by Rab Bruce’s Spider

So the Scottish Government have published their long-awaited paper on the economic case for Scotland becoming a normal country. I’ve waded my way through it and managed to stay more or less awake most of the time. There were, though, only a couple of points which really interested me.

In terms of background, the paper contained some interesting facts on comparisons with other EU nations, and plenty about the damage being part of Brexit UK is causing, but we all know that Unionists are impervious to facts, so I doubt this paper will cause many of them to change their minds.

I was pleased to see a commitment to rejoining the EU, but this was countered by an insistence on retaining the use of sterling for an unspecified time before switching to our own currency. These two things are mutually incompatible as the EU requires member states to have their own currency, yet this was not mentioned at all as far as I could see. I’m still not clear on how the Scottish Government intends to reconcile these two diametrically opposed plans, but I’ll return to that in a moment.

Some people, notably the estimable Richard J Murphy, have condemned this paper in the strongest terms. I find it hard to argue with someone with Mr Murphy’s expertise and knowledge, but I’m not sure I would go quite as far as he has in his comments. One thing I do agree with him about is that the audience for this paper is probably not the ordinary Scot. Indeed, how many people will read through a 110 page document? No, this paper is designed to reassure the money markets and present Scotland as a sensible member of the global economy. After all, if the Liz Truss misgovernment has shown us anything, it is that the markets need to be satisfied that you know what you are doing.

One thing many Yessers are upset about is the commitment to accept part of the UK’s national debt from the outset. This is not a legal or internationally recognised route to follow, but I think Nicola Sturgeon is trying to present herself as being reasonable when it comes to negotiations with Westminster. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad idea. If she began negotiations with all guns blazing, refusing to budge on this issue, she might not be able to wring other concessions from the sociopaths who run the UK. And if she insisted Scotland would not contribute towards the UK debt but then had to concede it in order to gain some other important point, she would be open to even harsher criticism. So, whether Scotland will actually end up taking on this unnecessary burden remains to be seen. I hope we don’t, but I’m prepared to accept the need to put on a show of willingness at this stage.

Of course, we need to win IndyRef2 before any of this can be put into practice. I’m not convinced that this paper helps in any way, but not producing it would only have handed ammunition to the Unionist media, so it was a necessary publication even though it does contain some things which disturb a lot of Yessers. Producing the paper was more of a political manoeuvre than a genuine attempt to convince anyone of the merits of becoming a normal country.

Of course, the Unionist media have pounced upon certain aspects of the paper. They are gleefully reporting that goods traveling between Scotland and England would be subject to Customs checks. What none of them are too keen to highlight is that this would be solely because England voted to leave the EU and is determined to abandon equivalence in standards so that it can import food produced to lower quality levels in order to … well, I’m not quite sure what they are aiming for, but the effect will be to totally undermine the UK farming sector. That’s another reason Scotland needs to go its own way. But, as for those border checks, it is England’s doing. They want checks with every EU nation. Scotland, as part of the EU, will have open borders with 27 other EU nations, and we are surely capable of re-aligning our trade to take advantage of this. Ireland has done it, so why can’t Scotland? You won’t find a Unionist journo telling you that.

The other thing the media have leaped on is the commitment (albeit a rather half-hearted one) to adopt a new currency. I think this may be why the paper makes such great play of only adopting a new currency when the time is right. We all know that far too many people in Scotland have been conditioned to fear change, so insisting on a new currency straight away, while the obvious and sensible thing to do, is likely to terrify those people who would rather stick with a sinking ship than risk swimming towards a lifeboat. This is why some media outlets are loudly proclaiming the intention to adopt a Scottish Pound without headlining all the caveats the Scottish Government has placed on this move.

Personally, I remain concerned at the SNP’s apparent willingness to remain shackled to sterling, but I remain hopeful that reality will force their hand on this when the EU insists on us having our own currency before we can re-join. That’s when the frightened voters will come to realise the necessity of ditching a failing sterling.

As for the rest of the document, I really didn’t take too much from it. It was, I’m afraid, an exercise in PR. Of course, that is what much of politics is about, so I can understand why it took this format. And it might yet prove to be a minor blessing that the publication was largely overshadowed by the continuing farce of Westminster politics. Then again, the timing might prove to be beneficial in another way. Those international money markets might look at the Tory mess that is the UK, then compare it to the rather bland and less than radical proposals from the Scottish Government and decide that they know who is more worthy of backing.

In essence, then, I am neither inspired nor dismayed by this paper. I am mildly disappointed in the currency angle, but sooner or later, even the SNP are going to face the fact that their currency plan is going to need to be revised. By that time, I sincerely hope we have voted to become a normal, self-governing country.