Alex the First of Scotland, anyone?

The results of the recent Irish referendum were disappointing, if predictable.  The Irish people had a wonderful opportunity to speak for the dispossessed and disenfranchised of Europe, and perhaps to put the €uro out of its misery.  But they were intimidated by the threat of exclusion from Brussels’ bail-out funds (in which they seem to have more confidence than most people).  So they gave the EU a blank cheque for unlimited austerity for an indefinite period.  As Janet Daley put it in the Sunday Telegraph, it seemed more like a sigh of resignation than a plebiscite.

Meantime, up in Scotland, the SNP pursues its dream of Scottish independence, and looks forward to a referendum of its own.  This Jubilee weekend, I found myself thinking of Alex Salmond’s commitment to ask Her Majesty to continue in the rôle of Head of State after Scottish Independence.  On the face of it, perfectly sensible, since her predecessor King James was The First (of England) but also The Sixth (of Scotland).  The two Crowns were united under James the First and Sixth.

In fact Salmond has done several things apparently designed to reassure Scots who may be intimidated by too much change at one time.  Declaring independence is a mighty step.  To abandon both the Pound Sterling and the Monarch at the same time might appear foolhardy.  There is a well-documented tendency for referendum results to favour the status quo, so perhaps Salmond wants to build as much status quo as he can manage into his proposals, short of abandoning his core objective of independence.

He would certainly be wise to seek to maintain the Pound. It would hardly increase Salmond’s YES vote to offer to take Scotland into the €uro against the backdrop of current developments in the eurozone.   But Scots should reflect that keeping the Pound may not be in Salmond’s gift.  It takes two to tango — and to agree a currency union between independent states.

Currency unions require fiscal transfers for stability.  We are seeing in the eurozone exactly what happens to diverse economies forced into a currency union without a lender of last resort, and without fiscal transfers.  In the Sterling Area, itself a currency union, we have a formalised mechanism — the Barnett Formula — to transfer substantial sums from England, which is richer, to Scotland, which is poorer.  Some of the English don’t like this a bit — they don’t necessarily feel richer — but this is the price we pay for maintaining stability in our currency union (and which Angela Merkel declines to pay in her currency union, with malign effects).

Would George Osborne be inclined to maintain the Barnett Formula for an independent Scotland?  Would the Bank of England care to be the lender of last resort for Edinburgh?  Would the Treasury bail out Scottish banks that got into trouble in the future?  I doubt it.

Then there’s the Head of State issue.  Just now, I’m delighted to see that Her Majesty is getting stratospheric approval ratings in the UK.  I’ve been unable to find a separate figure for Scotland, but anecdotal evidence — including vox pops on the BBC — suggest that while many Scots admire the Queen, her popularity in Scotland may not be quite as high as in England.  So why is Salmond so keen that Her Majesty should remain Head of State in an independent Scotland?

Perhaps simply because otherwise, there would be a contentious debate about how a Scottish Head of State should be selected, and a row over that question could seriously overshadow the whole independence issue.  I imagine that Alex may be terrified that his own name might end up in the frame.  Alex the First of Scotland?  I don’t think so, although an Economist cartoon has already shown him wearing the Crown.

Salmond is a hugely successful and likeable politician, but any suggestion that he might be tipped as Head of State — or worse still that his quest for Scottish independence contained quite such an element of personal ambition — could scupper his chances.

It may be that his promises to keep the Pound and the Queen are simply moves to close down what could otherwise become uncomfortable debates and distractions.

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9 Responses to Alex the First of Scotland, anyone?

  1. He is a typical example of a Regional politician. Second rate. If I were a First Rate Scot – and the place is bursting with them – I would be heading for Edinburgh railway station with or without independence.

    And please will someone tell me why I, as a proud English taxpayer should, pay for some drunken Nesbitt to push filth up their nose while being insulted and told to shove off?

  2. johnrussell40 says:

    Some very astute analysis here, Roger.

    It seems to me that any hint that the Scots might not be allowed to remain part of the Sterling zone would scupper any chance of independence.

  3. Mike says:

    Why not a new Scottish currency ? Maybe it would be too much of a change to the status quo to get through a referendum , but it seems like the obvious thing to do. Not sure that joining the euro would even be an option, never mind something that anyone is suggesting.

  4. Mike Spilligan says:

    Mr H: There’s a lot of food for thought here, but not only do we not know what is in Salmond’s mind, neither do we know who else is influencing his thoughts (or do we?) and whether they might make a grab for power in when the hard work has been done. There are examples from more principled places than Scotland.
    Incidentally – going into nitpicking mode – he would be Alex IV, if one goes back as far as the Atholls.

  5. please check spam box – long comment vanished

    • Meanwhile read what Salmondo said in 2003 :

      Alex Salmond has said the chancellor’s decision not to join the euro amounted to the “biggest `don’t know’ in political history”….. said he would much rather see Scotland join the euro separate from the rest of the UK. “Government policy on the euro is in disarray – and Helen Liddell herself has admitted that Scotland will be the loser.” He added: “The SNP believes that entry into the euro – subject to the people’s approval in a referendum – would be in Scotland’s economic interests.”
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2973516.stm

      – 9 years is a long time in politics?

  6. The SNP is not offering independence to Scotland after a “Yes” vote, but subjugation to the EU.
    Salmond’s prepared to ruin Scotland’s land and seascapes and finances for wind turbines, and he eschews nuclear power and, like the dopes in the Coalition, shows no apparent interest in shale gas harvesting; he has lied and distorted maximally re renewables, so he’s a busted flush.

    If George Osborne can be encouraged to abandon CO2 curbs and renewables, except for relevant R&D, attested as useful by experts in electrical engineering and commerce, and promote an EU referendum and exit, he’d get many Tory votes and help his own career.
    Also, a merger between your new Party and the Tories would see Toryism revived from the death-grips of Liberalism, which have turned the Party into a Lib.Dem. colony!!

  7. Pingback: Right choice in Scotland — but what next? | Roger Helmer MEP

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