As we settle into 2016, Scotland could have been readying itself for independence in around 11 weeks’ time.
It’s quite a thought. You can almost hear the bells ring out and the sight of pint glasses in the air. George Square again filled with saltires and hope. The dreamers who dared to dream would be in their reality, the promised land.
If just 191,969 more Scots had placed an ‘x’ beside ‘Yes’ the country would have taken a step in that direction.
They didn’t, I’m afraid to remind you. What if they did though? What would have happened in the months between that famous night in September 2014 and the present?
Let’s dare to imagine, again.
While you read this two sets of negotiating teams would be resuming their talks after the New Year celebrations.
You can bet while the talks ceased and the two parties headed home sighs of relief were given all round. I dare propose one or two would have enjoyed some more wine than they should have over the break. The pressure of what is in store when they return is beginning to be too much. ‘This wasn’t what I was promised when Salmond phoned,’ they mumble over the claret.
Despite it being in rUK’s economic best interests to have a formal currency union with Scotland, the rUK government has removed it from the negotiating table.
There has been a groundswell of public opinion in England against the Jocks after the ‘Yes’ vote. Cries of no more ‘subsidies’ or helping hands are numerous on TV, radio and newspaper columns. It seems politically impossible for any rUK Prime Minister to do such a deal, to make his taxpayers the lender of last resort to Scotland.
Similarly when the Greek government demanded debt cancellation, on sound economic reasons, it was politically impossible for the German Chancellor to accept such a deal for her own political popularity domestically. It is impossible for rhetoric to reconcile with reality.
We see economic rational replaced by the realpolitik of the situation.
Right wing commentator after commentator derides even the suggestion of such currency arrangement.
Secretly, however, the rUK position is that they will allow a formal currency union but they need something significant in return. Something that they can go back to their constituencies with and show their voters that it made the unpopular deal worthwhile. That special something that they can face them in the eye with at the next election campaign and say, ‘I did what’s best for you, me, and our generations yet unborn’.
The Scottish Government are shocked by the rUK government’s counter proposal. Downing Street is demanding that an independent Scotland commit to a long-term lease of the Faslane naval base, and the continued operation of the trident submarine programme from it, in return for a currency union between the two states.
The Scottish negotiators are now stuck between a rock and a naval base. They promised a currency union but they also promised to send trident south.
Edinburgh is suddenly finding out, to its horror, that rUK team aren’t here for a velvet divorce. They are here to get the best deal for their citizens – the people who elect them or throw them out of office.
While locked in the talks – dubbed the proposed Anglo-Scots Agreement – the Scottish negotiating hand has unexpectedly diminished. The oil price has collapsed from north of $100 to under $40 – the base level the IMF set forth in April, 2015 which the North Sea needs to survive.
The £6.8bn – £7.9bn of off shore receipts as budgeted for in White Paper have evaporated.
While this is going on, the Daily Mail are running a campaign demanding a second referendum to approve or disapprove of the Anglo-Scots Agreement. Opinion polls are showing that if the referendum had been now a majority would vote to stay in the union. The Mail and others are saying that the people of Scotland were lied to by the Scottish Government.
The howls of disapproval grow louder and the beads of sweat on the foreheads of the Scottish negotiators trickle more often.
What was outlined above wasn’t dystopian fantasy but the very real possibility that Scotland could have found itself in.
The events between September 2014 and the present illustrate how quickly the lie of the land can alter. When the second referendum comes, which it will, and if the ‘Yes’ campaign triumphs, which I believe it could, it needs to be prepared for such events.
It must be nimble footed, able to alter its plans as events eclipse ideological positions. Importantly, it has to be able to concede – which Yes Scotland and the SNP did not – that hard days may come a new Scotland’s way.
That concession is important. Very important.
With that on the record any First Minister will be able to limit, subdue and marshall dissent against any failings in the negotiation agreement away from themselves to rUK. This is how nationalist politicians become winners, this is how they become a nation’s founding fathers and mothers.
The SNP leader at the time of the next referendum has to be able to be confident and honest enough to say that hard times will be ahead. She or he should have the courage and conviction to set forth that though the ascent to the summit may be difficult the view from the top will be worth it.
If they do not prepare the nation for the journey properly, the fledgling nation may falter and not fly.