Independence by Xmas 2018, a new currency, increased taxes, decentralisation of local government, a hard border with rUK and trust in the political class are the visions presented by Gordon Guthrie in his new book recommended and endorsed by Nicola Sturgeon. AhDinnaeKen took a quick peak:
By Longshanker aka @ergasiophobe
“Scotland will become independent on the same day that the rUK leaves the European Union around Xmas 2018” reckons Gordon Guthrie in his new book, Winning the Second Independence Referendum: A Manifesto For Scotland In the European Union After Brexit.
It’s a bold claim which could easily be mocked and ridiculed before being summarily dismissed. But Guthrie is no fly by night nationalist fantasist. He’s one of the unsung heroes of the SNP’s spectacular electoral successes since 2007 onward: his analysis software, know how and ‘five year plan’, significantly contributed to the SNP’s ever increasing popularity and election gains since 2002. Guthrie joined the SNP in disgust at New Labour’s Iraq policy. Labour’s loss has been the SNP’s exponential gain.
Guthrie’s opinions matter. His personal manifesto, contained within this short, punchy, cogent, fast paced book, is easily worth the two pounds sterling you’ll probably not pay for it.
For there’s a real, hard, pragmatic edge to it. It’s neither sentimental nor emotional and at times could be described as brutal. For example, in the event of independence, Guthrie says: “there will be a violent squeeze on OpEx expenditure in Scotland and a jump in CapEx . The Holyrood based political class, and the institutions that support them will be put under severe pressure overseeing that.”
It’s an admission that there will be nae money to do virtually anything with. There’s also a tacit inference of potential social unrest with “violent squeeze” and “severe pressure” being the giveaway. Coupled with his insistence that Scotland should have its own currency while dealing with the realities of a hard border at Gretna, it presents a virtual tap in for opponents who claim that independence would lead Scotland into levels of debt, poverty and penury which could set it back for decades.
Of particular interest to Scottish Unionists will be the notion that they “can only be betrayed” by their political Unionist brethern south of the border. For, according to Guthrie, the strongest Unionists in the UK are the Labour party – and they are currently a hopelessly divided and ineffective force in British politics.
The Conservative and Unionist Party, however, are transforming into little Englander, UKIP styled Nationalists. Their finger pointing blame game isn’t going to stop at Johnny European foreigner. ‘Whinging Jocks’ up North will inevitably become a target as the SNP Executive engages in increasingly intransigent demands over right wing Tory Nationalist Brexit plans.
A steady ship from the Scots Nationalists where they “must sit and wait patiently” while Brexit economic and political shockwaves destroy what’s left of Westminster’s political credibility and stability is the crux of the Guthrie gameplan. English Nationalist anti-Scot remonstrations will drive more Scottish No voters toward the Yes camp than Yessers ever could:
“Popular support for independence will not be won by the Yessers converting the No voters – but by the English Unionists chewing up and spitting out the Scottish ones.”
It’s hard to disagree. You can see the clear and present reality of that happening right now in front of your eyes – if only you cared to look.
Where Guthrie appears to be further out of step with current SNP leanings lies in his demand that there must be a new Scottish currency. Here, his argument takes a nosedive. There is no mention of where and how we would build the needed reserves to make such a currency viable in international markets – though he does concede that higher taxes and pain are an inevitability either with or without independence.
Instead he focuses on the issues of operating a dual currency economy – citing Northern Ireland and the Czech-Slovak velvet divorce as the examples to take lessons from. The rationale is there, but the elephant in the room of where the reserves are going to come from is blindsided. It, like the Yes currency argument of 2014, is still the independence movement’s bogeyman.
He’s also out of step with SNP policy and action with his plea that there must be less centralisation and more decisions taken locally: “We are beset with the sins of centralisation too, and we must shake off those habits.”
But that’s unlikely under the current Nationalist regime. Quite the reverse is happening now in modern ‘civic’, ‘democratically awakened’ Scotland: institutions and local councils are being, almost routinely, defenestrated, hollowed out and brought under increasing Holyrood/Sturgeon/Murell control.
However, one place Guthrie’s book wins is in its strategic long term optimistic vision of Scotland as a major European player in the sphere of digital innovation. There is a convincing, aspring and inspiring case made here for Scotland’s current position in the tech scene to be expanded upon and exploited within a Brexit scenario.
Skyscanner and Fanduel, from having a couple of handfuls of employees six or seven years ago, are now billion dollar companies with thousands of employees. They are a success story which demonstrates the power of multi-national, multi-ethnic cooperation – about a quarter to a third of their employees are not UK born. And it’s this outlook and culture, combined with naked ambition, which Guthrie considers would enable Scottish companies to take on and compete aggressively with Berlin. It’s the sort of fighting talk which fires up this jaded Scot into believing in the innovative potential of oor great wee country and oor great wee people – even though a large part of the game plan hinges on the influx of hundreds of thousands of highly paid, highly skilled immigrants.
Of course, the offset of Guthrie’s infectious optimism is that it unravels with some of its appeals to trust: “The second part is to put our trust in our fellow citizens, people who just happen to work for a local council, or the civil service, or who we have elected into office.”
A major element of the success of the SNP has been in its hoovering up of this disaffected distrust of public institutions and the political class. Scots, in general, have felt increasingly disenfranchised from the political process since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 – ironically assisted into power by a willing and complicit SNP. Tony Blair’s New Labour further reinforced and cemented this disaffection.
But the SNP are only as trustable as the parties they have replaced and obliterated in Scotland. And, given that much of their success has relied on the apeing of the New Labour machine politic, that’s hardly a swingeing endorsement or testament to their trustability or competence to deliver on their promises.
Guthrie also demonstrates an almost idealistically naive belief and trust in the EU as a benevolent force for good: “For Scotland, the European Union is a union of equals and the UK was not.”
You only have to take a look at the treatment of Greece and the hardship currently imposed on its people by the European Union’s Brussels-Berlin nexus to sneer at that belief. If that’s a ‘Union of equals’ then UKIP are a progressive and civic party of altruistic philanthropists – a debate for another book and another dimension in time and space.
The latter half of the Guthrie manifesto covers the practical steps with which Scotland could affect its full transition to independence. It positively hums with Guthrie’s digital expertise and optimistic ‘trust’. It reads like an integrated system of varyingly ambitious subroutines in a complex and functionally synchronised computer program.
And that’s no bad thing. If only councils, public institutions, businesses and government could integrate with such harmonious machine efficiency – we’d be laughing all the way to the Sugarcandy mountain bank.
Overall though, Guthrie has taken the brave step of presenting a cogent, honest and mostly credible vision of how an independent Scotland could look and act in a post-Brexit future. It’s not perfect and it’s not wholly convincing – but that conclusion will depend on your political leanings and outlook.
Where the book does win however is in the optimistic pragmatism of the vision it presents. It’s not the sterile Salmondesque technocratic vision of economic levers and unconvincing currency unions; rather, it’s a working template which, after a lot of penury, poverty and social unrest along the way, could just work for the betterment and enrichment of the country.
Nicola Sturgeon’s endorsement and promotion of the book earlier this month seems rather odd given Guthrie’s trashing of the previous referendum currency stance as “weak”, his belief that there would probably be a hard border between Scotland and rUK, and the need for decentralisation of local government. But, as Nicola said, Guthrie’s book is good and fairly quick to read – “recommended”.