Alistair’s My Darling

I was sitting in Nardini’s Café on Byres Road having an Americano and a pastry when I laughed out loud and turned heads. I was browsing on the iphone and read this on the BBC website.

Mr Darling added: “I’m always careful about what language I use because I think it’s important that we conduct this debate in a civilised manner and I do not use inflammatory language.”

Oh Alistair, how pride makes a fool of a man. Was it your self-denying ordinance on inflammatory language that led to this remark in Haddington at the John P Mackintosh lecture?  “With independence Scotland’s budget would have to be approved beyond the border.  That’s not freedom.  That’s not independence.  That’s serfdom. Serfdom! Scots in bearskins hewing at the unyielding soil to provide a meagre harvest for the tithe-owning master?  That’s not just inflammatory, it’s pantomime ludicrous, downright stupid for a man always careful with his language.

Or how about  this: “Your friends in Wales, your family in England and your workmates from Northern Ireland will, effectively and overnight, become foreigners”

A quasi-racist contrivance that defies all human logic. People, as opposed to emotionally-neutered politicians, decide who they regard as foreign and it makes no difference what the technical legalities say. Any person who can regard their own children as foreign needs counselling. This canard displays the Union at its vicious worse. Instead of the benign presence it likes to portray, it reveals instead a casual rejection of the entire concept of a family of nations as soon as one member decides to change the rules. (Also, why does the legislation approving the departure of Ireland from the UK specifically declare the Irish to be “not foreign”?)

Or on the careful use of language, this: “British music will no longer be our music.  British art, dance and drama will no longer be ours. British sporting success will be someone else’s to celebrate. 

Time for your tablets, Alistair. The idea that you and your political pals dictate what we listen to or enjoy or how we define it is the worst kind of nasty nationalism. Perhaps we should equally reject you too on the same basis – that you presumably will deem yourself British rather than Scottish.

I liked this from the same speech: “It is incumbent on both sides to present the people of Scotland with cold hard facts alongside the powerful cultural and emotional ties that bind. This cannot be about opinion or assertion.  Only the facts will do.”

At last, the civilized debate. Therefore will you now ask Cameron to request from Brussels the “facts” on Scotland’s EU membership so we can make our mind in a civilized manner? Will you ask Osborne to rule out absolutely before voting day a currency arrangement? (Better tell the bank governor too before he opens talks with Salmond). Today the UK parliament passed the legislation for an In/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership. I wonder if that’s causing Alistair any confusion over our future position?

Then we come to this: “Scotland’s banks were on the brink of collapse.  A calamity made in Edinburgh, not in London. The cost to the UK of supporting the banks during the financial crisis has been about 21% of our GDP.  The comparative figure for Scotland would have been 211% of GDP.”

Our old friend the Great British Bank Bail-out showing how only Mighty Blighty could save the day. Note how Alistair – in a civilized manner of course – blithely washes his hands of all responsibility. He wasn’t Chancellor. He didn’t along with Brown devise the soft-touch tripartite regulatory system that failed catastrophically by encouraging dangerous lending, massive profits and bonuses, didn’t scrutinize the RBS takeover of ABM and didn’t fail to act quickly enough. But here’s what the National Audit Office says about the bail-out. “Actual money is the smallest part, £123.93 billion provided in the form of loans or share purchases which required a transfer of cash from the government to the banks.” So this wasn’t a giveaway, it was buying the shares from which in due course the taxpayer should get a return and it was also in loans now being repaid. And that was the amount covering all the relevant banks not just the Scottish ones. The rest of the money – over £300billion was a guarantee, never actually paid out, so that if the banks get into trouble again – any bets? – they will have a second guarantee of bail-out. For this insurance policy the government charges the banks money, £16billion so far since 2008. The suggestion that vast sums were paid out to the banks is flatly wrong. They were underwritten with notional money for which they pay a big premium, and the actual money used bought their shares or was given as repayable loans. And the money from the government was borrowed on the markets at historically low rates of interest. Add in the hard fact that Scottish banks would only be responsible for about 10 per cent of  rescue as that reflects the amount of business done here, and it’s hard to rationalize Alistair’s scary picture as careful use of language.

Remember too that when Brown turned against him Alistair didn’t stick to the civilized front he is claiming today. “The forces of hell were unleashed”, he said.  Oh aye, that’ll be more of that non-inflammatory language, Alistair.

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