Last night, from my London hotel room, I tuned in to STV using an online web service. It spoke volumes that the debate on whether the United Kingdom is to remain as it is, was not broadcast outside of Scotland. Here in England, there was only the heavily edited highlights on television afterwards. Some might claim there was a lack of interest outside of Scotland though I’m sure STV would argue otherwise, especially as the second the clock turned eight, my online stream cut out. They were overloaded.
It remained that way for a good twenty minutes, the site was down and even when it came back, it struggled to cope with the load of people in the United Kingdom desperate to hear the debate about the fate of their nation. No doubt there were several trying to tune in internationally too. It really was mad that the BBC didn’t just broadcast it to everyone but then, we already know they’re doing their best not to cover the independence referendum in anything other than a bad light.
UPDATE: I’ve been informed that BBC and Sky both requested rights to simulcast the debate but STV wanted to keep exclusive rights. Ratings make the world go round it seems ;) I’ve also learned that apparently STV made the debate available to the rest of ITV (In Scotland, we get STV in place of ITV, with most of the scheduling matching what you get on ITV). ITV apparently chose not to show the debate, perhaps they couldn’t find the advertisers to make it profitable enough.
When I did get a stream running, there was the typical questioning that we’d expect, the same promises, threats and jibes from both sides but it was one key question to Alex Salmond that really stood out. In the event of Scotland getting independence, the plan is clear, we will be pursuing a currency union with the remainder of the UK for use of the pound. However, months ago, all the parties in Westminster stood up and said they would not allow this. It’s a stance which is absolutely absurd. England, Wales and Northern Ireland would benefit hugely from being able to trade with Scotland using the pound. The Bank of England would still have some form of power over the Scottish, generally, if anyone would be at a disadvantage of a currency union, it’d be the Scottish with the rest of Britain at a great advantage over them, not much different to how the Euro operates. Though it is still the best choice for Scotland, being able to trade with the remainder of the UK is important and while we can do that with another currency, we know life will be a lot easier if our currency is the same, for both us and the remainder of the UK. We don’t want farmers living in Cumbria finding they have to change their money at the post office when they sell their cattle in Castle Douglas for instance, that would be absurd. Indeed, absurd seems to be the word I’d use for the question as a whole.
Even though we know a currency union is best, even though we know that the parties in Westminster have only said we can’t have one for the sake of disrupting the campaign, it seems that millions have fallen for it. It’s a bluff, it’s an absurd bluff, one we know they can’t possibly hold to if Scotland gets independence, they would just be shooting themselves in the foot. But what if it’s not? What if they actually follow through with it? They won’t, anyone who has any understanding of the matter knows, not thinks or believes but genuinely knows, as fact, that they will not stop a currency union. But that’s not the issue here, it’s the What If question. This is the cleverest tactic of the Better Together campaign. They have made thousands of people fear the What If question. And why do they know people will fear it? Because they know Alex Salmond can’t answer it.
Last night, Salmond avoided the question all together, which makes the folk supporting Better Together point and laugh out loud as they call out, “look, he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know what Plan B, C or D is!” Salmond didn’t perform well last night when that question was posed, he stumbled because he can’t actually say the answer. The answer that every body already knows. Darling proved last night that he knows the answers to his question, he listed them off. Option B, we have an unofficial currency union, Option C, we use the Euro and Option D, we create our own currency. Everyone knows these are the other options, even Alistair Darling. Yet they try to claim that Alex Salmond does not, implying that he is the one single human being in Scotland that does not know these options. It’s not that he doesn’t know what Plan B is, it’s that he can’t possibly be seen to say it out loud.
If Salmond were to turn around and say all those alternatives, people would be quoting him for ever more as having declared what is the chosen currency for Scotland, they would pour press article after article screaming that he had given up and declared that we will not have a currency union. Every discussion from then on would be, “have you heard, since they won’t let us have the pound, Salmond has said we’ll do Option X! Is he insane?!” And of course the answer would be yes, he would be insane, if there was a hope in hell that that would happen, because it won’t. The aburdity of declaring that there will not be a currency union is gargantuan. Why bother saying what you’ll do instead when you know for a fact that you won’t need to do it? Why just give them something to use against you even though that something will never exist?
Alex can’t say what the Plan B that will never happen is because Better Together will just use it against him. They’ve done nothing but try to scare people into thinking that an unanswered question means doom to a nation and this is the one single thing that, through the threat of a ridiculous press campaign, they can ensure will remain unanswered because they know it’s an absurd question to ask. The problem is that it doesn’t sound like an absurd question and so the trap forms. Answer an absurd question with an absurd answer that will be used against you to make you look absurd? Or keep pushing the logical answer, the logical path that we all know is best for everyone not just in Scotland but the entirety of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
There are so many reasons to vote Yes in six weeks time and all the other scare tactics have failed with clear and concise answers in response to them. No wonder all Better Together can do is cling on to this one absurd question.