The Yes side’s secret weapon

September 17, 2014

With Scotland's referendum on independence coming up this week, the threats from England's rulers are becoming more frantic, writes Independent columnist Mark Steel.

THAT WAS a strange tactic of the political leaders of England--to try and convince Scotland not to vote for independence from England by sending up all the English people they dislike the most, who have made them consider independence in the first place. If that doesn't work, maybe David Cameron will dig up Margaret Thatcher and send her to the middle of Glasgow as well.

Then they all made speeches along the lines of "I appreciate you think English politicians patronize you, which is why we've come to tell you to think about this tricky matter properly, because it's more complicated than you hunky but dim Scots are used to."

Cameron went further, adding, "Come along Scotland, if you vote for independence, I'll get upset, and you working-class Glaswegians wouldn't want to make an Etonian Conservative prime minister cry, would you?"

With such an understanding, his next move will be to tour the country dressed as Edward II, and unveil billboards that say, "Tearing Britain in half / All of a sudden / Is less of a laugh / Than we had at Culloden." Cameron does at least have experience of Scotland, as his mother-in-law owns 19,000 acres of land on the Isle of Jura, on which he visits to stalk deer. So there's plenty of common experiences for him to chat about with the unemployed of Motherwell.

British Prime Minister David Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Moritz Hager)

Then former Tory Prime Minister John Major went on the radio to warn about the perils of independence. At this point, you had to suspect the "Yes" campaign must have influence in the BBC. Because getting Major, who lost every single seat when he last campaigned in Scotland, to order Scotland to vote "No" is genius.

At one point, Major said of the Yes campaign's attitude to the currency issue: "I have never known such incompetence." And that's a fair point, because when Major was in charge of currency, it collapsed so much that he put up interest rates to 5,000 percent, while spending all day on the television making statements such as, "I don't know what to do," while clutching a blanket and wetting himself, before being kicked out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism--and you can't BUY that level of competence.


THERE DOES, however, seem to be a darker side to the sudden intense efforts to persuade Scotland to vote no. Because along with the begging comes the threats. Every day, party leaders inform us about businesses that will move to England--that Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and most of the economy will leave, and BP will suck their oilfields to Norwich, and Edinburgh will move to Berkshire, and Dundee will be towed to a swamp in Kent that's overrun with crocodiles, and Ben Nevis will be taken over by North Korea, and there'll be nothing anyone can do because Scotland won't be allowed in NATO and, in fact, won't even be covered by International Regulations on Cheetahs, so they'll sprint across Cumbernauld eating the lot of you, and see if WE care.

It turned out that even the threat from the Royal Bank of Scotland was that they'd move their official address to England, with no one losing their jobs. So the argument of the No campaign is: "You know that bank that led the world in buying useless debts across America, playing a major part in destroying the global economy and awarding its executives with millions of pounds each as a prize? Well, if you vote for independence, they might change their P.O. Box address. THEN let's see how you cope."

Tomorrow, they'll announce, "Now we've heard that Crazy wee Jimmy, the Butter Knife from Fife, who threatens to take out your internal organs with a butter knife unless you give him a fiver, has said if there's a Yes vote, he's relocating to Cambridge, causing even more economic chaos for an independent Scotland."

The next time it's claimed that RBS is threatening to leave, the best response for Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond would be to say that they're not going to be allowed to stay even if they want to, as they're nothing but a bloody nuisance, and from now on, Scotland's money will be looked after by a couple of retired ladies who run a charity shop in Morningside, who have no desire to bundle up any debt packages of sub-prime mortgages at all.

The No campaign is also quoting executives of the John Lewis department stores, who say they'll increase prices if there's a Yes vote. But these aren't arguments, they're threats. They might as well say, "And the CEO of Walkers Crisps has said that if Scotland goes independent, he'll kick everyone right up the crutch."

The biggest threat is over the currency. The government says it won't let Scotland use the pound, and then spends all day asking, "What you going to do without a pound?"

And this is where the Yes campaign could be much more forceful. Instead of talking about currency unions, it should say that if Scotland isn't allowed to use the pound, everything it buys from England will be paid for with pennies. So if Scotland buys a fleet of airplanes from British Aerospace, they'll go to the office with a jar the size of a dumpster and pour 50 million quid worth of pennies over the floor, saying, "We're not allowed a pound, pal, so ye'll have to pick them up yeself, big man."

Because what we've learned from this referendum is that it's fun to watch the establishment when they panic.

First published in the Independent.

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