Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scotland for Aye?

I must admit that I'd assumed from the moment the Independence referendum was announced that No would win, and by a reasonably comfortable margin. Once you got past the emotional appeal of "Freedom!", there just didn't seem to be a convincing enough answer to why Scotland should leave the UK. As the campaign progressed, and the Yes campaign's position became one where, post independence, Scotland would have the Queen as head of state, would use the pound in a full currency union with the UK, would have no border policy, would remain an EU member state, and would have full access to the BBC it seemed increasingly hard to see what the point of independence was.
 
I then rather assumed that the total and abject failure of the Yes campaign to answer the question over how the currency would work (or at least answer it honestly) would be enough to sink Yes on its own. I am not, as I may have mentioned before, an economist, but even I can work out why a formal currency union isn't on offer - there's literally nothing in it for the UK. If it were to be even vaguely acceptable to UK politicians, the fiscal strings that would be attached would be simply incompatible with independence - Scottish fiscal freedom would actually be curtailed as a result of independence.

And yet this doesn't seem even to have dented the Yes bandwagon - when asked about it, Salmond either ignores the question, or seizes on comments by Alastair Darling that "of course Scotland could use the pound" without mentioning that he followed this up by saying "we could use the ruble, we could use the dollar, we could use the yen. We could use anything we want." The independence referendum has been a fight between naive optimism, and grumpy pessimism; between poetry and prose. I've finally remembered what it reminds me of:
Should we “camp out” or sleep at inns? George and I were for camping out. We said it would be so wild and free, so patriarchal like.
Slowly the golden memory of the dead sun fades from the hearts of the cold, sad clouds. Silent, like sorrowing children, the birds have ceased their song, and only the moorhen’s plaintive cry and the harsh croak of the corncrake stirs the awed hush around the couch of waters, where the dying day breathes out her last.
From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.
Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years—will sing so many thousand years to come, before its voice grows harsh and old—a song that we, who have learnt to love its changing face, who have so often nestled on its yielding bosom, think, somehow, we understand, though we could not tell you in mere words the story that we listen to.
And we sit there, by its margin, while the moon, who loves it too, stoops down to kiss it with a sister’s kiss, and throws her silver arms around it clingingly; and we watch it as it flows, ever singing, ever whispering, out to meet its king, the sea—till our voices die away in silence, and the pipes go out—till we, common-place, everyday young men enough, feel strangely full of thoughts, half sad, half sweet, and do not care or want to speak—till we laugh, and, rising, knock the ashes from our burnt-out pipes, and say “Good-night,”and, lulled by the lapping water and the rustling trees, we fall asleep beneath the great, still stars, and dream that the world is young again—young and sweet as she used to be ere the centuries of fret and care had furrowed her fair face, ere her children’s sins and follies had made old her loving heart—sweet as she was in those bygone days when, a new-made mother, she nursed us, her children, upon her own deep breast—ere the wiles of painted civilization had lured us away from her fond arms, and the poisoned sneers of artificiality had made us ashamed of the simple life we led with her, and the simple, stately home where mankind was born so many thousands years ago.
Harris said: 
“How about when it rained?”
I do hope Harris wins on Thursday.

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