It’s a good joke, it swept through Twitter like wildfire and I chortled along, but I nonetheless felt embarrassed and a little bit ashamed of the oddly hollow booing and hissing from the stands at the Olympics (though George surely should have seen what was a coming a mile off). A little bit more ‘succeed together, fail together’ might go a long way in the UK right now and irrespective of what policies our Chancellor (for whatever party colours he wears he is still “our” Chancellor) takes, a little bit of respect for the office wouldn’t be out of place. Ed Miliband’s ‘predistribution’ says more than a chorus of boos, and I still don’t know what that word means.
So it was with a similarly sunken heart that I read the numerous catcalls surrounding George Osborne’s visit to Scotland and speech to CBI Scotland, very few of which tackled head on the points that the Chancellor chose to make on his trip North. The New Statesman has a faintly fawning rundown of these points in a fine article today including:
What Osborne did point out (and rightly so) is that if the SNP wants a monetary union with the rest of the UK (Salmond having abandoned his promise to take Scotland into the euro) it becomes much harder for it to argue for fiscal and political independence. The existence of monetary union without complementary fiscal union being the principal cause of the eurozone imbroglio.
Let’s be clear, rUK is not Germany and Scotland is not Greece. However, the SNP’s seemingly standard response to these regular points of crass ‘we’ll take no lessons…’ Tory-bashing is shabbily insufficient. A nation confident in itself does not rebuke others when challenged on their economic arrangements.
This is all unfortunate, as a cool-headed explanation of how things would work under independence should be straightforward. Monetary union without fiscal union across the UK is not necessarily a bad thing, despite many unionists seemingly believing they only have to mention the delinkage to win the argument. We are, after all, currently living the SNP’s future vision.
The Scottish economy’s fortunes are currently noticeably clearly intertwined with the rUK economy’s, making a mockery of the back-and-forth breast-beating between Governments over which is doing marginally better than the other (although, oddly, it is Scottish Labour that tends to do the coalition’s breast-beating for them).
You can think of this issue another way. Basically, if Scotland’s economy is expected to diverge so markedly from the rest of the United Kingdom’s, as Osborne and many other unionists seem to fear is going to happen, then surely separation is the only answer.
Of course, the reality is that Scotland and rUK’s economies are at low risk of being incompatible in the near, medium or even long term future. After all, what is Alex Salmond proposing – a low tax, fiscally conservative, light touch economy. It won’t be music to many Nats’ ears, but you’d struggle to fit too many Rizla papers between Osborne’s vision for the UK and the SNP’s apparent vision for Scotland.
So, the lesson for proponents of independence who think this fiscal/monetary union debate is a non-issue is this: you can’t boo Osborne and seek to run an economy seamlessly alongside his without looking like a little bit of an idiot.