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Wings Over Scotland

Why we should thank Johann

Posted on October 05, 2012 by

The independence movement, for all the progress it’s made, has a core problem. Support for independence is strongest amongst the poor, and although it’s rarely acknowledged, the poor aren’t the majority any more. The home-owning middle class tend to feel that they’re better off than their parents were, and even if the (mortgaged) ownership of your home is a largely illusory form of wealth it’s the feeling that matters.

Because what that means is that people who are doing okay – and doubly so if that status is precarious – don’t want to risk voting for major change and upheaval. (Most of those who are doing very nicely, thanks, out of the status quo – the rich – are probably a lost cause.) So the big challenge for the YesScotland campaign in the next two years is to pick up a significant proportion of the “squeezed middle”.

And we can’t think of a better way to convince those who are getting by, but for whom the poverty line is a little too close on their heels for comfort, that independence represents the best future than to tell them that staying in the Union will mean they get hammered for hundreds or thousands of pounds extra a year in rising Council Tax, prescriptions, tuition fees for their kids and personal care for their elderly relatives.

A great many people are only just keeping their heads above water in this long, bleak recession. Johann Lamont just threw them an anvil. We’re the lifeboat. Let’s thank her, then fling out the ropes and do our best to pull them aboard to safety.

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10 to “Why we should thank Johann”

  1. Bill C

    Fair comment Rev,  I think that we need to highlight the fact that the good ship Britannia is holed below the waterline and the “squeeezed middle” is about to get crushed. Basically Britain is bankrupt! The realisation that Spain is also hitting an iceberg, seems to be the catalyst in Catalonia at the moment. I think events in Barcelona may prove to be influential in our struggle towards self determination. If Catalonia can do it, why not Scotland?

  2. BillyBigBaws

    Bill C, my worry is that if Catalonia takes the unilateral declaration of independence route, which it looks like it might, and the Spanish government reacts badly to that, perhaps even with violence, people here who are currently “on the fence” about our own independence might switch to a No vote out of fear.

    A declaration of independence immediately followed by tank manouveres on the streets, seen in non-stop broadcasts on the 24 hour news, is the last thing we need in the run-up to 2014.

    Maybe I’m being too pessimistic about Spain’s possible reaction though, if not outright alarmist.

    Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that the Catalan people should become independent if they choose (once again) to do so.

  3. Bill C

    Hi Billy, I think you make a fair point, I know some of the Spanish military have threatened to react to any declaration of UDI. However, I am not sure that any violence on the streets of Barcelona would have a negative effect on our quest for independence.  It could be that Scots might think that they were lucky that they only have to vote for independence not fight for it.  They might also admire the Catalonians for being prepared to declare UDI and that might have a positive effect on our own cause. A difficult one to call.

  4. ronald alexander mcdonald

    I think the concept of a middle class is fast disappearing. The perceived attributes of that largely illusionary state are job security, corporate advancement , nice private homes (that increase in value)  living in nice areas with good schools. Added to that rising disposable income to finance holidays and saving for retirement etc.

    I always thought that the SNP’s line (pre 2008) that the better off people were, the more confident they would become and would vote for Independence, was a hard, hard sell. Bearing in mind most people are reluctant to embrace change when things are going ok, with reasonable prospects.  

    The reality is that two thirds of the cuts (to 2014) imposed by Westminster have yet to be imposed. Hence the reason why unionists were demanding an early referendum. In my opinion we will have an ideal breading ground for a YES vote. Are the miidle class going to storm into the voting booths to support the status quo that is hammering them into a state of fear and depression?  

    Providing the SNP can convince people that Independence will enable Scottish Govts. to cut areas of expenditure that hardly effect the average guy in the street e.g. defence etc, and use funds to invest in the economy to create jobs , then we’re home and dry.

    Remainig in the union is too risksy!            


  5. Enoch Root

    Well I am one of those house owning middle class types that is generally sneered at, and I must confess some qualms about independence.
    For example, my mortgage is denominated in sterling, from an English bank, and benefits from low interest rates from the BoE. If Scotland becomes independent – the currency situation is thus a concern. It seems many scenarios are positied, from Scotland having its own currency, to adopting the euro, to staying with the GBP (but with even less input when it comes to setting interest rates).
    Many of these scenarios are worrying for me as a householder. If there’s a currency change, do I need to remortgage into the new currency? Will my salary start being paid in some lame currency while my mortgage remains denominated in a harder currency? Will I be subjected to greater risk and higher interest rates?
    These are major concerns and the usual SNP response is “dunno” or a bit of handwaving. I appreciate that the SNP often complain they can’t be expected to know everything about how an independent Scotland will look – but I as a voter am under no obligation to vote for a fiscally risky unknown either.

  6. Morag

    I was listening to this Robert Black guy on the radio this morning and I don’t get it.  Is he just another conviction unionist who has been trotted up to support the cause, or what?

    The Scottish government is operating a balanced budget.  It’s done a damn good job with it even as the block grant has been continually cut.  John Swinney says we can afford it.  I don’t see any reason not to trust HIM to tell us when we can’t afford it any more.

    It’s all a bit surreal.  Usually, it’s the government being the meanie, and the opposition demanding more benefits.  Now, the government are providing benefits, and the opposition is screaming, they’re bad, they shoudln’t be able to afford that!

    What planet are we on?

  7. Braco

    To Enoch. I think your worries have been answered not just by the SNP but by a little research and common sense. At the moment for political posturing reasons the UK government are positing a future rump UK policy that if enacted would cripple themselves. This was posted at Betternation some time ago but I have not read a better or shorter analysis of why Rump UK will be desperate post referendum yes vote to take the Scots government up on the current SNP policy of continuation of the pound all be it with some more formalised say in the Bank Of Englands policy governance.

    #15 by Alasdair Stirling on June 1, 2012 – 4:43 pm

    Reply Quote

    At the moment oil landed in the UK from the North Sea is worth circa £40 billion per annum (of which England, Wales and NI consume circa £36bn per annum). At the moment it is an internal market within the UK and any dollar requirement is offset by an equal and opposite contra trade back to sterling. After independence the trade in Scotland’s oil will be international and (unless Scotland uses sterling) there will be balancing contra trade and a rUK will have to find £36bn worth of dollars to purchase its oil from a non-sterling Scotland (or other foreign supplier). This sum is rougly equal to 1/3 of the current UK foreign exchange earnings.
    Of course, not only does this oil trade cause rUK a balance of payments deficit. It similtainiously generates a Scottish current account surplus. The reality is that a seperate Scottish currency (say pegged to the dollar or a basket of currencies) would be an economic disaster for the rUK economy and I rather suspect that (despite Unionist scoffing) the rUK Chancellor will agree to almost any Scottish demand to keep us within a sterling zone.

    Many thanks to Alasdair Stirling and I hope he does not mind me quoting him so directly. So with all this in mind I don’t think you should be worrying unduly about any changes in your mortgage set up. If anything you may find that you are repaying a ‘lame currency’ mortgage with a salary ‘denominated in a harder currency’ :@)

  8. Duncan

    Enoch Root

    One thing you can be assured of is that if Scotland votes to stay in the union that people such as you will be squeezed until the pips squeak.

    The UK is broke, and broken. if Scotland votes to remain tied to this broken UK the humiliation and spite that will be visited on us from Westminster will ensure we become even worse of than we are now. Do you really want to see your council taxes increase at the rate they did pre 2007?

    Scotland’s independence is much more to me than whether or not I will be a few quid better of or not it is about pride and self respect. That is what drives me to vote for the only party than can deliver that. I have my complaint’s against the SNP, there is not a political party in existence that will be perfect.

    The SNP are doing a much better job in government than any of the London parties have ever done, despite all the forces ranged against they they are still popular. Lamont and her ilk are being consumed by their bitterness and visceral hatred. her performance yesterday was not worthy of the playground as she pours out yet more hatred and envy with her personal attacks.

  9. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Well I am one of those house owning middle class types that is generally sneered at,”

    Not here they’re not. My parents bought their council house in the early days of RTB because at the knockdown price it was offered it would have been complete insanity not to. They’ve spent lots of money improving it (generating work for the construction industry) and they still live in it.

    (Huge numbers of people on the same estate did too, but in 30 years I couldn’t detect that there’s been any improvement or deterioration in the condition of the area as a whole. It looks much like it always did.)

    There’s nothing wrong with people buying their homes. What there’s a problem with is people being massively subsidised by the state to make vast profits out of pumping up rents and prices.

  10. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy)

    @Enoch Root

    In the event of independence, Scotland intends to use Sterling in a currency Union. As a result there would be no issue regarding variations in either pensions or Mortgages.

    If the rUK wishes to stop Scotland being in a currency Union then we would have our own currency and peg it to the pound. For the rUK this would be monumentally stupid as it would inevitably lead to a chroinc balance of payments deficit for the rUK, meanwhile Scotland with OIl, Whisky, food and energy exports (the UK’s largest exports at present) would have the opposite issue.

    As with a currency union, pegging would have the benefits of avoiding variation in Mortgages and Pensions in the short to medium term.

    This is a sensible option and given the current economic cycles of Scotland and the rUK are relatively aligned at present it would be mid to long term before any divergence was significant enough to warrant setting up a full independent currency.

    By such a time I would be surprised if you had not re-negotiated your mortgage with the Scottish Operating banks or paid it off (depending on how long you have had it for already).

    In truth, currency is one of the easiest questions to answer as we would be taking a risk to set up a free floating currency immediately and without a free floating currency you cannot join the ERM in order to be admitted to the Euro.

    In other words the Euro is not possible and a free floating scots currency is too risky to start with so that only leaves a) Currency Union b) Scots Currency Pegged to the Pound.

    I vote for b) as it has the bonus of a get out clause if things start to diverge in the future, but in saying that a) is the easiest option to begin with.

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