derek, ” preparing for ground-breaking change “. You have the ability to condense the whole situation into a few wise words. Thanks, again, for your dedicated work.

  6. It was interesting to hear Robert Preston just after John Swinney. He based his whole argument on the premise that Scotland would have 100% of oil/ gas revenue and that if the prices drop Scotland would be in recession. He continued in this vein of doom and gloom concerning the Scottish economy which would have to be bailed out by the rUK etc. Sheer one sided hypothesis.

  7. When you start looking for it, there are many many examples of the ground being prepared for independence going on quietly all around us.

  8. Good point Derek re ‘remember Scotland won’t always have Swinney in the Chancellor’s chair.’

    In spite of the predicted spin, I agree that today’s speech from Carney is normalising the currency issue by the very virtue that he delivered his opinion in Edinburgh. Imagine if he felt obliged to make a ‘Creighton’ complaint to the BBC, now that would be fun.

  9. Yes Derek good encouraging stuff and Reporting Scotland did not start its report with the word ‘warning’ they just used the word said. But BBC Radio Scotland 16.00 and STV (Grampian area) said ‘warning’. Has the UWS report had some effect?

  10. I agree with what you say, and we, the converted bye and large understand the issues but we have the whole of the press and the media busting a gut to make sure it is hugely negative for us, which it isn’t.
    However, that does not mean all this negativity will not effect those who understand less than most of us do, and that is a big negative at this time. Nevertheless, we have time yet to see this for what it is and that being the case a monetary union will ensue, and the reason is simple, the rUK cannot afford not to.

    Case in point about the MSM just saw Darling foaming at the mouth with little interruption, on a longer than deserved interview on BBC, who ARE wholly bias, it is so easy to see.

  11. The British state has been preparing for Scottish independence for a long time.Examples such as the MOD withdrawing military assets to England,monies due to Scotland being withheld by Westminster,Carbon Capture projects “delayed” and so on.All they are trying to do just now is spook the Scottish electorate without spooking the markets and I think the latter will dictate London policy after independence.
    A currency union is inevitable,provided we agree.Darling is trying to spin the idea that a currency union will not happen because Westminster will not allow a foreign country to have a say in how it does it’s business (apart from the USA that is).
    The Westminster ideology is completely in thrall to the markets and that is what will dictate monetary policy and not spook stories invented by Darling and friends.

  12. The penny has well and truly dropped Derek – change is inevitable and it’s all about positioning that’s now important.

    The main players are not the MSM and BBC – they certainly have a hugely influential role, but ‘the facts are chiels that winnae ding’ and we’re getting too good at ferreting out the truth of things, which minimizes their deception and effectiveness.

    I had a good feeling watching Carney – he strikes me as a ‘friend’. Good-oh!

  13. Salmond can’t and won’t say this.However we all know that retaining Sterling will be a 10 year stop gap.It is sensible short term but an indie Scotland will be in the Euro zone when RUK falls out with the EU after their in out referendum.I would welcome joining the Euro when it stabilises.

  14. Sorry,thanks Derek again.

  15. Thanks Derek, I have been waiting for a sensible report on Carney.
    I have quoted you extensively over in the Guardian where I was starting to lose my temper – I feel calmer now.

    What do you think of the beeb’s main man Preston – ‘Carney dropping a stink bomb’?
    Do you believe how amateurish they are becoming?

    • Murray McCallum

      Liz, the bloke on Channel 4 News interviewing John Swinney repeated the “stink bomb” description. Odd how discussing the framework, advantages and possible hazards of a currency union between two neighbouring countries seems to get boiled down to “stink bomb”.

      Dumbing down economics for the dummies maybe? Interestingly, Alistair Darling seems to have fallen for it.

      “Preternaturally” – I need to keep a list of new words. Thank you Derek.

  16. “Is this how an aloof and disinterested state behaves when it is convinced it has nothing to fear…Or are these the practical and on-going steps of a government and its institutions preparing for ground-breaking change, no matter how hard they try to resist it?”

    It seems to me that westminster has begun to realise that Scottish independence is really going to happen in spite of their massive and co-ordinated media propaganda campaign. There is nothing they can do to stop it. The people of Scotland will not be cheated of their sovereignty any longer. Their ‘union’ is a dead duck. I can’t wait.

  17. Hi Derek.
    As I said on ‘Wings’…

    ‘Carney CAME to Edinburgh to discuss monetary union. He was DELIGHTED to be here. He WANTED to be here. He WANTED to speak to the Scottish Government.’

    Edinburgh wasn’t called to London. London came to Edinburgh …and both got on well.

    This is a good start.

  18. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling all afternoon Derek. 🙂

  19. I received an identical response to my complaint to the BBC as sent in by my friend David McCann above, after complaining about the broadcaster’s failure to report upon or respond to the WoS university’s report on Bias on Reporting on the referendum issue. I actually received two identical replies as I complained twice.!

    Needless to say neither replied in any detail to the specific points I raised but this was as I anticipated. They did not start to “explain their position” nor did they “allay my concerns” The arrogance and omnipotence of their attitude is a wob
    nder to behold.
    The broadcast media and the printed press appear almost wholly immune now to any pretence to be accurate or balanced and the reporting of Mark Carney’s visit to Edinburgh demonstrates this comprehensively.
    I signed up a new SNP member today, aged 75, and his explanation was his reaction” to the misinformation on the BBC.”.

  20. Why don’t HMT just say NO to currency union, it’s always “unlikely” or “difficult”. They know that when we say yes to independence they will say yes to currency union.

  21. Sorry Derek, currency union is one thing Scots do not need, that is if they are serious about independence. One of your earlier comments talked about the close integration of the Scottish and rUK economies. this is hardly surprising when the same fiscal and monetary policies have been used since the state took responsibility for managing the economy. Despite the degree of integration, for the past 30 years growth in Scotland has been 0.5% less EACH YEAR than in the rest of the UK. In other periods the gap was even greater and you are aware of how the de-industrialisation of Scotland was mismanaged from the outset.

    The one thing a currency union will continue to impose is the control of Westminster and the Bank of England. If the economic history of scotland so far is one of imposing unsuitable monetary policies, what is going to change if Westminster is allowed to continue as it has always done. Does anyone actually think a single member on the MPC is going to have any effect whatsoever?

    I wonder if some of those commenting on here really understand what a currency union is and its prime purpose. The euro was set up as a method of creating the “ever closer POLITICAL UNION” which is the aim of the EU. If people want a United States of Europe, the euro is fine but if they believe in the concept of the nation state, the euro is anathema. To make it work, with all the consequences that will follow, the next step is to control fiscal policy to a greater extent and the transfer payments which are necessary to compensate for the differences in the various economies. You then have a country called Europe.

    The SNP has a poor record when it comes to understanding currencies. It decided to support the original ERM just 18 months before it collapsed, followed by support for the euro because Salmond considered sterling was “a millstone round our necks” then back to sterling after the near collapse of the euro. John Swinney has been a part of all of that and supported each change.

  22. Not wishing to defend the SNP in this, but it seems to me, you may have a sharp understanding of Currency Union but not of real politik.

    The UK didn’t reject the Euro on grounds of economics, it rejected it on grounds of sovereignty – for many it was a step too far, be that as it may, you can only make decisions on the info you have at the time – it wasn’t until much later things went – how shall I say – tits up. make no mistake, if sovereignty wasn’t an issue or the UK, we’d be be in it up to our necks just as if Salmond/Swinney had been at teh helm of an independent Scotland.

    In terms of currency union, in the short term its favourable, in the longer term possibly something else might suit better. At this stage though, insisting the SG adopt/float a new currency on the day on independence would be jumping the gun.

    Slow and steady wins the race.

    As usual, hardly anyone will watch Mark Carney’s speech, they’ll listen to the various soundbites from either side. From my point of view, when these events take place, Better Together become ever more shrill in their dismissals and nae-saying.

    So on that alone, its all good.

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