The Swiss cheese blueprint for Scotland

On the fundamentals Alex Salmond's blueprint for independence resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with holes running through it.

At over 600 pages, the publication today of the Scottish government’s blueprint for independence could prove to be one of the biggest abuses of taxpayer-funded civil servant time ever seen.

What Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon have produced is, as Better Together argued, tantamount to a wish list.

Whilst the document might be promising the earth, the reality is that on the fundamentals it resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with holes running throughout.

Take for example currency union. The document declares in no uncertain terms:

“An independent Scotland will be able to decide our currency and the arrangements for monetary policy.”

It asserts also that “Scotland will continue to use the pound”. The only snag is that it wouldn’t be for an independent Scotland to dictate to the rest of the UK whether it could adopt the pound.

Wales’ first minister Carwyn Jones has already made clear that he is “not convinced” that a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could work.

“I would be uncomfortable being part of a currency union where there are competing governments trying to run it. If there is a disagreement, who has the final say? This is a recipe for instability and these things matter, particularly in times of crisis,” he said.

Likewise both the current UK government and the shadow chancellor Ed Balls have concluded that a currency union would be highly unlikely. The SNP cannot, in all honesty, be certain of anything when it comes to the currency and independent Scotland would use.

On the crucial issue of nuclear weapons, the document again reiterates that an SNP government would, under independence, seek to banish such weapons from Scotland altogether whilst remaining in NATO.

Such a position remains dubious to say the least. Take the former NATO secretary general Lord Robertson, someone with probably more understanding of the subject than Alex Salmond, who earlier this year wrote:

“The Nato Strategic Concept states, ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance’. I have expressed my doubts about whether Scotland could eject nuclear weapons one day and expect to be welcomed into a nuclear alliance the next.”

These might just be two issues from a lengthy document, but they remain two of the most crucial issues of all. The currency a nation uses and defence systems it adopts are the very highest of priorities for sovereign nations, yet today’s paper cannot be certain of anything on these matters.

As the columnist Peter Jones so clearly writes in today’s Scotsman:

“We know broadly what Mr Salmond expects independence will deliver, which will have an impact internationally – Scottish membership of the European Union, non-nuclear independent membership of Nato, and Scottish sharing of the pound inside a UK sterling zone.

“We also know a bit about what the UK government’s attitude to these expectations is. What we don’t know is how other countries, who have levers in this debate, regard it. We might expect that France, for example, which has an equivocal relationship with Britain, or les Anglo-Saxons, might cheerfully help push through Scottish EU membership. But what if it regards the upheaval of having to remove Trident submarines from Scotland as an unacceptable dilution of European, and hence French, security?”

“On the other side of the debate, Germany has an acute interest in European financial stability. What if it decides that a shared sterling zone is the best guarantee of British financial stability and uses its clout in the EU, say by agreeing certain EU powers should be repatriated to assist David Cameron’s EU referendum, to achieve that?”

He continues:

“…the point remains – little of what Mr Salmond publishes today can be guaranteed as he might end up, thanks to truculent voters in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, negotiating with an extremely hostile UK government.”

20 Responses to “The Swiss cheese blueprint for Scotland”

  1. tadramgo

    What a horrible piece of writing.

    So Scotland cannot possibly deliver in negotiations because the people and politicians of the rest of the UK are arseholes?

    Questions on NATO, Europe, and Currency could all be answered if the UK Government chose to – but they are keeping the ‘uncertainty’ there because it is useful to bash the Scottish Government.

  2. The Knome

    Yawn, another lame SNP post from a right wing page posing as left wing.

  3. AdamRamsay

    “The only snag is that it wouldn’t be for an independent Scotland to
    dictate to the rest of the UK whether it could adopt the pound.”

    the pound is a) a free floating currency, which in theory anyone could adopt and b) as much Scotland’s currency as England, Wales and Northern Irelands (and Gibraltar’s, the Isle of Man’s, etc).

    I think Scotland should have its own currency, not the pound, but this is flimsy.

    FYI.

  4. r3b3cc4

    “On the crucial issue of nuclear weapons, the document again reiterates that an SNP government would, under independence, seek to banish such weapons from Scotland altogether whilst remaining in NATO.

    Such a position remains dubious to say the least. Take the former NATO secretary general Lord Robertson, someone with probably more understanding of the subject than Alex Salmond, who earlier this year wrote:

    “The Nato Strategic Concept states, ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance’. I have expressed my doubts about whether Scotland could eject nuclear weapons one day and expect to be welcomed into a nuclear alliance the next.”

    I don’t really understand this, we only have British nuclear submarines in Scotland we would literally need to buy some of our own nuclear weapons first…. and also plenty of countries who don’t have nuclear weapons are members of NATO Denmark, Canada, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Poland etc.

    references
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_NATO

  5. Michael Simpson

    Are the staying together people going to start talking about why we should stay together rather than this barrage of negative scare mongering? I’m up for Scotland sticking around because I genuinely do share a sense of togetherness with folk up there. Can’t we talk about what this means instead?

  6. Jake Church

    2 hours since released and good old left foot forward has all 670 analysed already and no guessing what the outcome was, typical English based nonsense, MON SCOTLAND CANNAE WAIT TO GET AWAY FROM THIS SOAR ALBA GU BRATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. uglyfatbloke

    trident is a red herring for both sides. The US won’t use a nuke and it sure as hell won’t let the UK use one either since we cannot use one of these (leased) weapons without the consent of the President.
    The EU is a bit of a blind spot for both sides as well. Scoltand is already in the EU, but that does n’t mean that the other members would n’t move to get her out. The ones with N.Sea fishing interests would doubtless be in favour, but it would be tricky for Belgium which has it’s own separation/disunion issues – likewise Spain/Catalonia and France/Corsica. OTH, the EU would have to invent a mechanism for excluding Scotland, which would require unanimous agreement among the member states.

  8. AdamRamsay

    also, under the NPT, surely it would be illegal for a new country to have nuclear weapons?

  9. Stephen Wigmore

    No. The pound is Great Britain’s currency, which Scotland would be opting out of. If Scotland leaves it still belongs to Great Britain, and Great Britain would owe Scotland nothing, certainly not use of our currency or our central bank.

    Personally I’m all for letting an Independent Scotland use our currency, for an appropriate fee. Perhaps £10 billion a year. Same for all the rest of Britain’s institutions that Salmond is planning to hang onto. It would be a great way to cut the deficit.

  10. Stephen Wigmore

    No, Salmond can’t just have whatever he wants. That’s why it’s called a negotiation. As long as Scotland is in the UK we support each other, that’s what fellow countrymen do. If Scotland leaves Britain owes Scotland nothing and should frankly squeeze it for every possible penny.

    Do you want separation or not? You don’t get separation but still to keep whatever nice bits of the UK you want. When you’re out you’re out.

  11. tadramgo

    Firstly – its not about Salmond – Nicola Sturgeon pointed out today that after independence they’d draw from all the parties for negotiations with rUK.

    Secondly – you assume Scotland is ‘leaving’ the UK. This is not clear – did Slovakia ‘leave’ the Czech Republic? No – there were two successor states.

    Thirdly – I am not assuming that Scotland can have “whatever it wants”. I am assuming there is negotiation. What I find ridiculos is the idea that there would be “truculent voters in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland [and] an extremely hostile UK government”. I expect that when independence is achieved that both the Scottish Government and UK government will negotiate for the best deal, in good faith, as set out in the Edinburgh Agreement.

    All this talk of Scotland becoming “foreigners” is a bit weird anyway – it says more about Westminster politics that “foreigner” is the worst insult that can be imagined. This isn’t the C19th, we have modern international settlements – and the international community would look pretty askance at a rUK which demanded Scotland take its share of liabilities, but witheld assets like GBP, embassies etc and prevented Scotland from entering the EU or NATO.

  12. tadramgo

    Option 1. Scotland is a successor state – in which case it takes on its share of liabilities (national debt) and recieves its share of assets (GBP, embassies etc).

    Option 2. Scotland is leaving the UK – in which case it receives no assets beyond those which are geographic / legally retrievable. But it also leaves debt-free.

  13. tadramgo

    British Nationalism – the blindspot of the UK ‘left’.

  14. Stephen Wigmore

    The pound isn’t an ‘asset’, it’s the UK currency. You leave the UK you leave the currency. It’s that simple. Unless the UK chooses to allow you to use it. Presumably in return for some hefty fee, or other concession.

    You’re also making the mistake of assuming that a separate Scotland could dictate terms, either option 1 or 2. No, it will take what it can get in the negotiations. It won’t get to dictate to the much larger Britain.

  15. Stephen Wigmore

    Scotland is 10% of the UK, not half, if it leaves then the UK carries on more or less as before,and nobody around the world will say otherwise. When southern Ireland left the UK nobody was confused about whether the UK still existed.

    Nobody on this page used the word foreigner? What are you talking about?

    The international community isn’t going to care what happens. The US isn’t going to ride in and insist the UK allow an independent Scotland to use its currency. This is just more nationalist delusion.

  16. tadramgo

    I don’t think you understand how currencies work (they are issued and managed by institutions called ‘central banks’ – the Bank of England has been owned by the UK since 1946 – the BoE is an asset of the UK).

    You also make a mistake over what a ‘Reserve currency’ like GBP is – you cannot stop anyone using it as a means of exchange, otherwise it loses general convertability.

    You have also chosen option 2 as I set out – i.e. Scotland leaves without any debt.

    This is a bad option for many reasons – it leaves the rUK disproportionately debt-heavy. It means that the GBP is no longer bolstered by the geographic assets of Scotland (particularly oil and gas). Generally, the international community would freak out at the rUK’s petulance.

  17. Selohesra

    If the Scots vote No – will the SNP accept that and move on or just start capaigning for another referendum EU style until they get the right result?

  18. Stephen Wigmore

    Carry on dreaming. It’s not an encouraging sign when all Scottish independence supporters are basing it on plain ignoring reality.

    Luckily all opinion polls show No campaign ahead. I’m going to enjoy every yes supporter crying into their tea in 9 months time. It’s going to be like Yes2AV all over again.

  19. Richard Lewis

    Why do so many fake internationalists like you resist the movement towards more self rule for communities like Scotland and continue to worship whitehall and westminster like some Incan sacred gods….dragging us islanders further into the mire

    Im a northamptonshire born lad btw…and dont get me wrong Salmond is a corporate lover like the other UK nuts…but real independence starts with strong localism….not elitist teary eyed empire nostalgia of a 1700s banking plc

  20. Chrisso

    Just more of the same old
    same old from poor Ed J. Roll out the ‘Swiss Cheese’ approach, haha that will
    raise a grin. Ed’s article is so full of its own holes, did he get paid for it
    or was it a freebie? What does he find contentious? – a sterling currency union
    and Scotland dispensing with British nuclear weapons. Is that it?

    Regarding
    the former there is simply no doubt that as Scotland and rump-UK are prime
    trading partners neither will want to complicate matters post-YES by having a
    currency exchange between them. For example, in
    1993 Czechoslovakia peacefully
    dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech
    Republic and the Slovak
    Republic. The Czech Koruna is the currency of Czech Republic
    which has still not adopted the euro and most of its population oppose joining
    the eurozone. For a brief time in
    1993 the Czechoslovakian koruna continued to be the currency in the separate Czech and Slovak republics.
    Later it was replaced by the Czech
    koruna and the Slovak
    koruna, both at par. Slovakia joined the eurozone in 2009. So for 16 years the koruna was retained in both independent
    countries. Similarly the British Pound could be retained by a rump-UK and an
    independent Scotland: they could be deemed the ‘Scottish Pound’ and the ‘British
    Pound’. Two replacement banks of rump-UK and Scotland would be needed – both
    having derived from the UK joint-owned ‘Bank of England’ – and would need to
    work together, agreeing currency parity initially, just like other dissolving nation
    unions.

    Scotland dispensing with nuclear weapons? There is no issue as almost all Nato’s members lack nuclear
    capability. If rump-UK chooses to retain them and base them in England that’s a
    matter for England not Nato.

    Really Ed. As usual you say so little of consequence. Pity you don’t focus on the impact on rump-UK of Scotland’s departure and its ability to set its own social democratic agenda. That will have major effects on the rump-UK psyche – many here will wonder why we are being left behind by the more progressive Scots.

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