The SNP has come a long way since it was roundly defeated in its 2003 ‘Penny for Scotland’ campaign. Then leader of the party and present Finance Secretary (and future Scottish Chancellor?) John Swinney dared to suggest that Scotland could have better public services and a more social democratic society if the income tax band was raised by 1p. Despite Labour losing 6 seats, the SNP lost 8. The Scottish public decided that their change was better off in their pockets than used to finance improvement.
Fast forward eleven years through a comeback for Salmond in 2004, a minority administration from 2007 and then a remarkable majority victory in 2011, and the SNP has dispensed with the pennies and is gunning instead for the pound.
After numerous false dawns, this is the week where the independence debate truly came alive. George Osborne’s sermon on the mound was politically striking but ultimately vacuous. That his argument boils down to ‘look at Europe and Greece’ and involves a need to fiddle the figures is not good enough for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. George is widely regarded to be the most rampantly political of individuals within Cameron’s Cabinet and that naked politicking was horribly on show last week.
It remains to be seen whether his warnings around the pound will scare Scots into submission or anger them into the Yes camp. I am personally torn as to whether the public is more likely to bow to a supposedly superior knowledge or balk at the sight of a Tory telling Scotland what it can and can’t do. I await with baited breath the next political poll on the matter, although it is interesting to note that the only such poll taken in the immediate aftermath of Osborne’s speech found that 64% of Scots back the use of Sterling after independence with only 22% against. Not bad figures for the Yes camp. Not that the 64% will all be Yes voters, of course.
There is, needless to say, a Plan B. And dare I say a Plan C and a Plan D. Using Sterling behind rUK’s back is one option, as is a Scottish currency pegged to the £ and I personally wouldn’t balk at jumping into the Eurozone, though I accept I’m in a diminishing minority on that particular Ode to Joy.
A Scottish mint could be a breath of fresh air for the Scottish economy, a domestic currency that could flex alongside local Scottish markets to boost exports or imports as necessary would be the envy of many a European nation currently locked into the Euro, and it has demonstrably succeeded in Scandinavia and Switzerland where currencies are the strongest in the world. If that comes with the £100bn bonus of not having any debt due to the truculence of Osborne, Balls and Alexander then so much the better.
The SNP is, understandably, once bitten and twice shy though. If Scots wouldn’t vote for a Penny for Scotland in 2003, why would they vote for a Scottish Pound in 2014. Softly, softly. Easy does it.
At the end of the day, the vote in September is whether we back ourselves enough to decide these issues for ourselves, whatever the challenges present and future may be, and whether we feel confident enough to stare down the Osbornes and Barrosos of this world who see it as their role to metaphorically kick us back into line. rUK businesses would surely not want to have to mess with another currency amidst the huge volumes of trade across the border and the idea of Scotland slipping out of the EU while so many countries are going the other way is laughable to the point of absurdity.
Scotland, rUK and Europe are interdependent, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be independent in the modern sense of the word. Let us throw our Yes votes over the wall of uncertainty and trust that a confident country will follow. The referendum debate is increasingly not for the faint-hearted but, you know what they say, in for a penny, in for a pound.