Yes, Minister…You Hypocrite

Thank goodness for an impartial Civil Service. It is the bedrock of Britain’s triumph over uncertainty and strife. If it wasn’t impartial, why we might be misled into believing something to be true when in a real sense it wasn’t.

And in the time-honoured tradition of neutral, non-political administration, confidential advice to ministers is kept confidential, otherwise Civil Servants might feel unable to give direct, honest advice, if they thought it would be published. Well today it was…and by extraordinary coincidence, the advice from Sir Nicholas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary at the Treasury (salary £175,000 – to ensure neutrality) chimed exactly with the political statement of the Chancellor. Isn’t impartiality a wonderful thing?


How pleased Sir Humphrey would be to find that, even from beyond the grave, the fine traditions of British administration were being upheld. Hurrah! But if you were one of those antsi politico types who doesn’t believe what the Establishment says – say over flood defence spending or maybe the Iraq war – you might deduce that Sir Nicholas was stepping outside the normal protocols in order to add his (totally impartial) voice to his political master’s assertions on the currency. If that was what you thought, then you might expect to hear objections to the publication of Sir Nicholas’s advice from people deeply concerned that political neutrality is preserved in the Civil Service.

For example Alistair Darling is dead keen to see Civil Servants remain neutral, so much so that in January he said in the Commons: “The entire effort of the Scottish Government is now being directed towards the referendum. I just do not have the confidence that the permanent secretary … is going to have any control over the SNP at all.”

The Permanent Secretary is Sir Peter Housden. In the Guardian this week, Darling said again: “They’re getting away with stuff – we’d have been stopped in our tracks by the civil service. He is very fortunate in his permanent secretary: he’s incredibly accommodating.”

So a man who knows the role of Civil Servants is falling over himself to discredit a Permanent Secretary in the Scottish government who is doing his job at the politician’s bidding but when it comes to a British government Permanent Secretary changing the rules to make advice public in a political cause Alistair is…totally silent. Why?

And remember Brian Wilson, Donald Dewar’s propagandist then Blair’s rebuttal unit supremo? He wrote: “And that brings me to Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government and widely regarded as a wholly-owned Salmond subsidiary. Sir Peter’s eagerness to please ministers is well-known, but he needs to be reminded of his duty of care to fellow civil servants.”

Do we expect Sir Nicholas to be shortly in receipt of a stern missive from the Hebrides reminding him of his duty of impartiality? Or is there just a chance that these two Establishment jobsworths are hypocrites who say whatever suits them?

The tawdry aspect to this is that both Darling and Wilson know how it works and have relied on Civil Servants all their careers and had their backside saved by them. But there is no gratitude. As with the independence-minded Scots today, if you disagree with the rightful sages of the British state, you are tarred, feathered and left to swing. Alistair, as I keep finding myself saying, is turning into an unhinged obsessive. I thought I was bad. I used to sympathise with him over his treatment by Gordon Brown’s manic munchkins but when you see him in full hateful, frothing flow, you begin to wonder…

And it seems to me that the very objections Sir Nicholas laid out are the very reason we have Civil Servants, to solve technical issues and make things work. Simply producing a list of stuff that will have to be resolved isn’t administering, it’s what secretaries do. His job is to make it happen and what he is making happen today is a No vote in Scotland in September.

Anyway, to the real matter at hand and I’m afraid I don’t buy the SNP response to this coup de foudre (it’s a burgundy night). You simply can’t go into studios and have no answer to the Plan B question. You don’t want to follow the narrative they have set but the trick surely is to recognize you’ve had a frappe and neutralize it. The answer has to be along the lines of: “We are astonished that the UK puts politics ahead of economic recovery and good governance and seems to be telling Scots they have put nothing into this Union so deserve nothing out. We have to take at face value what we are told, although frankly is it is a suicidal position given the UK’s finances and balance of payments. We will consider alternative currency arrangements but be in no doubt, if the assets of the Bank of England are to be withheld, then Scotland will reserve the right to leave the national debt where it belongs –totally in the hands of those who run it up – the British government.”

The longer you wait before accepting the inevitable, the less credible you become. There is nothing wrong with a wobble, so long as you don’t fall off the plate. Just as Salmond got over the rejection of a second question, so with this. He has to explain that Britain, including the once-Scottish Labour Party have barred Scots from using the institutions they have regarded as shared under the Union and will now strike out and claim the higher wealth future and better GDP we have and begin independence debt-free. “We tried. We offered to help the UK with its balance of payments, to keep cross-border trade transaction free, to maintain the sterling link with the people of England and to pay a share of the debt as a token of goodwill but we have been unanimously rejected. So be it.”

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0 thoughts on “Yes, Minister…You Hypocrite

  1. Totally agree, have been saying this all day to people. Salmond must come out with plan B. He has no other choice.

    • yes this became evident during Nicola Sturgeons difficult interview with Andrew Neil on the daily politics the other day she tried her best and i am glad it was her because he really went for it shes a good speaker and politician but don’t put her out there without ammunition which to defend herself the question will linger until it’s given some sort credible answer and quickly as the NO side will smell a vulnerable point to attack , I Am really glad Andrew Neil is on the “YES” side or it could have been worse ha ha

  2. It’s irrelevant what currency is used. What matters is balancing the books. Scotland balances the books.

    What do the 40million Diaspora, the Europeans and the rest of the world think? Not impressed.

  3. I don’t agree that Salmond wanted a second question. Why would he after the Calman Commission fiasco? On a Plan B: they will have to do it before the referendum, but you do not do it when your opponents are demanding it. Pick a moment when attention is diverted to another story. The last thing you want to do is surrender to pressure.

  4. I don’t think it is a plan B but ‘due to the statements of the three Westminster Parties rejecting our partnership proposals we have no option etc..’ and then detail as Derek has suggested in his last para.

  5. Brilliant as usual Derek. I just wish we could get your views out to the BBC and the newspapers. It’s just sickening hearing the same old claptrap on Radio Scotland, Radio 4, Radio 5, BBC Scotland, BBC1 and STV – and that’s just this afternoon and evening. It’s not only the never-have-beens like Douglas Fraser but now Robert Peston and Nick Robinson are in on the anti-independence act. Not to mention our own wee haw-haw manny on GMS (how I love that description, wish I’d thought of it).

  6. We often hear in our press and television how authoritarian governments which our establishment doesn’t like control the media in those countries and how the morally justified dissident groups (in our superior UK eyes) fight back against the system through the internet as their only way of organising themselves. The dissident groups are invariably the heroes and the states are the villains. With Scotland that warm glow of friendliness and sympathy towards dissidents has been put in reverse.

    As has been pointed out in so many areas of this debate things which are regarded as normal and even desirable anywhere else in the world are somehow unsuitable for Scotland.

    We will however be the first country to win its independence not through physical conflict but through the power of ordinary people talking to each other and the spread of ideas that the talking propagates. Just believe enough and we’ll get there.

    Strength to your elbow Derek and to all the folk that come on here and elsewhere on the net to keep the ideas circulating. It might be that we are seen to have made history once the battle is over and the analysis of the campaign is done by the academics. We are making history – great in’t it?.

  7. Plan B is surely plan A adjusted for the reality that the UK is prepared to achieve an end game that damages business, savings and jobs.

    Plan B can confirm Scotland will continue to use the pound whatever Gideon and his chums say.

    The Scottish government should start to place monetary values on what has been apparently taken away. Scotland is not to have a negotiated, shared access to the monetary system it helped build over the last 300 years (it’s been ruled out in one single speech on one day).

    The “access” is to be limited to one single class of Sterling products (gilts, i.e. UK debt). Strange how it works out like that.

    The cumulative value of what has been taken away should be deducted from any liabilities we have a legal obligation to pay. That is surely globally recognised as good financial sense.

  8. Darling and especially Wilson have always been hypocrites

  9. I am sorry Derek but I have to disagree with you regarding Plan B. Now is the time to play it very cool. AS and JS have now to stick to their guns based on their carefully considered economic strategy post independence and please remember they have the backing of two Nobel-winning economists to rely on who can go up against anyone in the Treasury and win!

    If they have not turned this around within a month or 2 then possibly the might need to subtly shift emphasis to Plan B. Now if it were me – my plan B would be to offer the Scots a referendum during the post Yes negotiating period on what our currency should be………

    • I agree. Stick to Plan A come hell or high water. After all, the referendum is now only months away, leaving little time to do anything anyway. So why give them any more ammunition? When it’s a yes vote, we’ll see whether it’s a bluff or not and then we can react accordingly. In the meantime, whenever any MSM/BBC journo asks about currency, don’t argue about it. React with a dignified silence on the subject and refer them to the White Paper, no matter the provocation. Starve them of the oxygen…so to speak.

  10. The unionists are trying to change the ground from independence to currency change as they think they will have a better chance of victory

    If the yes campaign is bounced into a plan b they will be where the unionists wanted them

    This has darlings hand all over it

  11. Correct SNP have to hold firm and not be taken down the path Darling wants.It will be an own goal if the SNP do this.However I agree Derek that they should make public their legal right to use the pound outside the formal agreement .In so doing they should make it clear they will not be taking their share of UK debt.In other words be seen to be in the right in the eyes of Jo public.Let the unionists twist and turn from week to week as they run out of oxygen.I give Darling a month he will be pushed or fall on his sword if the polls show Yes are gaining.

  12. Nice piece of scriptwriting, Derek. I wonder if it will be picked up?

    But consider this. The last thing Salmond wanted was a devo-max question on the referendum paper. Independence would have lost, for sure. However, he also wanted the unionist alliance to be the ones to reject it. Result.

    Similarly, is it possible that he didn’t really care about a currency union, seeing advantage in walking away with no debt? But again wanted his opponents to be the ones to reject the option? In this case, it might simply have been a win-win scenario, with no real preference for which way Osborne would jump. If so, he’s not fazed right now and the response is already planned out.

    One thing is for sure, after a Yes vote Osborne is going to be biting Salmond’s hand off for a currency union. The response to that will be interesting.

    • Morag this is what I’ve been thinking. All part of the reverse psychology tell them we want what we don’t really want and let them tell us we can’t have it. Then we settle for what we wanted all along…

    • Morag, you are spot on. AS is a wily fox and will have, no doubt expected this stance from the UK government. Stick with plan A and they will be hammering at Scotland’s door for a currency union, if we accept a share of the debt.
      I disagree with Derek’s comment about not having a plan B. The white paper clearly set out options but currency union is the preferred (or is it?). Clever tactics unfolding, better than a BBC drama!

  13. Agree. Now is not the time to reveal plan B. Play on the idiocy of your opponents first. The Osborne gambit is a clear attempt to split the Yes campaign by getting us all to argue about alternative currency options.

  14. I meant to add and I have said before.You get a real sense of the British idea of fair play when situations like this arise.Its just Ireland without the guns.Tavish Scott trying to split the country by mischief making about Shetland reminds me of the 6 counties in N Eire.Look at the mistake that was.The Brits have form..that’s why I never accepted being a Brit.

  15. Yes canny Salmond.He got us this far.I think walking away with no debt and using the pound for a few years is the result we all want really.

  16. Again, I think the Scottish Government are playing a blinder on this one. As for Darling, he cracks me up every time he is interviewed. I think he might implode due to his hatred of the SNP. It is visceral – he can hardly contain himself whenever the interviewer mentions Alex Salmond.

  17. So George Osbourne ,towel folder millionaire is now being feted as a voice to be listened to ,well, well, well. I hope Labour and Libdem voters realise how the antics today will be viewed here in Scotland. Never thought I’d see the day (unless voting for/against military action) that the three parties would stand shoulder to shoulder.To all Labour and Libdem voters are you happy with George Osbourne speaking for you?
    More than civil servants appear to be hypocrits

  18. Alex Salmond needn’t be bounced into a Plan B. Jim Sillars wrote in the Record today about how, as a trade unionist, he never went into a negotiation without a contingency position. However, I bet he never revealed his contingency position to the employer’s side before negotiations had even begun!

    I found today very interesting, and, like Derek, I found Sir Nicholas’ part far more interesting than the bit players Osborne and Balls.

  19. Just listening to Kirsty Wark interviewing or should I say haranguing Alex Salmond. As usual, Alex Salmond is remaining calm in the face of her usual hysterical questioning of him.

  20. I think that the Scottish Government is playing a blinder on this issue. My own opinion is that what we are seeing is Plan B. Plan A is to peg the Scottish Pound to the what-is-left-of-the-UK pound and repudiate the debt. That doesn’t play too well if you come straight out with it. Far better to appear to be as reasonable as it’s possible to be, then, despite all your efforts, the UK rule it firmly out.

    Now, more in sorrow than in anger, you can announce the setting up of our own pound pegged to Sterling and the repudiation of the debt. Job done!

    • Been reading blogs and comments all day and trying to look at what is behind the lies and misinformation coming from the BBC and others and conclude that there’s simply nothing there but hot air and malignant mischief.

      We don’t need anybody’s permission to peg to the Pound/ Euro/ USD/ etc., so what’s the issue?

      We don’t even understand what Gideon has said – ‘as Chancellor I will not agree to …’ will he even be Chancellor by then – perhaps we need the full weight of the Westminster majority to enforce such as that and by what dictat?

      The ‘divorce settlement’ which is now set as the only way forward by Westminster has to look at communal assets and communal liabilities – one doesn’t come, without the other – so no pound agreement, no debt share, simples. And don’t talk about social pariah-ism – outside observers who need to take an interest know bullshit when the see it.

      IMO – and this includes the apparently agreed and totally misguided co-operation of the Treasury Civil Servant – the emerging rUK has just made the biggest mistake by treating Scotland in this way and I have complete confidence that the SG that will always fight Scotland’s corner.

      I also like the proposal by Achnababan earlier, that we set the pace and we decide post referendum via another referendum what currency we’ll adopt.

  21. Andygym1, you may well be right, but I’m wondering if we are still on Plan A. Osbourne, Darling et al, have blundered into every trap set for them. This may well be the cleverest trap so far. Next few weeks will tell.

  22. Good news its Nicola v Johann on STV Tonight I think it is 25th Feb -this should be good!

  23. By the way Derek – your wordsmithing reminds me of the late Alistair Cook – really appreciate it.

  24. Ca canny seems to be the ScotGov watchword as the opposition works itself up. Osborne said “no legal reason” in his speech but political reasoning will prevail as the 18th approaches and passes. No need to offer a hostile MSM a Plan B as far as I can see just now.

  25. Indeed, Salmond can still reasonably keep currency union on the table as an offer but he can also play up the £ with-no-debt option.

  26. I still think a formal currency union would be best for all concerned at least in the short to medium term, but I take note of the respected voices talking about simply using or shadowing the pound. And the desirability of saying bye-bye to the debt we didn’t run up in the first place.

    People over on Wings are talking about Br’er Rabbit and the tar baby. I’m sort of wondering, now. Salmond did it once with the devo-max question, could he have done it again?

  27. Sorry Derek, can’t agree with ” …Just as Salmond got over the rejection of a second question”.
    You plain got that one wrong, A.S. never wanted that option on the Referendum ballot.
    Salmond played Cameron for a sucker and got what he (A.S.) wanted … YES = Independence
    or NO = that’s it (and down hill from here).
    Salmond is playing his long game and he’s been doing it since ’79.
    I aye mind an auld Scottish saying, ” … anybody can make a mistake but only a damn fool makes
    the same one twice”.
    Apart from my wee criticism, it’s grand to see yer back on form.

  28. Heh, said it yesterday and its worth saying again. The opposition have just handed the Yes campaign and the FM a big stick to beat them with.

    Not only have they come out together with one position on what they hope will be an independence crushing statement, they’ve been forced to play one of their trump cards early. They’ve also been forced to start negotiations in plain public view. The counter to this by Yes Scotland and the SG will be crucial though. I can see the SG continuing along the lines of reasonable currency union for the time being. Nothing like being seen to be the voice of reason dontchaknow. The opposition will, if they operate to usual script and type, become ever more strident in denial. They’ve made this issue very public and high visibility. All the better.

    There is and always has been a perfectly viable plan B and in fact C. What better way than to introduce them to a Scotland under attack from an arrogant Westminster machine seen to be putting an uppity Scottish parliament in its usual place. If I were Dennis Canavan I’d be a very confident man this morning too, Westminster’s stance validates his own currency preference as well as the all party, no party inclusive stance of the YES campaign. Westminster is fully behind Crown sovereignty, elitism, AUSTERITY, DEBT and THE POUND STERLING. Both YES Scotland and eventually the SG can offer viable alternatives completely DEBT FREE should they so choose.

  29. Oh, near forgot.

    I take it some have visited Severin’s blog over at Guardian CiF?

    If not, do so now.

    Over 4k comments and proof positive that Dave’s love fest failed big time. Apparently Scotland and its government aren’t that popular with many of the neighbour’s chattering class. The Guardian has officially become Britain’s latest right wing broadsheet (probably twinned with the Telegraph). People on medication or of nervous disposition should avoid reading more than half a column. Exposure to so much open dislike can spoil your tea.

    • The Guardian needed to lean more to the right so that it could continue supporting the London Labour Party

      • True that. 😀

        If I had some marigolds handy I’d like to shake Gideon and his Labour and Libdem backing singers by the hand. They couldn’t have painted a truer picture of Westminster’s relationship with Scotland any more perfectly than they did. The Guardian’s capitulation with the ‘leaked’ articles and the splash on the day, pure gold for YES Scotland.

  30. The dugs in the street know that when the dust settles after a yes vote, we’ll be using the pound. Even the English don’t believe Osbourne. Given that, a Plan B would look like a panic reaction.

    I read Osbourne’s speech just to confirm he did not rule out a currency union – and guess what, despite the MSM’s reporting of the situation, he didn’t. The worst he could say was he ‘could not recommend’ one.

    Amongst all the pish in his speech about RBS and English taxpayers bailing out failing Scotland, he did make one real point though. That is that a currency union is likely to be one of convenience. I’ve always thought that it suits both sides, until such time as the economies diverge. Which might only take a few years.

  31. I’d agree with macart763M that the No campaign have wheeled out a very big gun at an earlier stage than they might have – a few days before the poll might have been another option giving SNP (I think the policy bit of Yes Scotland has now been eviscerated?) no chance to respond.

    But they may also be taking fright at the narrowing of the polling figures and be looking to kill momentum. If this doesn’t work, then they have few weapons left in the locker. But the SNP need a logical Plan B now, “if not that, then this” that will reassure voters. A Scots pound pegged to the rUK pound might be best, or possibly a peg to sterling/euro basket, though that would increase transaction costs.

    The SNP will also now have to do what should have been done at the outset and include plans for a central bank and financial regulator – which we need for full EU membership in our own right, even though they will be loathe to amend the White Paper.

    The Guardian comment columns have changed in tone and the UK parties rejection of shared currency arrangements feeds and feeds off those kind of sentiments.

  32. I agree with Derek on this. The UK stance does force the agenda but I also agree with others that rushing into declaring a plan B is only leaving the initiative with the UK. But it can’t be left too long. Call their bluff, put out plan B and tell them that if they don’t discuss it now we will take them at their word, there will be no going back to a currency union discussion post Yes and be very clear they are getting all the debt.

  33. Wee Haw-Haw was as hysterical as ever this morning on Good Morning Scotland. I wonder if he has to wear a nappie when he talks to Alex Salmond and can’t “contain” himself with excitement and glee.

  34. This is great fun even Morning Call Kaye is having trouble finding Joe Public that agrees with the three Westminster Parties and the number of Labour voters now voting YES is not surprising.

  35. Fae wan “Dunkie” tae anither, “ye ken hee-haw about much dae ye Haw-Haw?

  36. Agree Tommy, Kaye Adams is having real difficulty finding anyone agreeing with the London parties. A lot of previously No voters now voting Yes. A spectacular Own Goal by Osborne. Keep it coming Dave/George – as someone I know 2 great recruiting sergeants.

  37. I thought it was telling last night when Salmond in among the chatter on #scotnight & #newsnicht – get me with the hastags, alluded to the Scottish government’s fiscal commission of last year and the options it produced (a currency union being the preferred one.)

    I took that as a first step in softening on a currency union.

    You know what’ll happen though, unionist will claim it as a u-turn and ask what else in ‘the white paper’ is up for grabs.

    Cannae win.

    Going by what some friends are saying #bbcqt was also an eye opener last night. A number of quite angry pals sent texts to say so.

  38. Alex Salmond had to tell the wee incontinent mannie 3 times aboot the Scottish Government’s fiscal commission of last year this morning and the optionbs it offered

  39. Derek, am a big fan and my wife and I still miss you from Saturday morning review on BBC Scotland, BUT I feel you’re being a tad blinkered with regard to Sc Govt. Classic Wee Eck to cry foul whenever suits him to deflect away from the point, as he consistently does over defence, economy, currency, Governor of BoE etc, etc. Is his modus operandi. However, the bluster fails to address the very serious questions posed by the independence qu. The people of Scotland must be properly informed, and the constant propeganda being peddled (by both sides) is hugely frustrtating, esp given what’s at stake. Wee Eck is hardly whiter than white when it comes to disregarding inconvenient rules and regulations – eg forcing through the Trump Planning Consent; FOI requests frequently ignored, attempted to influence HMRC over Rangers CVA and yet wouldnt disclose what was said and so on.
    I wish half as much resource and energy was being put into reducing child poverty as is being thrown at the referendum. There are serious issues that must be addressed properly and which require proper analysis, at for the most part, the “debate” has been at playground level. The people of Scotland deserve much better.

    • mmm is that johann lamont ? as I am pretty sure i heard the self same rant from her in the wee parly recently if your not the said politician my sincere apologies + I do wish people would show some respect for the office of the first minister i mean ( wee eck ) now where have i heard that remark Johann ? oops sorry but her statesmanship seems to shine in all corners of scotland

  40. The most sickening part of last night tv was Michael Kelly saying he expected Scottish labour mps to vote against a currency union in westminster after a yes victory. This Labour dinosaur would rather see Scotland punished than defy the British Labour party. Labour voters mighr hate Alex Salmond but surely this is too much.

  41. Dereck is my mind playing tricks (I am old) did I read somewhere that some Italian politician was waiting for some kind of statement from Brussels regarding Scotland and it’s possible split from rUK shortly. If this is true and has a positive spin then might explain the rush to get this going as a deflection. Only asking.

    Yes scotland.

  42. In his interviews Salmond points towards his economic commission and the White paper.
    If you can’t read then don’t keep asking the question.
    There are four alternatives. Salmond has told you the one he prefers.
    If you don’t like his choice make your own from the other three and stop pushing the cart along with the Unionists.
    Salmond wont answer until he secures a ‘Yes’ vote and quite right too.

    It isn’t rocket science.

  43. Cag-does-thinking

    Hello Derek, I have been following your very informative blog for some while now and come late to the discussion on here on what might very well be a turning point in the campaign. I personally don’t hink the SNP should put out a plan B but maybe they should make it clear that we can still use the pound, just that we won’t be part of the fiscal policy related to it. As if we are at present…… In media terms nobody seemed to query any of the triumvate on what for me was one of the most important follow up questions. If we can’t be part of the pound as we have such divergent economies does that not suggest that currently divergent economic policy is set to disadvantage us as a country in relation to perhaps for instance that south east of England, something most of the UK has surely suspected for some time? Is it slowing down our recovery being hooked to a star based in London? I find it perplexing that “angry owl” who after all was at the helm when Scotland’s main two banks were taken over by respectively a London based bank and the Taxpayer (also based in London) seems to think that somehow their ability to use the pound will be in any way affected by Scotland being independant. Presumably one of the great negotiations after independance might be to somehow get one of these actually back in to Scottish ownership.

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