Shell Shocked

A few quick thoughts on last night before I dash away to record a discussion on it for with an all-female panel. (It will be posted later and I’ll tweet when it’s ready).

I don’t much like the idea of winners and losers in debates because it detracts from content and what should be the key element of dialogue, but without thinking of it as a sporting event, I still felt I had heard a more compelling case and a more measured tone from Salmond than a curiously unsettling performance from Darling. (I thought Glenn Campbell done good in this show. A nod to him and old bruiser Bernard)


At heart what is lacking from Darling is a convincing case for No. When asked to step beyond fear and uncertainty over his opponent’s proposition, he flounders. Or rather, he crumbles. To be flummoxed on what new powers might deliver is a stunning hole in the middle of the Unionist case. To be honest, I always thought there would come a scary moment for Nats like me when the Unionist parties realised they needed a clear Next Move and would produce a combined Devo Max offer guaranteed by all, irrespective of UK government configuration after the general election.

Ludicrously late it might have been and dogged by their refusal to have it on the ballot paper but a strong offer with total agreement would have swung wavering Labour folk into line. It hasn’t happened. Why on earth not? It looks like failure to commit and leaves their case weak and woolly when they needed something to shove in Salmond’s face and say: Look. This is what they want and we’ll deliver it.

And wouldn’t it have been a coup for them if they had an intelligent and attractive woman leader in Scotland who could have presented their case? Imagine if she had stepped up for the second debate, figuratively shoving Darling aside and saying: Let me at him. I can do this. I speak for working class Scotland and I’m his match.

The sad truth about Alistair is that his skills aren’t really in this domain. Think back to the first debate and all that happened was that he confounded the doubters by shouting, dominating by speaking over and being aggressive – against expectation. There was no content. There WERE questions and demands but again he stumbled on powers. His case relies entirely on picking holes in the opposition and working them into uncertainties to worry people. That should only be the start of his proposition, not the end. And how can a Labour politician (as he constantly said he was as if it was in doubt) not sound like the champion of social justice, however defined?


Alistair looks and sounds like corporate man and was nailed by the woman who reminded us of how he is the plaything of the corporations, pocketing thousands for helping the NHS privateers. People can take him up to a point but the same tight mouth, angry eyes and finger jabbing doesn’t work twice, especially when your message is unchanged.

Salmond, whom they try to denigrate, is made to sound modest in comparison, reasonable and only occasionally fired up with passion when appropriate. The right wing numptie press in England like to deride him as a provincial bank manager type (that is, not the right stuff). Yet the town banker used to be a figure of respect, on speaking terms with all, carrying our secrets, never getting too far above himself or the gossips would start. Like Salmond he might not quite fit his suit and have a crumpled look, a man clearly at war with his weight – aren’t we all – and with a vulnerable side that makes him approachable. He is not the forbidding, ultra smooth and aloof posh figure Darling projects. Disappointing that Darling couldn’t bring himself to call Salmond by his first name. Such blatant rudeness. Such contempt for both the man and for his office (and by extension Scotland). There is a visceral dislike in this that he can’t conceal and I speak as an Angry Nat.

There was a moment at the end where I realised how badly this had gone. I have been in studios when an interviewee has had a bad day and made a hash of a discussion. It takes time to recover composure. The result is that even after you’ve thanked them, they sit stock-still. They don’t move a muscle as they go back over their performance and what it means for them. Shell shocked would cover it. That’s what Darling did at the final whistle. He was unmoving, hands stuck to the lectern, mind absorbing the awful truth.

Ultimately, the Union case is Don’t Change. Don’t Risk It. It Could Be Worse. Scotland Isn’t Worth It. The delirious energy of Yes, boosted with more oxygen from last night, mocks their sterility. No is turning this into a gothic gloom of a future where we’re crap and we know it but we’re powerless to change it.

That gives undecided voters a clearer impression of the choice, stripped of the mechanistic and legalistic sophistry around currency and treaties and debt.

The commentators sneer that this might come down to Scotland or Britain– which is it to be? It may come down something even simpler – The Future: Good or Bad?

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46 thoughts on “Shell Shocked

  1. Smiling Vulture

    Alistair kept on calling Alex ,HIM

    Was it weeks before PM Brown contacted the 1st minister

    I think I will book a holiday Panama

  2. Mr Darling told a number of flat out lies. He said that if there were no currency union, Scotland would not be able to borrow money. He mentioned Panama. Panama has a national debt so obviously borrows money. The Panama debt is about one-third of the UK in relative terms. (% of GDP). Panama also has much lower unemployment rate than the UK. Mr Darling should really do some research before quoting examples that contradict his arguments. Or face the fact that pointing out by implication that Panama is a dump is dangerous territory when the dump has some better economic indicators than the UK. When the UK was roaring into the Industrial Revolution with a world-wide Empire, Panama was untamed jungle. Now this little country that Darling sneers at has a real GDP growth rate three times that of the UK. This is generally called “shooting yourself in the foot”.
    The second lie is that Scotland would require approval for its budget. Just not true. Neither Panama nor Ecuador, one of Mr Darling’s other choices, submits its budget to the Federal Reserve Bank.
    Third lie relates to research money coming in to Scottish academic institutions. It does not depend on being in the UK. It depends on academic excellence and research success. This lie was refuted categorically some weeks ago by the academic institutions themselves. Much of research funding comes from private businesses and trusts, not necessarily in the UK.
    All these lies were interwoven with his appallingly rude behaviour. I’ve been to proper debates and such behaviour would not have been countenanced for a moment, even with no moderator.
    The moderator Glenn Campbell made no secret of where his sympathies lie. He allowed Mr Darling to interrupt and shout down Mr Salmond’s responses at every turn. He himself decided to interrogate Mr Salmond quite brusquely, as well as putting leading questions to a member of the audience inviting only the answer that would favour the NO camp.
    He also cut short one line of debate posed by another member of the audience “Why are we not better together now?” when it was clear that Mr Darling was in trouble, floundering and stuttering and at a loss for an answer. This was a crucial and face-saving intervention and one that was unwarranted. The question posed cut to the core of the economic arguments surrounding separation. The economic arguments, being short term considerations, are not the only arguments but they were the only ones being debated.
    If Glenn Campbell had not intervened to save him, Mr Darling would have been embarrassingly and comprehensively routed.

    • Funny that Panama (Darien failure) should propel us into the Union and now propel us out of it.

      • I don’t agree that the Darien failure propelled us into the Union. The Darien venture bust up in 1698. It was the Alien Act introduced in 1705 by Queen Anne that caused it.

        Darien cost us between one third and one half of our total assets but Scotland was not bankrupt. It continued trading successfully for the next 7 years. It was the confiscation of the Scottish Nobility’s lands in England through the Alien Act and Queen Anne’s insertion into the Act of the clause that, if we formed a Union with England the nobles would get their land back, that was the main cause for it. That was bullying on her part but she also provided the carrot that she would also return to the nobles any money they had lost on Darien that clinched it. So, she also bribed them. As Rabbie Burns put it, we were “Bought and sold for English Gold”.

        It should also be remembered that it was the English Court and Government under William of Orange who tried to bankrupt us. He sent the English fleet to blockade the English Caribbean colonies to prevent them selling supplies of food and water to the Scots colonists.
        Without that food and water, the colony would have collapsed even without the illness they suffered.

        Coupled with the blockade of the Scots colony by the Spanish fleet and the English navy’s refusal to intervene to help the Scots, it’s no wonder the colony collapsed.

        However there is evidence to suggest that Scotland was recovering and moving towards a more stable and profitable economy at the beginning of the 18th century. So, we did not need the Act of Union to survive. It was bullying and bribery of our upper classes that brought it about. Even then the ordinary folk didn’t want it and there were several uprisings by the ordinary townsfolk and attempts to prevent the nobles signing it.

        The ignominy is that it was eventually signed in a small shed that was used to store Sedan Chairs and that is now a ladies toilet in a restaurant.

  3. To be honest, I always thought there would come a scary moment for Nats like me when the Unionist parties realised they needed a clear Next Move and would produce a combined Devo Max offer guaranteed by all, irrespective of UK government configuration after the general election.

    Ludicrously late it might have been and dogged by their refusal to have it on the ballot paper but a strong offer with total agreement would have swung wavering Labour folk into line. It hasn’t happened. Why on earth not?

    I would hazard a guess and say that the British state has no intention of breaking up Whitehall and the Treasury, particularly at what they would perceive as rewarding Scotland for holding an referendum on independence. If Scotland got Devo Max, then the Treasury would have to give up almost all its financial powers over Scotland, North Sea oil revenues, and Whitehall would lose its welfare powers over us. The irony is that despite constantly saying for decades that Scotland is subsidised, the British establishment has no intention of seeing Scotland in charge of its own fiscal powers. From the London establishment’s view this would be utterly humiliating; they would rather we vote for independence than give us Devo Max.

  4. Think last night might have been THE moment in the campaign when the entire BT apparatus, the MSM, the SLAB politicians, the BBC now realise the game’s up. But too late for new powers – and too late for political opportunists to change sides. There’s a lot of troughers out there bricking it, I imagine and not just because Scotland won’t forget who they are.

  5. Heh, the gaping hole in the extra powers motif is twofold. Firstly the only thing all three parties agree on is a dislike of Alex Salmond which ranges from condescending offhand arrogance to tribal hatred depending on party affiliation. None of them have a cohesive plan for the future constitutional set up of the UK and even if they did manage to get into a room together without fighting or sulking then comes problem number two. Westminster’s own process and bureaucracy. They simply left themselves no time to come up with ‘PLAN B’. 🙂

    So cock sure were they of crushing victory from day one. So very badly did they misread the mood within the Scottish electorate, they saw no need to allow for such a contingency. Well there was and they’ve missed the boat. They have insulted, denigrated, spread fear, uncertainty and doubt with considered deliberation. And what? We’re expected to thank them for this?

    The FM was right on message last night. We are more than capable. We do have the wealth to spare. We do deserve and should expect better from our representatives. Representatives including the FM, who will be well within kicking distance in an independent Scotland. Let’s do this. 🙂

    • I am all for giving the FM and his/her colleagues a kicking;
      A) If they do badly, to learn them to do better, and
      B) If they do well, to learn them to do better.

      • Keep your friends close, keep your politicians closer. 😀

        So far Alex and his team are doing just fine and deserve major kudos for giving us this opportunity. Long may it continue.

        I haven’t seen this much engagement by the electorate in decades. Puts a spring in the step. 😉

        • I agree. But we were coming from a pretty low base.

          For example, I estimate we need to spend £40bn on social housing as a result of the poor standards and low expenditure of the various administration, local and national.

    • And note none of the Scottish ministers go about with bodyguards and security to keep hoi polloi away. I’m sure there is someone about but you cannot keep Eck away from the public.

      Nicola heads off into the night to all parts.

      It’s like that in New Zealand too. You can bail up a politician, often in the street if you have a beef. But don’t get too obsessive about it, there are harassment laws too. You have to have balance. But politicians who know they have to actually face ordinary members of the public after voting in the House is not a bad thing. Concentrates minds.

      Most small countries are like that. But then most small countries don’t go about invading the countries of brown people with a different religion from them to take their resources away on flimsy illegal premises so attracting terrorist revenge attempts.

      Just think how much we will save in security costs from not having to pay our share for the UK diplomatic protection squad. The equivalent in iScotland HAS to be much cheaper.

  6. Westminster apparently has no contingency plan against a possible Yes result.

    No preparation has been done seemingly.

    So Mr Darling seems to think, from last nights TV debate show.

    If this is true, then the implications could be very serious

    – and possibly rather ominous.

    Has the Edinburgh Agreement been shredded in Westminster ?

    Or maybe they are watching re-runs of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

  7. What stunned me was how disengaged Darling was from the political mood in Scotland. What’s that political adage – keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? It’s not as if our issues are kept secret. You would think they would read these blogs and pick up on the arguments we are making and how to either dismantle them, or out-manoeuvre them, like Derek says, by coming up with some ideas, some proposals, that might address them. But fear is all they’ve got.

  8. Even Cameron called it ‘broken Britain’. I suppose it’s a hard sell.

  9. I believe that the No side may well come up with some sort of supposed tri-partite agreement on some sort of offer dressed in DevoMax(ish) clothes, especially after the embarrassment of Darling’s foundering last night. This would be publicised just a day or two before R-day in the hope that there would not be enough time for it to be as comprehensively filleted as SLAB’s ridiculous increased tax “powers” were.

    • There is no time for that, the postal vote packs are on their way. To change the terms now would be to allow claims of rigging and the invalidation of all ballots cast prior to the announcement. Too late, the vote must be on the terms as they are on the table now. But Call Me Dave can still tell us he loves us.

      • Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear, I’m not talking about changing the terms of the ballot. I’m suggesting a final shot of propaganda from No intended to persuade undecideds that they are serious about new “powers”, and delivered late enough to avoid it being countered.

        The issuing/return of postal voting forms will make no difference to any change in the nature of No efforts between now and R-day.

        • I think the point is that BT etc cannot have a “Lord Home Moment” now, to the same extent as 1979. The ballot papers are on their way to one-sixth of the electorate right now. If most of those votes are, as expected, cast in the next couple of days, that is a substantial number of voters who will vote before London can offer a bribe.

    • It is a possibility Gordon but I think people would see this for what it was, a desperate last gamble, cobbled together in an obvious effort to regain the initiative. Not authentic and not credible, however when in a corner, people are capable of anything.

  10. When you look back over the campaign to the moment when the Edinburgh Agreement was put together, you can see the origins of the twisted mess that BT and Westminster find themselves in now. Cameron refused to include DevoMax, assuming that Alex would use that lever to his advantage if it was included, so it was down to a Yes or a No. Complacency among the Westminster parties – the Scots won’t vote for independence – had them coasting for a while.

    Then the rumbling reached London; the more cohesive the Yes campaign became, the less complacent WM felt, so the insults came, the derision, the mocking in the Commons. The more they pushed droit de seigneur in the Yes campaign’s collective face, the bigger the Yes campaign became. WM upped the attacks several more notches: now the lies, the scaremongering, the deliberate disinformation spread through the MSM, countered every time by facts and figures from the Yes campaign although the MSM would never print those refutations.

    WM thought they could get away with using the MSM and various “cut-glass-roots” groups to stifle the Yes campaign, but they hadn’t reckoned on the alternative media and the wonderful people who knew what to look for and where. These dedicated people ransacked their files, dug up the truth, scoured the airwaves, disseminated facts, figures and dates, shared everything they knew online, and bolstered the Yes campaign with irrefutable proof that WM and the No campaign leaders were lying through their pointy teeth. WM had not a jot of interest in Scotland or her people other than as strippable assets.

    And we arrive at yesterday: audiences across the British Isles able to access facts online that prove the scaremongering, lies, disinformation and deceit to be nothing but smoke, and Westminster – almost all the Westminster parties – shown to be deliberately deceiving the public both north and south of the border, evidenced by Alistair Darling’s attempt to confuse and alarm the public yet again.

    The UK government is under harsh, revealing lights, their lies and distortions now spreading into the MSM (finally) and their promises of a better future together revealed as an arid wasteland – £1.3 trillion in debt, 8,000 job losses at Faslane a lie, thousands upon thousands of people barely surviving, vicious attacks on the most vulnerable including disabled people left without enough money to cope, suicides, the list goes on and on. Scotland – wide awake, politically active, talking, questioning, engaged, holding each side to account and demanding answers. From the Yes campaign – answers, interest, engagement, inclusion, town hall meetings, Indy evenings, events. From the No campaign leaders: fear, loathing, shouting and no-shows.
    The game is almost up. We know the truth. We know who within the Westminster parties told the lies and what those lies were; the majority of the people in the British Isles know that Westminster in its current form is not to be trusted and must be subjected to a long and sustained shake-up. Westminster parties brought it on themselves, by underestimating the will and heart of the people of Scotland, and apart from those who never lost their respect for us as a country, it’s the Westminster parties who have torn the British Isles into pieces, out of self-interest and political greed.

  11. Great summing up of last nite Derek.

    Same with the comments.

    I feel lifted today happy
    not bad way to start the weeks ahead

  12. The more I reflect on last night I cannot get Darling’s comment about “a nation is it’s currency”
    That thought is digging itself deeper and deeper into my mind. When a nation becomes a spreadsheet and columns of numbers you really have lost it.

    A fair and just society with opportunities for all based on ability (not ability to pay). A nation which looks after it’s citizens and respects their individuality. A country that seeks to be a responsible state regarding the environment and World affairs.

    I could go on but my point is – My nation is not it’s currency!

  13. A night to remember! Alex Salmond was on great form and there were some heroes in the audience who deserve our thanks for having the courage to put the questions to Alistair Darling which the slavish MSM just won’t. How did the BBC lose control of that, on live TV too!
    Alistair Darling does have a problem with his obvious disdain for Scotland and the people who used to vote for him. Surely an ermine robe will compensate for the miserable job he has taken on.

  14. Derek. You have just come up with the best sound bite yet for the No camp.
    Don’t change. Don’t risk it. Scotland isn’t worth it.

    Brilliant as ever.

  15. Why does a woman have to be intelligent and attractive to be worth listening to in politics when men quite obviously don’t?

    • Sorry. I was drawing a distinction between what they’ve got available and what would have been preferable. And I don’t mean attractive as in good looking, rather an attractive personality, as in the opposite of A Darling.

  16. I am trying to see that Darling is the fall guy for a bunch of mainly well hidden Labour high ups waiting in the wings to spring back to life after a rain check on September 19th. Only Johann, the “big guns” aka “has beens” and the over keen Dugdale types that remind you of the studious but not too bright sooks of the school classroom have been brave or stupid or mug enough to stand with Darling. Not forgetting that the Gruffallo of Fife will only stand together with Darling as long as they have separate rooms. I wouldn’t give Darling a job in post yes negotiations if we are successful. He’s a former chancellor of the exchequer and should be smart enough to not get trapped in the role of apologist for the Tories.

  17. My thinking too David. Darlings a duffer. He’s screwed every position he’s been appointed to, including as ‘Leader of the BT Campaign’..

    He’s a serial trougher and let’s neither forget nor forgive his expenses scam as he flipped his home four times to screw more money from us.

    I wouldn’t let him a million miles near anything our future independent Scotland is about to do. Lying toad that he is, he was truly and fatally nailed by the lady questioner.

    Was it not also a supreme irony that it was Glen Cambell who asked Darling the killer ‘ pound’ question!.

    • Yes. However, Mr Campbell intervened to let Darling off the hook in respect of the “Why are we not better togeter, already? question. Darlling was floundering and stuttering. The question was a key question far more significant than currency or the NHS.

  18. It’s a choice between realistic optimism, Yes, and loathsome pessimism, No.
    Whenever I come across a bile-filled No supporter I can’t help but picture the slavering sneer of Wilfrid Brambell aka Albert Steptoe.

  19. Personally, I particularily enjoyed the moment Alistair Dariling resorted to photo bombing Alex during one of the FM’s “walking to the front thingies”,a truly inspired and sublime tactic in neutering the insesant interruption tactics employed by all in BTNTUKOKers.

  20. Don’t kid yer se.f on, of course the Westmonster mafia have a plan in case of a yes vote. !!!! Cast your mind back to the poll that we payed for, you know the secret one
    that we did not need to know the results ???? Way back then , they knew the game
    was up!!! They are the master’s of loosing parts of there so called empire. They have been here many times before. AS THEY SHRINK ONTO insignificance, on the world playing field. …

  21. It has just struck me, after last night’s debate, that Darling is beginning to look like the fall guy for David Cameron. Couldn’t happen to a nicer man.

    On a happier note, I have just secured a YES vote. A colleague of mine, who was 75% for YES, just needed a questions answered on her pension rights after Independence. I checked the BBC website and UK pensions minister, Steve Webb, has stated that pensions accrued in the UK will be paid to the Scots. On this information she has put her cross in the YES box for her postal vote.

  22. The sneering ‘he’ and ‘him’ that Darling used comes from the same box as Lamont’s snide words at FMQs. The referendum to Labour has always been about the SNP, and destroying it and Salmond. Everything else came a poor second, so was never thought properly through. In the winners and losers in this campaign, whatever the result, Darling, Lamont and the Labour Party are going to head the list of bad losers.

  23. some very good comments on last nights little altercation between -the good -the bad- chaired by the ugly its a great pity the NO side resorted to lies and smears which people will forever remember them for because they have dealt their case a fatal blow as well as doing us out of real serious questions that need to be answered because we have been so used to them telling lies when they do ask a real question a serious question we don’t listen we can’t just just go forward hoping and praying it will be alright on the night any points that need to be attended to must be nailed now by us not left to others to pick away at , Then with days to go splash it over all the front pages of the MSM a problem with the YES case that we don’t need. Finally cheers to the two women who really floored darling darling with their cutting comments and on live TV they were more than excellent they were brilliant so clear and confident as well even the english would not require subtitles for that ha ha

  24. One of the most telling things which I heard in a Better Together public meeting was uttered by a Lib Dem MSP, Jim Hume, who assured his audience that Better Together controlled all of the Mainstream Media, so they couldn’t lose.

  25. It is not over.
    I am baffled by the huge number, and high proportion of postal votes. Postal votes are more vulnerable to fraud.
    The big guns are being wheeled out. Cameron will be introducing some big nay-sayers over the next couple of weeks.

    Maybe some big utilities will threaten to close down; Scottish Gas, Scottish Power, Royal Mail…

  26. I am baffled too by the high number of postal votes. A friend of mine, no mobility problems whatsoever and only 61, has a car, but has a postal vote. I know she is voting YES as I helped to answer some of her concerns.

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