The faux outrage continues…

“Over half of people in Scotland think the SNP are wasting public money trying to get people to vote for indy…”

So said ‘Better Together’ on their twitter feed today, after commissioning YouGov (worth googling them btw) to ask if people thought that the Scottish Government is spending too much money on the campaign.

For the record, the amount of public money spent so far by the Scottish Government is about £800k.

Also for the record, Better Together agree that this is the “biggest decision Scotland has faced in 300 years”.

So £800k is too much, for such a hugely important decision on all of our futures??

The campaign and referendum are of course nowhere near finished yet, although the big day is closing in fast. But it got me to wondering what the cost to the public purse were of other recent referenda/votes, and thankfully, there have been two such occurences of rather less importance since the Tories and Lib Dem’s cosied up together in 2010: the AV referendum and the election of police and crime commissioners in England & Wales.

The AV referendum was entirely the Lib Dem’s baby – their Tory chums literally couldn’t be bothered with it at all. So we had a referendum because a party with 23% of the vote wanted it.

The fact that the Lib Dem’s got 23%of the vote, yet ended up with only 8.8% of the seats at Westminster goes some way to explaining why they wanted the AV system. The fact that the Tories and Labour would lose seats under AV explains why they opposed it!

But what cost to the public this referendum, proposed by a party with 8.8% of seats?

£75 million was the estimated cost to the taxpayer (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20790944):

‘Of the money spent, £58.1m went on the costs of running the vote and the rest on mailshots, staff and administration.’

So rather more than £800k, even allowing for Scotland’s size and particularly when you consider that even according to BT this is the “biggest decision Scotland has faced in 300 years”, and that the Scottish Government has produced their weighty white paper for everyone in Scotland to obtain free of charge.

Moving on…

In 2012, England and Wales also had elections to choose police and crime commissioners.

This was a new election, brought in by the Tories in an attempt to pretend that fighting crime somehow requires localised party politics. Nothing but a cheap gimmick.

And the cost to the taxpayers of the UK? Also an estimated £75 million! (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/pcc-elections-what-price-democracy)

It cost £14/vote cast – more than three times the cost per vote of the 2010 General Election. Or, as the Electoral Reform Society said themselves:

“This election has been the very definition of a false economy. The Government splurged on a November election knowing it would add millions to the price tag, penny pinching on the vital information that could have got voters to the polls.”

Worth noting here is that whilst the vote didn’t apply to either Scotland or Northern Ireland, the wonderful system that the UK is based on meant that we still paid for it. So that was great value for money for us…

So when bleating sheep like the Lib Dem’s Willie Rennie come out with such lines as “People in Scotland want their taxes to be invested in jobs, education and skills, not on propaganda for Alex Salmond’s obsession with independence.”, let’s remind him and the voters that we’ve been made to pay for meaningless party-political votes within the term of his mate’s UK Government.

And let’s also remind them that even they themselves say that this independence referendum is hugely important to everyone living in Scotland.

And while we’re at it, let’s see how much the UK Government has spent opposing our want for greater democracy. How much have they spent producing their toilet-paper reports and spin?

‘Better Together’? Really??

Independence or ‘independence’?

Firstly, let me point out that this is not a piece about the pros and cons of using Sterling post-independence. That’s a different subject – one that’s been discussed at length around our kitchen tables, in meeting rooms and in conference halls around the country and on online discussion sites, and it’s one that I’m sure everyone has their own views on.

This entry is about what I perceive to be the increasingly used criticism that unionists have regarding the Scottish Government’s plans to continue to use Sterling as our currency.

“How can you call that independence!” they cry. “What if the rest of the UK says no?”.

The second question has been dealt with many a time now: we don’t NEED rUK to agree to a so-called ‘Sterling Zone’. It would be the preferred option, but it is not essential to us continuing to use the pound. The pound is a freely traded currency – a colony of dolphins off the coast of Gambia could use it, if they had an understanding of, or need for, currency.

Increasingly though, desperate unionists are using the “that’s not independence” line.

So let’s look at some of the evidence that already exists, to see if there’s any reason to think that our continuing use of Sterling will mean that we won’t really be independent.

We could use the Republic of Ireland as an example, as many already have, which continued to have its pound directly tied to Sterling for decades after becoming politically independent. They even decimalised at the same time as the UK, and only stopped direct ties in 1979, when Ireland joined the European Monetary Sytem, and the ‘Irish Pound’ was renamed the ‘Punt’.

Would unionists have the cheek and arrogance to suggest that the Republic of Ireland was not really an independent nation until 1979?

There’s also this shared currency that many of our closest neighbours use, today: the Euro.

Yes, the Euro undoubtedly had somewhat of a baptism of fire, but I doubt very much that even the most ardent of Europhiles would suggest that any of the 17 Eurozone countries are not independent of one another. The  Farages and Moncktons of the world would disagree of course, warning of the ‘imminent formation’ of a ‘United States of Europe’, but those who take heed of the words of the right-wing xenophobe have no place in any mature debate on modern democracy.

One major difference between the union of the UK and the union of the EU is that any member state can simply ask its citizens if they want to leave the EU, if they feel a need to. The EU would not create a series of imaginary hoops and hurdles for that member state, along with a relentless barrage of negative propaganda. The same cannot be said of the UK.

Whether or not a ‘Sterling Zone’ is officially agreed to by Westminster, Scotland can and will use the pound until such time as it sees fit to change that. It will be no less politically independent of rUK as Finland is of Belgium, for example, or as Denmark is of Austria.

So please unionists, stop talking nonsense about Scottish independence not being ‘real’ independence. If the best you’ve got is poor attempts to redefine a word, perhaps you should be thinking about why that is the best you’ve got.