I feel pretty sorry for Mark Carney, the Bank of England Governor, this week. Giving a speech about the technicalities of a currency union is not a fun thing to have to do, especially in the presence of a mob of journalists intent on making you slip up. He didn’t falter at all, choosing his words carefully, constantly insisting it wasn’t his job to comment on Scotland’s constitutional future while suggesting that if Scotland and the rest of the UK were to share a currency post-independence, there would need to be discussion and negotiation. Phrases like “simply implement whatever monetary arrangements are put in place” , “doesn’t pass judgement on the relative merits…” and “don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment” just can’t be twisted… you would think.
Clearly, it wouldn’t have mattered what Carney had said because the Better Together leaflets and the headlines were already written. “Goodbye“ screamed the latest offering from the No camp, adorned with images of their beloved pound and including the line “With experts, including the Governor of the Bank of England, criticising Alex Salmond’s claim that we would keep the pound after independence,” – a statement which is completely false.
I’m doubly irritated by this nonsense because I wouldn’t favour a currency union in an independent Scotland. I agree with the Bank of England Governor when he says that, “durable, successful currency union requires some ceding of national sovereignty.” There is a need to discuss other options but we should also remember that Carney’s statement is just as much of a truism as all the other non-assertions in the speech and that to cede sovereignty, we need to have some to begin with. It’s still infuriating watching people say that you absolutely cannot have something you don’t even want, like the Equal Marriage debate all over again. Scotland can have a currency union or float our own currency or join the Euro or bring back the Deutschmark. The most probable scenario remains some sort of currency union, at least short term but there is space for a rational debate about what should happen after that.
Speaking of rational debate, you can always rely on Johann Lamont to make what should be a discussion about the various opportunities for a new fiscal and monetary policy for Scotland into a discussion about who’s thingamabobs are bigger, seizing on Carney’s words to attack the First Minister. Salmond responded by pointing out that whatever happened, an independent Scotland would be able to set the minimum wage, abolish the Bedroom tax, properly fund childhood, get rid of nuclear weapons and stop fighting illegal wars. Lamont retorted that these were “wee things.” And somewhere in Scotland, a Labour strategist died inside.
This jibe betrays an attitude that seems deeply embedded in the political class, a total derision of the hopes of so many of us that we can have a society that isn’t a relentlessly austere militarised hell hole. It looks down on so many Scots who’ve voted for Labour so faithfully for so long – Scots who hear about the “things” which are up for grabs in the referendum and beyond and realise that while they may not be titanic, they nonetheless exist. We don’t want to be begging for scraps but we do still have to eat. First Minister’s Questions was a “let them eat cake” moment for Scottish Labour, every bit as damaging as Lamont branding Scotland “the only something for nothing country in the world.”
Better Together never tire of trying to get something from nothing, as their intentional falsehood about what Carney didn’t say can attest. They were clearly hoping to provide some low-level background fear amongst those who were watching the news but not really paying attention, which they gamble is most people. There’s a problem with relying on ignorance to carry your political message; while not every Scot is going to trawl through the text of the speech and compare it with the claims made on a Better Together leaflet, anyone who does will realise something is wrong.
It’s not just Better Together telling lies that’s the issue – it’s also that the media has almost ceased to function. Rather than highlighting the factual errors made by the official No campaign, the Daily Mail has chosen instead to focus on the fact that some people on Twitter are pro-independence. Without any actual substance to the tales, we’re instead treated to pictures of well known (and frankly not-so-well known) people who happen to have computers and support a Yes vote with lots of things about how they’re “trolls” and “abusers” for daring to have opinions. Spare a thought for Andy Inglis and Tommy Ball, two twitter users/evil cybernats, whose pictures were accompanied by the words “write caption here.” A quick hover over Mr. Inglis reveals that he once said the press printed “lies and propaganda” so who knows what creative insult Mail hacks would have come up with… chances are, they were too busy printing lies and propaganda to even be bothered.
Of course, this being the Daily Mail, special hatred was reserved for those who WEREN’T EVEN SCOTTISH – and there is nothing the Mail hates more than a foreigner. One person who supports independence is apparently basically an AMERICAN who has committed the dastardly crime of having, to quote the Mail, “strong opinions.” One of them used to work for an OIL COMPANY while another, who it appears once used the word “shit” on the internet, DOESN’T EVEN LIVE HERE either.
So, in the interests of fairness, you’d expect ample column inches to have been dedicated to an American non-resident, putting on his best mock jock accent to troll social media. Yet John Barrowman had no double page spread branding him a threat to “rational debate.” There remains a deathly silence about one oil man, who may not have sent thousands of tweets like the Yes voting Daily Mail villain but who did donate £500,000 to the Better Together campaign. Was it the largest paper in the land who asked the tough questions about donor Ian Taylor? Nope, it was the wee cybernats over at National Collective. Could this be why the hacks at the Mail are so keen to intimidate social media users? Could it be they know that an increasing section of the population no longer rely on them for anything other than a chuckle?
Despite the leaflets containing lies about the currency union and despite a media which is indulging in “nats under yer hats” style scaremongering about how democracy is collapsing under a mass of tweets, opinion polls continue to show that support for independence is increasing, month by month. Did I say despite? Maybe I meant because.
It won’t be one big thing that will swing the referendum, it will probably be, in the wise words of Johann Lamont, a list of wee things – lies about currency, the bedroom tax, Nigel Farage’s smug face everywhere, the prospect of another term of Tory rule, constant attacks on the sick and the vulnerable, a press who’ve gone AWOL, politicians who think invading sovereign countries is small fry.
The wee things just keep on (t)rolling and they are now too numerous to ignore. We’re already beginning to see the benefits of a more independent media, when the British press fails to do anything other than troll random folk without even bothering to caption their hate. Millions of Scots now get their gossip from more credible sources than the Daily Mail, like random blogs or snippets of conversations they overhear on the bus. That scares the political class and the media, especially when they see the direction of travel is overwhelming away from support for remaining in Britain. They know the power of our collective wee things and they fear it. It’s time we realised it too.
Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AThousandFlowers
Follow us on Twitter @unsavourycabal