Rather than “Common Weal campaigners say start new currency on day one of independence“, the headline should read “Common Weal wants to postpone independence until 2025!“. Because that is the real story here. Scratch the surface of Common Weal’s ‘radical’ currency proposal and you find a stolidly conservative reluctance to rock the constitutional boat.
The significant part of Common Weal’s plan has nothing to do with currency. Although an ‘independent’ Scottish currency pegged at parity to sterling is more of a variation on what has been proposed by the Sustainable Growth Commission (SGC) than a massive departure from it. And that remains the case even if the comparison is with the rather dubious representation of the SGC report’s recommendations offered in the article rather than with what that report actually said.
The claim that “the Growth Commission’s plans would likely result in Scotland being without its own currency for 15 years” is based on a highly prejudiced reading of the document combined with Common Weal’s own very questionable timetable for achieving independence. The SGC report doesn’t actually stipulate a period of ten years for the transition from sterling to a Scottish pound. Sensibly, it leaves that transition period undefined. Such a transition cannot possibly follow a predetermined time-scale. It is circumstances which will influence the pace. Management of Scotland’s currency arrangements must be a matter for government of the day.
That is what independence means. A government yoked to a ‘plan’ devised prior to independence by some group or organisation with no mandate can hardly be described as independent.
So, let’s set aside the currency aspect of the Common Weal ‘plan’ and look instead at what really matters. Namely the proposal to postpone a new referendum until 2021 and then delay the actual break from the UK for at least another three years on top of that.
The prospect of being thirled to the British state for another seven years has to be horrifying for anyone who is aware of what that implies for Scotland. But what is truly shocking is that Common Weal appears to have taken no account whatever of what is happening in the real world outside the economic models that they love to play with. They abstract issues such as currency from the complexity of real-world politics and deal with it in isolation; in the process, forgetting that this abstracted portion must, at some point, be related to the whole again.
Common Weal’s ‘plan’ for postponing action on the constitutional issue takes absolutely no account of what the British government is, and will be, doing while they work out the currency arrangements to their own satisfaction. Nor does it take any cognisance of the attitudes and priorities and preferences of the electorate. It is quite blind to the Yes movement and oblivious to its activities. Currency is their focus. Realpolitik must not be allowed to impinge.
All of which is largely, if not entirely, explained by the left’s near-pathological aversion to effective political power. To say that groups such as Common Weal have no interests in political power such as actually gets things done would be a gross understatement. They actively shun any contact with or consideration of it. The result is analysis which is, at best, inadequate. If the idea works in their nice clean abstract model, that is sufficient. Implementing it in the messy arena of politics is not a concern.
The question of where the British political elite will take Scotland in the next seven or eight years is never asked. The matter of what the independence campaign will do in response is not addressed. Delay is presented as a consequence-free option. Like so much of the ‘intellectual’ left in Scotland, Common Weal only thinks about being independent. The fairly important matter of becoming independent doesn’t enter into their calculations at all.
Common Weal’s currency plan is nonsense. Not because it wouldn’t work. It is almost certainly no less feasible than most of the other currency proposals that are floating around. In fact, it’s neither particularly radical nor very novel. We’ve heard it all before from others who imagine independence to be and economic rather than a constitutional issue. Their currency plan is nonsense because it takes no account of where Scotland will be in 2025 if we fail to act on the constitutional issue as a matter of urgency.
Common Weal’s plan is nonsense because, even if the currency bit of it was a work of pure genius, the vacuous naivety of the rest of it means that there will be no opportunity to implement the currency bit. By 2021 we may not even have a Scottish Parliament. Absent urgent action to prevent it, Holyrood will, at the minimum, be stripped of powers that would be required to hold a free, fair and winnable referendum. Where is the sense in a plan which critically depends on a referendum which is made massively unlikely by the same plan?
What is the point of a plan which might deliver a shiny new independent currency, but which all but certainly precludes actual independence?
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