Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tunnel Vision.

Bit of an onslaught last night from the television, with a Dispatches program dedicated to alleged SNP government bullying of business owners and Robert Peston's For Richer/For Poorer about the economics of independence.

I didn't see the former so cannot comment except to say, the notion that Scottish Government ministers are 'bullying' business leaders doesn't really make sense, its also curiously lop-sided - does the Better Together Campaign not also 'bully' business owners? Or should the media wonks behind the entire notion grow up and call it what it is: campaigning, canvassing or lobbying? It also seems a bit dubious that the main witness for the prosecution was one Gavin Hewitt formerly of the Scotch Whisky Association - currently suing the Scottish Government in Europe over minimum pricing for alcohol - not that they're at all miffed right enough...

The entire program is based on intrepid Channel Four newshounds contacting fifty companies who they 'believed' might have concerns around Scottish self-determination. Of this fearful fifty only five were fretful, another fourteen claimed to know of other business' that had been 'contacted'.

As usual, scratch the surface a wee bit, actually not even a wee bit. The quote below is from the Dispatches link above:
"Gavin Hewitt, the former Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association tells Channel 4 Dispatches that he or senior members of his staff met with Angus Robertson - the SNP leader in the House of Commons - on at least six occasions over the past two years:
“He and the SNP have regularly tried to get the message to the Scotch Whisky Association that the Scotch Whisky Industry should stay out of the independence debate. He was, I think, trying to neuter business comment. There was a genuine fear that in fact if we were seen to scupper by coming out publically against independence, there would be retribution down the track.”
“Regardless of whether the SNP win or lose the referendum vote in September they will be in power for many years to come and that those people who have stood against them or worked against the central plank of their policy, independence, will be singled out and will be remembered.”
Contacted 'on at least six occasions over the past two years' said Gavin Hewitt - be still my racing heart! You were in charge of the umbrella body for one of Scotland's premier and most well known industries, of course people from government are going to visit you. Does any one really believe the agenda for all of those meetings consisted only of Scottish Government ministers tag teaming the beleaguered Gavin Hewitt into not uttering a view independence?

Donning my Jessica Fletcher outfit for a moment - surely SNP ministers would try to persuade him to support independence - it would make more sense. That ministers instead cruelly bullied him into silence must mean he was already dead against the policy. In terms of the oppressed Mr Hewitt's appearance on a program seemingly partly set on damaging the SNP, you can draw your own conclusions.

John Swinney also comes under fire for suggesting public bodies might want to leave the CBI because it had registered as an official no campaign group. Scottish Enterprise left of its own volition and the heinous Swinney used that precedent to pressure other public bodies in to doing the same. In a previous paragraph, you get a measure of the journalistic prowess being deployed:
"The programme reveals new information about what happened following the decision by the CBI to publicly back a No vote. This led to many of its members pulling out, most of whom claimed they’d made the decision in order to remain politically neutral. Channel 4 Dispatches has obtained emails which reveal the role played in this pull-out by the SNP’s John Swinney."
The 'decision by the CBI to publicly back a No vote'  - Gosheroony - its as well they did because we'd never have known. 

Beyond that, read Peat Worrier here for a more poetic skewering of the program.

So to the latter program which I did see - Scotland: For Richer for Poorer. Robert Peston's expose on the economics of iScotland. Its not a great start when in the first few minutes of the program Paul Johnson, head of the IFS claimed Scotland spends more money than it raises in taxes - this is not true. Scotland raises more in tax than it spends and has done for decades.

He went on to say we'd have to raise taxes or cut spending - we wouldn't. That isn't an out-and-out lie though - he's telling the truth; so long as you're happy to accept Holyrood would adopt all of Westminster's spending plans. In terms of deficits though, most nations have them, it wouldn't be a disaster if Scotland did - it would be the norm.

The IFS need to base projections on something, so they base it on current spending priorities going forward. If you vote yes, after independence day, an SNP administration (for example) plans to spend £2.5 billion on defence, about a billion less than Scotland's current share as part of the UK. Infrastructure is another example, Scottish tax payers will be paying a per capita share amounting to £4.5 billion for HS2 - yet the new tracks won't come anywhere near Scotland - what might we choose to spend that cash on?

Our own infrastructure could stand some attention.
When ever you read or hear information coming from organisations like the IFS or OBR - its probably flawed. The formulas and arithmetic will mostly be correct, but the numbers being plugged in will mostly be wrong. If you decide to downsize your home - when you're working out how much you'll be saving in your new bungalow, you don't use gas & electricity bills from the broken-down stately home you've just left.

Peston also talked about the Pound then parroted the old can't-have-the-assets/will-have-the-liabilities meme. There is a principle at play here. How can it be, if we choose to dissolve the political union - we'd only have rights to the liabilities accrued over the years? 

The Pound is an asset, it has existential value partly built by Scottish industry and effort. More over, Westminster can't stop anyone using it - how would that work anyway? If a guy from Pencaitland is standing next to a girl from Ashby de la Zouch in a Magaluf Bureau de change - is a crack treasury operative going to rappel from a helicopter and confiscate his cash while she changes hers into Euros?

Crack Treasury Operatives about to pounce on a man from Bolfracks who is in the process of paying for a Cornetto with Sterling.
And unionists still offer as certainty that we wouldn't be able to use the pound.

I didn't see the Dispatches program but based on their web page, I'm going to give them 2/10 - a CEO or chairperson having 'a feeling' does not a scandal make. I look forward to next week's program about how Westminster politicians have been doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

On Peston's effort, a higher score is required - it would be higher still if the makers hadn't made the program with old bog roll tubes sellotaped to their eyes. It isn't good enough to endlessly quote propositions from either side without ever mentioning the rebuttals - 6/10. 

I look forward to the job ad for Crack Treasury Operatives in Job Centres around the country. It'll probably be farmed out to G4S or Capita. (Zero hour contracted, applicants must have own rappelling equipment - uniform provided.)


  1. I have long since stopped believing Robert Peston.

    Since I know that he is lying about the currency (having worked in banking for decades) how can I believe anything else he says? I don't have time to research his every statement or check up on what he is omitting. Therefore I simply turn off when he comes on.

    I wonder if he understands the damage he is doing to his reputation. Can reputable newspapers continue to employ a man who has blatantly lied on the BBC?

  2. 'Journalists' and commentators like Peston think they get away with it because they're merely repeating assertions made by others.

    I suppose they would argue they're 'reporting what people said' - but what they won't do is challenge any of it.

    Meanwhile, his reputation down south (where it really matters) remains intact.

  3. Pa

    I didn't see it but it sounds like a car crash of a show out of the jenny Marra school of political thought ie a nat could come up with better. Sounds like the show was more of the same. Fear more fear lies fear more fear on a cake. The naysayers are really shitting themselves that the cow that is scotland won't be around much longer to be milked dry.


  4. I only saw the last half of it Bruce, but what I did see of it was mostly infuriating or quite funny.

    The old dear (quite posh Tory type) talked about what would happen if there was a third world war and Russia (etc) launched their missiles. The answer is - we'd all cook or die in the nuclear winter. Whether we fired out paltry 60 odd missiles back would be neither here nor there.

    Then Marra of course with her reality denying claims about almost everything.

    Sometimes its hard to identify why some 'politicians' are so unlikable - with Baillie for example, its because she's so incredibly oily and untrustworthy. With Lamont, its because her politics are intensely hypocritical. With Marra, its because she's really very patronising - she tries to give her points or opinions more weight by claiming people in opposition 'agree' with her when a) she can't possibly know that and b)they clearly and obviously don't.

    I'm prepared to accept there will be uncertainty which ever way we vote, Jenny Marra on the other hand doesn't do uncertainty, what she says will come to pass and that is the end of it.

    If she was reading this, she'd probably claim she was right all along because I agreed with her.


    (For the record.)


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?