Good grief. We take our eyes off the ball for a couple of hours to watch a creepy movie (warning: spoilers) on a quiet Tuesday night and everything goes bananas. We’re hearing some stunned reactions to some programme the BBC put out, but we’ll have to wait to catch up on that one – the big story, for some reason coming out in the middle of the night, is that all the UK parties are going to finally definitively rule out a currency union between the rUK and an independent Scotland.
We’ll believe that one when it actually happens, readers. Because if they do, we can only assume that they’ve all got some sort of referendum death wish. Either that, or our side’s got a secret assassin in the heart of the No campaign.
So far as we can see, such a move would be little short of total insanity.
– It’ll be massively unpopular with business on both sides of the border, and risks all sorts of havoc and damage to the UK economy just as it starts to recover.
– Scottish voters are likely to regard it as arrogant bullying.
– It gives the Yes side seven months to get the public used to a Plan B, of which there are several viable possibilities that aren’t very scary. (The most probable seems a Scottish pound pegged to Sterling.)
– It gets the Scottish Government off a rather awkward hook of uncertainty, and also frees the Yes camp from some troublesome internal conflicts around the issue that “Better Together” has enjoyed exploiting.
– It gives the Scottish Government precious little reason to accept any share of rUK debt, leaving an independent Scotland starting with a clean slate rather than up to £150bn of debt.
At Scotland’s current deficit (most of which is actually UK debt repayments), it’d take us about 100 years to rack up that sort of sum – even factoring in higher borrowing costs, being able to walk away from that is still a very visible jackpot.
– It leaves the UK government pretty short of bargaining chips in independence negotiations. What exactly do they have left to threaten Scotland with? Sterling was the one thing Scotland really wanted from the deal. Any hopes the UK government had of keeping Trident in place for a few years, for example, are surely now shot to pieces.
We can’t see such a step doing anything other than backfiring catastrophically. We’d had a nagging fear for some time now that Westminster might hold an announcement back until the eve of the referendum if the polls were close, using it to swing public opinion at the last minute while minimising any damage from businesses panicking about it. But doing it now is just madness.
As such, then, we still don’t believe it. We can’t see anything more than another load of vague, perhaps more strongly-worded but still ultimately meaningless, waffle about “it’s unlikely”. (Even if they do come out and say it, we suspect it’d turn out to be a bluff when push came to shove.) But we rather hope we’re wrong.