2007 - 2021

Black Swans

1780783_701214959899113_1823257188_nThe first Black Swan flew over the indy debate this week. Everybody freaked out.

The consequences are still being discussed but it does put paid to the slightly comic idea, still being circulated around some on the left that this isn’t ‘real independence’.

If this isn’t real the British establishment seems pretty desperate to stop it happening.

Everything’s shifted.

As this BBC story makes clear all of a sudden new factors spring forth: No currency union, a yes vote might be ignored, and no joint plans for a counter devolution offer.

Bella’s been patiently explaining for about five years why Devo Max is a dead duck to mix poultry metaphors) but apparently it’s come as a surprise.

Who will be the losers in this? It’s too early to say though anecdotal evidence – and social media timelines – show a stream of people tilted across from Don’t Know to Yes in a visceral response to the new Unionist bloc.

Of course the Liberals have absolutely nothing to lose any more, and the Tories have less than that. It’s Labour that are likely to suffer.

As Derek Bateman writes (‘The New Coalition’): “I wrote this week that Balls is conflating his loathing for the SNP – and his fear of it – with the Scots generally. His message doesn’t just hit Nats, it falls on all Scots and brands everyone as somehow an enemy, even Unionists. What is the likely result? He stirs deep-rooted resentment about London diktat, brings to the surface irritations over subsidy jibes and leaves undecided Labour voters wondering what exactly it is they are supporting.”

The confusing thing for Scottish Labour is that, as Irvine Welsh commented today: “The saddest thing about the Labour Party is that they don’t really seem to know why they are so opposed by Scottish Independence.” There’s certainly some mumbling about being against ‘nationalism’ but in the context of a policy void from Miliband and Blue Labour they remain awash in a state of permanent confused frustration. McTernan and Co may be straining at the leash but they really have nowhere to go. What do they want? Nothing to change. When do they want it? Forever and ever. The implicit complacency of UK:OK is massively debilitating. It’s not just a manifesto for inertia its a programme of inaction. Labour are strapped to a mast of Britishness that is difficult to defend and now working hand in hand with Tory and Liberal high command. It’s not just the currency union that has come into question this week, it’s the very identity of the Labour Party.

It’s at times like this that political parties need leaders who can articulate a vision and steer a course: Labour has Johann Lamont and Ed Miliband.

Public Money and Private Wealth

The reality is not just that the New Coaltion’s attacks are ill-founded and ill-timed, it’s that the movement for independence is drawing on a deeper taproot of discontent than they can imagine.

Here’s a newsflash for Better Together: Aditya Chakrabortty isn’t an SNP front. Here he writes for the metropolitan liberal press par excellence: “A giant sucking sound can be heard in the UK today: the sound of public money and private wealth being sucked down south to London. The result is the emasculation not just of Scotland, but of Newcastle, Oldham, the Midlands, and countless other places not featured on the Circle line.”

What other Black Swans are out there in the shadows? Who knows?

The difference is the Yes campaign is battle-hardened and immune to bad news having had a desultory news service rained down on it for a year and more. Better Together however remains enthralled to it’s own propaganda: Yes = the SNP, Salmond as Mugabe, Scotland is an economic basketcase of scroungers ad naueam.

Having tried and failed to scare people into submission, what next for No? Whilst the relentless barrage of negativity will no doubt continue, other more sober voices are out there offering a different take on things. Dominic Frisby writes in the Independent:

But the idea that Scotland, with all its history of finance and banking, cannot issue and run its own money is just fear-mongering. Singapore, Norway and Switzerland are all countries of similar size that have done so successfully. Heck, the Bank of England was founded by a Scot.

Whatever Scotland decides, one thing is for sure – it must free itself of London or the pound if it wants to thrive once again.

Remove people’s sense of self-entitlement and challenge their authority – this is true and apparent of the media elite as much as the political elite – and they will react with fear and loathing. Few of them have the actual resilience of mind or the psychological security to respond rationally. This is what we’ve seen this week and why the first Black Swan has destabilised the Union more than they can realise.


Comments (25)

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  1. Catrìona says:

    Very good article and it would be interesting to understand Labour’s alleged dislike of “nationalism” per se. Johann Lamont likened it to a virus, but was it a virus that led to Norwegian resistance to Nazi rule. That was nationalism. Were the Vietnamese wrong to stand up against French then US rule? That was nationalism. It’s lazy thinking to demonise any change to a political status quo imposed from outside, although I understand why the likes of Johann Lamont detests the Scottish variety. If Scotland becomes a real country like Denmark, Australia or Bhutan, bench-warmers will no longer be able to coast along deciding about wee things. The bench-warmers will have to turn adult, and that’s not easy when in your political life you’ve chosen to be a child for over 50 years.

    1. fehvepehs says:

      Spot on. It would be nice to think that people like Calamity Johann would take on board such observations as described. Fat chance of that as they are too busy defending the indefensible

  2. As a great friend of mine commented today, Osborne and Co. may well learn the true meaning of ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’ on the back of this week’s posturing.

  3. muttley79 says:

    This events of this week may well be the beginning of the end of the Union, whether in September, or some other time in the future. Some may argue that it was the successful devolution referendum in 1997, or the SNP’s landslide victory in 2011, or maybe even some other date (1979, Poll Tax etc).

    However, this was the week where any pretence that Scotland was an equal and integral part of the Union was destroyed, and probably for ever. The UK establishment have decided to blindly lash out at Scotland. This was the British state, through its almost indistinguishable main political parties, telling the people of Scotland that a) we are no more than a possession of the power elite in London, and b) that they see no point in even hiding their contempt for our nation, and the people who live here. Now, many independence supporters had thought this for, in some cases, a long time. However, this was the British establishment telling even unionists in Scotland, that they now feel no restraint in berating and threatening our nation.

    The MSM of course are fully in support of the No campaign (STV to be fair are at least attempting to be impartial), as yet another train wreck of an interview of Alex Salmond by Kirsty Wark demonstrated. Even her introduction to Salmond was noticeably hostile! The sheer hatred and fear that Salmond arouses in the British establishment is breath-taking. They are absolutely furious at him and the wider independence movement for challenging their power, status, privileges, and state. They are not even attempting to disguise it now. As another of your articles this week argued, this is not really about currency, or the more powers saga. It is about the complete failure and inability of the British state to defend itself, whether in political, economic, or even moral terms, and offer a positive vision for the future. This was reflected in Osborne scurrying away from Edinburgh as quickly as possible, without having the decency to fully explain his views, and decisions to even the compliant MSM, or to No supporters in Scotland.

    1. mjaei says:

      Couldn’t have said it better.

    2. tccokey3 says:

      STV impartial…….I do not think so,not at the moment.Perchance later ! they may change.

  4. atypicalscot says:

    Interesting, is the black swan really a metaphor, or is it an oil-drenched swan?

    It has always been the case, even from the lips of Mr Swinney that a currency union would have to be long term. Not a decade, but long term, in order to create a stable market. A commitment to a long term currency union may not have been rebutted so quickly. But why would we want that?

  5. On Twitter yesterday, someone asked what the Latin for “GIRFUY” was, as he wanted it to be the Scottish Motto. I explained to him it already was!
    Nemo Me Impune Lacessit – “Whoa daur meddle wi’ me?”

    As for the Labour’s loathing of the SNP? It’s because they’re fishing in the same pool.

    However, to justify their opposition to self-determination, they have to pretend it’s “Nationalism” and means the same as joining a Milosevic death squad.

    Intellectually lazy and politically moribund. Labour see how Scots have punished the LibDems for joining a coalition with the Tories – do they really believe they will be immune when they’ve done the same?

  6. mel spence says:

    Since the ’79 Group won the argument, you struggle to get a fag paper between the SNP and Labour on most issues, Yet there is a deep abiding personal animus between sections of Labour and the SNP

    Anne’s right, fishing in the same pool is part of the reason. However, there is a sense among much of Scottish Labour, that it is “their” parliament, “their” council seats, “their” votes. The loss of “their” place is behind the splitting of COSLA, and explains, I think, much of the vitriol,Sadly, spray the vitriol around long enough, and it will be returned in kind. (There is also a strong strain of another sort of Unionism at play in Scottish Labour, which coarsens the discourse, but that is a tale for another time)

    Ian Smart and other like minded voices in Scottish Labour are convinced that a No Vote will result in the SNP slumping into a period of vicious infighting, which will create space for Scottish Labour to “get it all back” They are wrong, what the tone of the campaign will do, is deepen and intensify the mutual loathing. In the event of a No, the SNP will likely coalesce around the view that Labour betrayed Scotland,and turn its collective fury on Labour. At the same time, Labour will face problems from the triumphant voices who want to roll back the devolution settlement, I’m afraid Ian Smart will see a party riven by internecine warfare – his! Meanwhile, Westminster will take advantage of the chaos to really reap their reward from a No, by slashing budgets, removing powers, and generally being unpleasant.

    However, it won’t be sweetness and light in the event of a Yes. the idea that once independence is achieved, the SNP will continue on its merry way is odd. Can anyone really imagine Fergus Ewing and Alex Neill sitting around the same cabinet table post Indy? The case for a general re-alignment is strong, but the Labour/SNP feud is a huge stumbling block to that project.

    I’m afraid win, lose or draw, the labour/SNP feud will continue to coarsen the political discourse, and in the event of a No, lead to some outcomes we would all like to avoid.

    Labour need to grow up, and many in the SNP need to learn to forgive. Sadly, there is no sign of the former, and without that that there can be no forgiveness.

    1. muttley79 says:

      I agree about there not being much between the SNP and SLAB, although SLAB have clearly been going in a more right wing direction recently. I disagree though with your argument that the SNP/Labour feud will continue significantly if there is a Yes vote. If there is a narrow Yes vote then Labour voters and supporters will have contributed massively to this. In fact they would have made the difference. In this context, the SNP would be utterly foolish and stupid to continue feuding with a real Scottish Labour Party, in an independent Scotland. However, if there is a No vote then I would be very afraid for Scotland and the political system here. It would unfortunately be in all likelihood a repeat of the post 1979 debacle.

      I agree about there being a significant realignment in Scottish politics after a Yes vote. I would be surprised if the SNP in its present form lasts much further after the first term of an independent Scotland. The SNP Left would have the choice of joining the Greens, Scottish Labour, or staying in a reformed SNP (which would probably be a vaguely social democratic party like at present). People like Fergus Ewing, Mike Russell would probably go to a right wing Tory type party, joining up with Murdo Fraser and co.

      1. mel spence says:


        I agree that when there is a Yes vote, it will be on the back of voters who normally vote Labour, and Labour supporters who always do.

        However, its not about voters and even supporters, it’s about Councillors. MSPs, MPs & activists, who cannot bear to be in the same room as SNP types, and sadly all too often vice versa.

        To give a trivial example, the former Labour provost of my local council, won’t even stand on the same platform as the SNP councilors in his ward at the local kids Gala, feelings that are reciprocated in spades, I might add.

        I fear it will take a generation post indy for the inter-party relationships to return to something approaching normal. In local government, the need, forced on them by reducing budgets, for joint-working is improving things, but the progress is painfully slow.

    2. tartanfever says:

      A fag paper between SNP and Labour policies ?

      Like free prescriptions, free university education, a written constitution, an independent Scotland, free bus passes, elderly care, REMOVAL OF TRIDENT, keeping Scottish Water in public hands, keeping the NHS in public hands etc etc.

      Are you people bonkers ?

  7. Abulhaq says:

    The originator of the Black Swan theory stated surprise as an important element. Surely the British establishment’s negative ought not to have been unexpected? Surely we could not have been so ingenuous as to think they would say yes, ok, cool! or am I just a precocious cynic….

  8. kininvie says:

    No – it’s not a black swan, it’s merely a predictable reversion to type. They have been using the same tactics since 1296: first, legal arguments to show us we have no rights, then blackmail to tell us what happens when we don’t agree. I won’t mention the third stage.

    It’s unfortunate that they haven’t the imagination or courage to break free of their history and be constructive and supportive. Had they taken that line, they might have won. But they haven’t. So we’ll just have to play the old game agin.

  9. The difference between SLAB and the SNP is integrity. SLAB have none, the SNP have it in spades.

  10. DougtheDug says:

    The only “Black Swan” moment in the past few days has been the idea that the UK will block Scottish independence unless it gets the deal it wants which can be easily summarised as, “you’ll take what we offer or we won’t let you go”. However I’d regard it more as a grey swan moment, unexpected but not totally out of the blue.

    The currency union was always shaky. It lowered the apparent risk of independence amongst those who were undecided as there would be no new currency to deal with, just the familiar old pound. That meant that it was almost certain to be rejected at some point.

    The fact that there will be no joint devolution offer is, well, like finding out bears shit in the woods. It was never on and every new offering stays with the original model for devolution which is Barnett formula funding with the power to raise tax rates above the UK level to pay for additional services.

    The only interesting thing about any new devolution proposal will be how involved, obscure and opaque the method used to deliver the Barnett funding will be to disguise the fact that the Emperor has no clothes and how many times the phrase “tax powers” will be used when they mean “tax collection”.

  11. David Smillie says:

    The SNP is a strong and competent social democratic party, and are far closer to what is found in Scandinavia than SLAB.. Labour are failed socialists who have bankrupted Britain twice in my lifetime. The SNP will not disintegrate after independence leaving Labour to pick up undeserved rewards. The remnants of Labour will need to find a distinctive niche in the political ecology. The SSP is a proper socialist party and more power to their elbow.

    1. Flower of Scotland says:

      I agree with you . I couldn’t have said it any better !

  12. DougtheDug says:

    Why is the Labour party in Scotland against independence?

    The SNP has been around for 80 years. Over that time there will certainly have been a filtering process where the Scottish nationalists have gone to the SNP and the British nationalists have gone to Labour.

    Then there’s the loss of power in Scotland. Labour grew used to running Scotland almost as a one party state until the SNP took control of Holyrood in 2007. Labour still resent that to the point that if the SNP want something the Labour party are against it even if it is Scottish independence.

    One factor that most people overlook is that Labour is a British party. There is no Scottish party so Labour in Scotland take their direction and instructions directly from the Labour party leadership which simply because of the population ratio between Scotland and England is overwhelmingly English and supportive of the British state.

  13. It is somewhat amusing to see the SNP with their supporters and their expectation that in the unlikely event of a pro independence referendum outcome, the divorce will be entirely on their terms…

    1. tartanfever says:

      Is that you David Starkey ?

      I can almost feel that stiff upper lip from here, very impressive.

      Now jog on.

    2. Abulhaq says:

      Judging by the media the Osborne-Balls intervention has lead-ballooned. The prim, prep school prig’s utterances have simply pushed the doubters, and not a few noes, into the Ay lobby. There will, ineluctably, be a divorce but of the coarse sandpaper not velvet variety. bonne journée M. Le Chat!

  14. Richard T says:

    I’m puzzled by the Herald story, all that appears to have been said is that, should all the complicated post-referendum negotiations not be completed by the (arbitrary, and by most accounts pretty optimistic) preferred date laid down in the WP, then by definition independence would not begin on that date. I don’t see how this can reasonably be interpreted to mean that a Yes vote would not be respected.

  15. Stephen Senn says:

    I think that some of the discussion of nationalism and independence overlooks the fact that much of the nationalist dynamic of the 19th century was one of unification not independence. For example the creation of a unified Germany required the defeat of an independent Bavaria (amongst many other things) and that of Italy the defeat of Sicily. We tend to look at all this with post-unification eyes and assume that what was achieved was the ‘natural’ geographical and political arrangement. Equally for the UK until recently union was seen as being natural, a point of view that the Scottish independence movement is vigorously challenging. But of course it cuts both ways: union may not be ‘natural’ but then neither may be independence.

    My own “country”, Switzerland is a case in point. In fact this was created out of the civil-war of 1847 and many of the incorporated parts had as much independence from each other (and often more democracy) than Scotland had pre 1707. Scotland is often falsely equated with Switzerland. If an independent history is the key factor, then Geneva would be a better equivalent. The correct analogy for Switzerland is the UK. In that connection, yes Scotland could manage an independent currency but the decision that Swiss cantons made in 1848 was to abandon their independent currencies in favour of a Swiss franc https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_franc#Franc_of_the_Swiss_Confederation.2C_1850.E2.80.93present

    Sometimes going it alone is not the best solution.

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