There’s no danger of anyone underrating Alex “Fat Eck” Salmond. Just about every media piece on him for weeks has drooled over his mysterious status as Britain’s most able politician, or something like that.
Well The Knife is here to tell you that the Smug Bawheed himself is indeed overrated, and Dave has amusingly called his bluff, leading to the first of many millions of references by a shaken Eck to Maggie/Poll tax/Braveheart etc etc.
Last May I wrote a piece on why Eck is nothing like as good as he’s cracked up to be, which could be loosely summarised as “cocky bastard, no opposition”, and I wouldn’t change any of what I wrote back then. If anything, the evidence is mounting up.
The media are slowly cottoning onto this. If I may make a few recommendations for further reading:
James Forsyth in the Speccie gives a neat broad overview, concluding with
…even if all North Sea oil and gas revenues are allocated to Scotland (which would never happen, given the location of the fields), the country would still have been running deficits for 18 years….
But the killer question is who would have bailed out Scotland’s banks – and here, Alistair Darling’s willingness to be involved in the campaign is crucial. Having organised the rescue of the financial system, Darling would be believed when he told Scots that they would be as broke as Ireland if it had to bail out the banks themselves.
Ouch. Yes, money seems to be a problem. Alex Massie, in an extremely rare instance of actually being right about something explains further, although he predictably arrives at various wrong conclusions:
The Conservatives, as a party, specialise in growing economies and wealth creation. Yet such considerations are absent from Scottish politics as it stands: Salmond’s responsibility is to spend whatever he gets allocated by London.
It should be axiomatic that a government which does not tax is a government reduced to eunuch status that cannot, in turn, be trusted to govern prudently or plan for the future. The cheerfully spendthrift history of devolution has been a model example of financial irresponsibility and intellectual constipation. At present, the government in Edinburgh is charged with dispensing 60 per cent of total state spending in Scotland but raises less than 7 per cent of the money required to pay for publicly funded largesse.
And Eck is a trained economist, possibly with a highish IQ. To quote one of his transatlantic colleague Thomas Sowell’s finest quotes, which is also the motto for this blog:
“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.”
Eck is certainly in a position to do a lot of damage, but even he has spotted that the electorate are not entirely stupid, hence his rather pathetic grubbing about for his “Devo Max” option.
There are so many other arguments against independence, from the logical – defence, nuclear weapons, welfare and so on – to the romantic historical – try the slightly crazy but magisterial Peter Oborne here, but ultimately it’s going to boil down to money, the economy, the currency and the ramifications thereof.
Ben Brogan’s precis today is only the start of an inevitable slew of articles on just how problematic this is all going to be. Be aware that Eck, with all his faults, is as good as the SNP gets, and the big guns have only just turned on him. One last example:
Scotland’s share of the national debt at around £80bn would also be highly problematic. In fact, it’s quite a bit higher if you include a reasonable share of the costs of bailing out the two big Scottish banks. Incredibly, Mr Salmond has suggested that Scotland should bear no part of those costs, as the offending regulatory failures were made in London, never mind that Mr Salmond personally congratulated Sir Fred Goodwin on the deal that tipped Royal Bank of Scotland over the edge – the takeover of ABN Amro – and that the man ultimately responsible for the regulatory failure, one Gordon Brown, is a Scot representing a Scottish constituency. In any case, include those in, together with an appropriate share of off balance sheet public sector liabilities, including the private finance initiative and publis sector pensions, and the figures are much larger.
I look forward to that day when Eck’s entire raison d’etre goes up in smoke. Roll on 2014.