The realisation that the No camp’s reaction to the independence White Paper has been based on a massive, scarcely-believable misunderstanding/misrepresentation of reality has thrown a new light on all sorts of things from the past week.
The most recent “BLACK HOLE!” story is a case in point.
We shouldn’t, obviously, be surprised that Torcuil Crichton was keen to take Alistair Darling’s words at face value for Thursday’s edition of the Daily Record. It’d be a bit of a stretch to expect the ultra-loyal Labour hack to apply any sort of journalistic scrutiny to the Labour ex-Chancellor’s wildly overblown claims, but all the same the piece is eye-catching in the light of the revelations.
“A £9 BILLION black hole at the heart of Alex Salmond’s ‘independence bible’ yesterday blew apart his economic case for a Yes vote.
Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling tore apart the sums underlying the 670-page document within 24 hours of it being published.
The leader of the Better Together campaign said: ‘I’m always careful about what language I use because I think it’s important we conduct this debate in a civilised manner.
“But I am very, very angry they’re using figures that don’t stand 10 minutes’ examination. I think the Scottish Government are misleading people.'”
Alert readers will have noticed the absence from the first paragraph of any qualifiers like “It was claimed that…” or similar. Crichton just states as a bald fact that the White Paper has been “blown apart” before handing the bullhorn to Darling.
It’s also hardly a shocker that Darling is “very, very angry”. He’s ALWAYS angry. But we suspect he’s going to be a lot angrier when he realises what he’s been saying.
“Darling’s analysis all adds up to a black hole of £9 billion in the first year of independence.
He blasted the SNP’s figures as ‘back of the envelope, kitchen table stuff’.
He added: ‘It doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny. There is not enough detail for a manifesto that would last five years, never mind something that would shape the destiny of our country for 300 years.'”
Because the figures in the White Paper are relatively optimistic projections, for sure. But they’re an optimistic assessment of where Scotland will stand inside the UK by 2016/17. As we’ve noted in the previous articles, they forecast the situation Scotland will inherit from the UK on day one of independence, not where it’ll go afterwards with full control of its own revenues, taxation and spending choices.
The fact of the matter is that the figures in the White Paper play down the giant mess the UK has made of Scotland’s finances (when one might expect the SNP to do the opposite). Darling rages, eyes bulging, that the UK’s stewardship of the Scottish economy has in fact been much worse than that.
The black hole Alistair Darling so furiously foresaw on Thursday is the one we’ll face in 2016/17 if we vote No next year. He’s entitled to point it out, of course (and even to add an extra couple of billion plucked out of the air to account for things he says would happen under independence – although the reality of a No vote will probably still be worse, because we’ll lose the Barnett Formula).
What we don’t understand is why he thinks it’s an argument for staying in the UK.
Next time he might want to pay a little more attention before unleashing his temper.