Friday, 2 December 2011

Thoughts from abroad

Cameron's off to Paris today and, coincidentally, so am I. He's trying to shore up Britain's influence on the Eurozone, I just want to spend my remaining summer holiday Euros while they remain acceptable currency.

All this existential worry about the Eurozone must start to be annoying for SNP campaign managers back home. It can't do for people to be distracted by an economic Armageddon and fret about whether they'll have a job or not when there's the serious task of nation building to be getting on with.

Implicit in the whole modern offer of independence was the notion that Scots need not worry about leaving the comfort blanket of their most beneficial monetary and economic union in 300 years, the UK. They would be replacing it with an even larger and more successful EU club. (Mmm, in many ways "Independence in Europe" could have been a more persuasive slogan than the selfishness of "Scotland's oil" which ran against the redistributive grain of many Scottish voters).

Well, given that the Eurozone is on the sliproad to the autobhan to hell (and us with it) the sell of separation from the UK is even harder to crack than that 28 per cent plateau, particularly if the leadership can't sound coherent on the currency or status of Scotland post-separation.

That means it's headscratching time at SNP central sloganising department. Indy in EU, nah, forget it; Arc of prosperity, uh uh; Risk it all on Yes in 2015, em, think again.

When the recessionary riptide is running the other way its hard to come up with ideas that broaden the economic appeal of independence. And on that score the SNP looks weak.

Unfortunately, apart from the welcome adoption of an idea for of a Minister for Youth unemployment, there's not much evidence of the Holyrood government doing much to stem the economic tide or move Scotland forward this week, or any other.

Despite a stonking majority in parliament, a mandate for anything, Salmond appears to be set on a course to becalm Scotland in the run up to the whenever'endum.

The message coming from political masters senior policy makers is that nothing will really be done to rock the Scottish boat in the next few years. Big issues like structural changes to the NHS, which may be electorally unpalatable but acknowledged as necessary, will be avoided. Reform of the education system, don't go there.
Criminal Justice, anything so long as it strikes a fine balance between dogwhistling reactionary retribution (core Labour vote) with liberal echo (soak up remaining Lib Dems).

Environmental policy, the SNP's biggest calumny, veers from "drill baby drill" in the wild Atlantic to somehow magicking windmills on and offshore with a continuing subsidy from the UK consumers even after independence! Check out the latest report from Citgroup for an even more devastating critique of why the Salmond's renewable vision will end up by 2020 in energy dependence on imports and a tacit acceptance of extended Scottish nuclear power generation.

It's unfortunate that in the five lost years of constitutional wrangling the government has decided to substitute hard policy with broad populism. That's deliberate, of course, in order not to upset any sectoral group on the road to i-day, the name campaign managers had been saving up for the Independence app.

But Alex Salmond's focus on a downloadable Gettysburg address actually gets in the way of a real world agenda for Scotland. Instead of mapping out a future he is being accused of putting Scotland's future on hold for another five years.

In a vacuum of political figureheads Scotland likes Salmond and my guess, and that of the polls, is that people would let him lead anywhere, except across the line to separation.

There's a growing tide of opinion calling on Alex Salmond to get on with a referendum to end political and economic uncertainty.
He calls the shots on that but why doesn't he use his considerable personality and political majority meantime to just get on with governing?

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