We are well accustomed to hypocrisy and duplicity from British politicians. So it is not at all surprising to find them speaking out of both sides of their mouths on the matter of oil. Out of one side they insist that the referendum was the final word on the subject of independence and insist that those who aspire to a better, fairer Scotland should just shut up and go away. Out of the other side, they continue the bilious, derogatory, scare-mongering rhetoric of Project Fear as if the referendum campaign was not over at all.
And, of course, it isn’t. The Yes movement has not evaporated as the British nationalists had hoped. The SNP and other progressive Scottish parties have not been sent into retreat as they had counted on. If anything, the British establishment feels even more threatened now than it did in the period of blind panic just prior to the vote which led to the infamous “Vow”.
Which explains a lot. It explains the ill-concealed glee with which British nationalists have greeted the collapse of oil prices. It is all they can do to remember to put on their sad face when responding to the announcement of massive job losses. But they are unable to totally conceal the relish with which they welcome anything which can be twisted into yet another gobbet of anti-SNP propaganda. They very evidently regard the cost in human misery as a price well worth paying.
And, as ever, they show little respect for mere facts or simple logic as they lash out mindlessly at their hated political opponents. They disregard the inconvenient fact that the Scottish Government’s oil revenue projections were based largely on the UK Government’s figures. They would have the more gullible among us believe that the SNP alone failed to foresee a situation which has nothing to do with market forces and everything to do with the chaotic vagaries of geopolitical gamesmanship.
They don’t deal with the situation as it is but with a fantasy scenario. They conveniently forget that what is actually happening is precisely what they claimed the “broad shoulders” of the UK would protect us from. Instead, they comment on an entirely imaginary and quite impossible situation in which Scotland voted Yes last September and became independent at the very instant of the result being announced.
Let us not forget – however fervently these British politicians might want us to – that these are the same people who ridiculed the Scottish Government’s timetable of independence in early 2016 as hopelessly optimistic. The reality that they are desperately avoiding is that independence would have come at pretty much the same time as the latest that the oil price is expected to bounce back.
There is no rational reason to suppose that the government of a newly independent Scotland would have been faced with an oil price at $50. It is vastly more likely that the oil price on Independence Day would be within the range of the Scottish Government’s projections. The simple logic is that, while the price of oil will always be volatile, it will also be more volatile at extraordinarily high or low levels. It will always tend towards a level somewhere around the equivalent of $110 – that being the level that the oil producers have decided they (and the rest of us) can live with.
Neither is there any rational reason to suppose that independent Scotland would be any less able than other nations to deal with the volatility of oils prices. Indeed, if we allow ourselves to play the British nationalists’ game of “What If?” for a moment, we might suppose that, had Scotland been independent, we would have been very much better prepared for the present situation than the UK Government is.
The reason British politicians would rather fantasise about a situation in which the Scottish Government is “embarrassed” and Scotland suffers economic hardship is partly because this makes for the best anti-SNP/anti-independence propaganda, but also because they would prefer that we focus on what might have happened in their twisted notion of independent Scotland rather than what is actually happening in the UK.