In an extraordinary combination of events, the Indy debate has suddenly been thrown into sharp focus. First there was the Commonwealth Games, which showed the good will that can be generated by sharing. Never mind the events and performances, which were wonderful. Scotland and Glasgow have made firm friendships around the world. It really counts for something, it’s called soft power. You can’t buy it, you have to earn it. And a very generous contribution to UNICEF was a hard outcome.
Then there has been the markings of the beginnings of the Great War a century ago. Really it was the collapsing of Empires – Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and British. Nationalism was the new radical. Look where that got us – the worst outcome was the 1939 – 1945 war. Since then we have been building unions. The British Isles have been in a union for three centuries, more or less, depending on where you start counting, and on the whole it has worked well. Of course there have been problems. It’s an easy game just to focus on them.
But the enemy of decent civil society never changes. It is selfishness. Having worked through empires and nationalism in the last century, now what we need is partnerships and unions to deal with the old enemy in its present form: corporate greed. The Scot Nats are well out of date.
So we come to last night’s debate. I was pure delighted that Darling came out fighting. Contrary to my forecast – see the previous blog It’s getting closer – there were two killer moments for me. The first came when Salmond, invited to consider that he might be wrong in asserting that Scotland could keep the £sterling, could do no better than reply that he thought Darling was ‘wrong’ in his handling of bank oversight when he was UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. Somebody should tell Salmond that was then. There is no record of him or anyone from the SNP warning Darling at the relevant time that the banks were getting out of hand. Indeed, Salmond wrote to Fred the Shred congratulating him on his ‘success’ at RBS and urging him to produce more. Scotland would not be in safe hands if the best a putative leader can do is hold it against Darling that he was in office when the music stopped.
The second was when Salmond was trying to skewer Darling into saying YES or NO on whether Scotland could be a successful independent country. He was working up to re-visit the famous occasion when Jeremy Paxman repeatedly asked the Home Secretary Michael Howard a YES or NO question, only for Darling to retort that Salmond was more like Howard: ‘You can’t blame me for asking you questions that you can’t answer.’ And that’s not mentioning the period when Salmond was trying to hold against Darling a series of quotes from other people. ‘This is ridiculous’ said Darling. ‘I’m not here for bar-room banter.’
And that’s really the issue. Nothing has been negotiated, so there are very few hard propositions to be working with. To vote YES would be buying a pig in a poke. Who would negotiate the terms of separation with rUK? The people who vote YES might not like the pig that emerges from the poke. Would they get another vote in eighteen months to assert that this is what they voted for? There are no plans for that. The YES campaign loves to emphasise that the NO campaign’s sub-text is fear. We should be mightily afraid of the YES campaign.
And, of course, the news you are waiting for: yes, my book is coming on fine. I’m finalising drafts of my analysis of Trainspotting the book, then I need to firm up the section on Trainspotting the film, then that’s me. Just like that!