As we launch our exciting 12-part beginner’s guide to debunking the No campaign’s scaremongering strategy with a piece on the currency issue, a document sent in this morning by an alert reader couldn’t have come at a more timely moment.
It’s a letter written five weeks ago by Bill Munro, the elderly owner of holiday firm Barrhead Travel, which calls itself “the UK’s Number 1 Online Travel Agent”.
As you can see, it outlines a quite extraordinary apocalyptic scenario in the event of a Yes vote (“we would not be able to trade outwith Scotland for at least 3 years”), as part of a thinly-veiled diatribe aimed at frightening the company’s almost 500 employees into a No vote on pain of losing their jobs.
And even leaving aside the fact that it’s barking mad, the letter illustrates one of the greatest obstacles in the way of the Yes campaign – for all that people clamour and plead for “more information” about independence, information is only any good if people actually listen to it.
Because one of the oddest aspects of Mr Munro’s letter is that it mainly concerns a report that was already out of date in the most dramatic and important manner weeks before he wrote it. In the second-from-last paragraph on page 1 of the letter, he quotes “leading international banking expert Robert Lyddon” as saying this:
“Scotland would need to accept a 5/63rd share of the UK national debt as the price of being released from its current position of joint and several liability for all £1,185bn of it.”
Which would be all well and good and a compelling debating point, if the letter wasn’t dated 24th February and this hadn’t happened on January 12th:
Six full weeks before the publication of Mr Lyddon’s report (on February 21), the UK government had announced, to an avalanche of media coverage, that in the event of Scottish independence the rUK would take sole responsibility for 100% of the current UK’s debt. Scotland’s “joint and several liability” was a fantasy.
Yet somehow this pertinent fact escaped the attention of both Mr Lyddon and Mr Munro. Or, since we must in practice assume that neither are complete imbeciles who never read a newspaper or turn on the TV, they merely chose to overlook it.
(“The Lyddon Report”, so far as we can see – though we haven’t yet waded through all of its 85 pages of wild, frequently factually-inaccurate anti-SNP ranting – makes no reference whatsover to the announcement, even to dismiss it.)
It’s doubly curious as Mr Munro hasn’t always been such a fan of the UK, as he revealed in an interview with the Scotsman in February 2011, when Labour was still expected to win the Scottish Parliament election and Conservative-supporting Mr Munro had no cause to fear an independence referendum:
“However, Munro says there is a divide along the latitude that runs through Newcastle, with travel operators to the north of that line currently getting an average of 100 less per person for each holiday they sell.
But the underlying point will still be one that causes Yes Scotland serious concern. When presented with information, from their own side of the debate, which completely blew apart their reasoning, neither Bill Munro nor Robert Lyddon actually re-evaluated their position. Instead, they pretended that that information simply didn’t exist, and set out to scare and bully 500 people into voting No on the basis of complete falsehood.
For the good not just of the employees of Barrhead Travel but of everyone in Scotland, the Yes campaign must hope that the rest of the population doesn’t approach the biggest decision in Scottish history with similarly closed and blinkered minds.