Avoiding a Political Trap: Why Alex Salmond didn’t articulate a Plan B on currency

Alex+Salmond+Makes+Keynote+Speech+SNP+Autumn+J3QZCJTQtVDlBy Jonathan Rowson

After last night’s debate on Scottish Independence, where the snap ICM/Guardian poll suggested that Alastair Darling ‘won’, against the odds, lots of people are asking an apparently simple question.

If Alex Salmond’s main problem was that he couldn’t reassure the audience about the inevitability of his Plan A for a UK currency union, and lots of Scots remain uncomfortable with uncertainty on such a fundamental issue, why didn’t Scotland’s First Minister articulate a plausible plan B? One audience member even said: “I’m ready to vote yes, but just tell me about plan B for the currency.”

I think Salmond was wise not to, and this was a political trap. The clue lies in the fact that he was goaded into talking of plan B by Alastair Darling and about half of the audience.

When Salmond first responded to the leaders of UK’s three main parties saying they wouldn’t accept plan A of a UK currency union by suggesting that they are basically lying for strategic advantage, it seemed like a principled position, and plausible for many, including leading economists and indiscrete government ministers. More importantly, the poll movement towards Yes seemed to back it.

But Better Together have nonetheless stubbornly held that line, wavering though it may be. The political calculus that uncertainty about the colour of money in people’s pocket will outweigh the uncertainty over political skulduggery appears to have worked out, at least for now.

So surely the Yes campaign should now change track? There’s not much time left and currency is a big stumbling block. How sad it would be for those like me who want political independence for reasons that are not about the economy to lose out to doubt on this issue, which is actually much more psychological and political in nature than economic.

But I wonder if Salmond should hold his nerve. Polls are continuing to narrow and up to about a third of voters are still undecided. In a former life I played chess professionally, so I often ask myself what an opponent might be thinking, and in this case I sense that articulating a plan B is exactly what Better Together want Salmond to do.

At first blush he could say: “This is a non-issue because the currency union makes so much sense for both sides, but if sound economics and common sense doesn’t prevail, plan B would be to use Sterling outside of a currency union, like Ireland did for 50 years after independence.”

This suggestion sounds so compelling at first blush. Next question! But I suspect Darling’s prepared response might have been rather powerful: “Ah, at last! And you think the EU will let you in with a currency that lacks a lender of last resort? No chance.”

The biggest problem with the most straightforward plan B, based on the Ireland analogy, which otherwise feels so friendly and familiar, is that Ireland wasn’t simultaneously trying to be accepted as an EU member while entering that currency position. Without any link to The Bank of England or another viable lender of last resort, the claim we can join the EU without joining the Euro no longer feels entirely credible.

So what else? The principled position is to create a completely new currency, but then the risk is how that currency would be valued by global markets on day one. The Scottish economy is objectively very strong, and there is no particular reason to fear the judgment of the markets, but that feels too much like playing dice. Boldly opting for our own currency might have been a powerful plan A, because it’s consistent with the otherwise confident position on the economy. But it’s a lousy plan B. Where the purpose of a plan B is to allay anxiety, it’s enough to know it could go really horribly wrong for the bold option not to be fit for purpose.

The biggest problem with the final main option, of joining the Euro, is mostly psychological. When the Euro crisis became a household name, the original idea of Scotland joining the Euro was apparently not well received on the doorstep. Despite strength returning to the currency, recent history makes joining the Euro feel too much like asking for trouble, which again is enough for this option not to allay anxiety.

None of the economic doubts are altogether convincing because Scotland’s economy is robust and versatile enough to adapt in most scenarios. Still, the basic problem is that every individual plan B includes a potential negative factor that would provide a fresh target to The Better Together campaign, keeping currency uncertainty alive, and making each prospective plan B seem even riskier than the chosen plan A.

So I understand why Salmond is holding his ground. His position is that Plan A is obviously going to be ok, and that may yet prove to be obvious enough. And it also makes sense to speak of the other options in composite terms. Taken together, our own pound, a new Scottish currency and the euro are waiting in the wings, like an indistinct group of friends we haven’t seen for a while who might be handy in a fight.

The trap laid last night, I think wisely avoided by Salmond, is that when they come out of the wings one by one, each reveals itself to be no less vulnerable to doubts than plan A, which makes the risk of plan A not working out even more salient in the voters mind.

As I’ve written before, on balance I would personally vote yes, given the chance. After last night though, I can see why the currency issue is not going to go away. I think the Yes campaign need to take the doubts seriously but also ‘keep the tension’ on currency, as we say in chess – don’t throw away the strength of your position just to reduce complexity for the sake of it. Economically there are many viable options, and the electorate knows that, but politically there is no plan B.



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126 replies

  1. The currency issue as explained by Andy Anderson

    As expected Alex Salmond handled all the issues in the TV confrontation with Alistair Darling well, but the currency issue was used by Darling to make the Scottish First Minister look as though he had no options on this issue. That is sad because it is a long way from the factual situation.
    Darling was keen to get Alex Salmond to identify one currency option, other than a currency union with the pound and by his reference to Jim Sillars it was obvious that he wanted Alex Salmond to refer to the option of Scotland setting up its own currency. Alex Salmond was too politically aware to fall into that trap. Because although, that is one of the options in the White Paper, to have referred to it last night would have answered one question and opened up twenty new ones.
    These are not one-line simple debating issues they are complex issues requiring serious discussion and assessment. In his book ‘In Place of Fear 11’ Jim Sillars advocates a new Scottish currency. This is also the view which Ronnie Morrison and I take in our book ‘Moving On’. However if you takes this view, you are required to respond to a number of important questions which relate to it. What banking structure will we have? Who will control monetary policy and money supply? Will the new currency be traded on international money markets? Will it come within the fractional reserve banking system or will it be a full reserve currency? These questions and many others need to be answered if you were contemplating establishing a Scottish currency, and in our book we address them.
    However, while I am in favour of a separate Scottish currency, I agree that it would have been unwise, and entirely unnecessary for Alex Salmond to have walked into that trap last night. Because this is not a real debate about economic issues, it’s a personality knock-about with the media having no interest in real economic issues. Indeed complicated economic issues are being used by them to ‘create confusion’ and help with the project fear process.
    Back in the real world the situation is this; people are very worried and concerned if they hear that the pound, which they are so familiar with, is going to be taken from them. What does that mean for their money in the bank? Or their wages? How will they manage without the pound? This is however just a meaningless scare, it has no economic grounds.
    The truth is that on the 19th of September after Scotland votes yes we will continue to use the pound exactly the same as we do now the money in your pocket or bank account will not be affected in any way. There will of course be effects at Macro-Economic level (national UK level) but it will not be obvious in your daily lives.
    The big change which will take place is this: The Scottish Government and the Scottish people will continue to use the pound sterling, indeed as an open international currency no-one could stop this even if they wanted to. Scotland would not have a say in a Sterling ‘currency union’ but they do not have that now, the good news for Scotland would be that they were no longer ‘in any part’ responsible for the UK national debt and more significantly sterling’s massive international debt.
    This would mean that overnight the r-UK would see a huge rise in its GDP-National debt ratio, at the same time it would have a significant worsening of its revenue-expenditure deficit, and in its balance of payment deficit. Since these problems would be entirely the responsibility of the r-UK Government the money markets would threaten a run on sterling if the UK Government did not take immediate steps to address these problems.
    Cameron’s Government would dispatch a delegation immediately up to Edinburgh to discuss with the Scottish Government steps to deal with this crisis. Alex Salmond knows this that is why he makes it clear that the present UK Government stance is pure bluff, as indeed it is.
    So very shortly after Scotland votes yes, the UK Government will be seeking help from the Scottish Government to save the pound and will be under pressure to get almost any deal which the money markets will accept. Alex Salmond will be in a strong negotiating position about the nature of the deal that will emerge and he knows it.
    Now for people like myself and Ronnie Morrison, we want a Scottish currency, but we do not want to see the pound sterling collapse. Both Ronnie and I see no long term future in the pound sterling, but we recognise that a collapse would cause great damage to both economies. Our objective would be to find a short term arrangement which would see Scotland use sterling, without a currency union, but with certain agreed temporary arrangements which would allow Scotland to move on to a new Scottish currency by mutual support and agreement.
    What people need to understand is that the commitment that the Bank “Promises to pay the bearer on demand” which they will find on every pound note is a commitment from the bank of England and more properly the UK Government to every holder of sterling all over the world. If we in Scotland use sterling, but are not part of a currency union then whatever sterling we hold is redeemable from the UK Government, they are in our debt. If however we are linked to that Government as now, or in a currency union in an independent Scotland in future we become debtors not creditors in the system.
    So in our view this issue of the currency is one which needs careful consideration and negotiation after the yes vote. It is not something which any Scot should be concerned about because Scotland will stand in a very powerful position in the post referendum discussions on this if we have a yes vote behind us.
    Andy Anderson

    • Is there a problem with this line of thought in that it assumes that an iScotland without a currency union with rUK can walk away from a pro rata share of UK national debt and sterling’s international debt without any consequences for its negotiations with the rUK on other issues? (I honestly don’t know the answer)

      • Works the other way too, the rUK can’t play hardball on other issues without risking iScotland walking away without the debt. Default independence position is a new country, debt free. Then essentially we spend the entire negotiations bribing the rUK by offering to pay for some of the debt.

      • Nemo me impune lacessit = whae daur meddle wi’ me! Or so I was taught in school.

      • Nemo [nobody] me [me] impune [with impunity] lacessit [provokes]

        Anything else is colourful paraphrasing.

    • Well written Will. The No Camp are making successful hits here with this apparent weakness to the YES argument because some peopple are starting to believe the scarey-bogus stories that we cant have the pound because a stuck up Tory public school prat says so; they believe we will have the POUND IN OUR POCKET taken out of our pocket by Orborne, that the First Minister is risking us all losing all our money! That’s what they want the undecided to believe. To fear. To panic. To play safe and vote No. Undecided voters need to know that it is SCotland’s wealth that props up the £ sterling and without SCotland the £ sterling will collapse. Hence the position of Mr Salmond. This needs to be clearly presented on tv etc by yourselves and people like Ivan MacKee of B f Scotland.

      • Absolutely, and it seems like the No camp have succeeded, with Yes commenters jumping up and down, wanting the government and Yes campaign to change tack. The No lot have sidelined the arguments and tied us up in endless agonising over a matter which would normally matter little to voters. The currency needs to be parked and arguments shifted back to areas that voters really want discussed – the NHS, poverty, food banks, Trident and the possibilities that will open up to us after independence.

        Instead of playing the No game, we need to circle the wagons, back the Currency Union position and stride forward on those other issues.

    • That is the difference between Jim Sillars and Alex Salmond.

      Jim jumps in, declares his hand and shows his lack of nous in the negotiation business.

      There is no Plan B because Plan A is a nuanced and multivariate negotiation position.

      Plan A will be used across the table after a Yes vote in September.

      If a CU is point blank refused or the conditions attached are too onerous, the second option comes forward and the implications of that are explained to the No team.

      An amical £ zone working together on a friendly way would be explained and if is temper tantrums time from No, a £ Scots shadowing the £ stg is then the withdrawal position from the table by the Yes side.

      The YES side have time on their side and if there is not an amical and swift resolution made public the markets will react and the message will soon get through the bone headed Osbourne and Johnson.

      Sillars would have walked in and walked out having been chewed up and spat out.

      That is why AS is where he is and JS is where he is. JS is a nice enough guy and his heart is in the right place but he does make some naive whoppers. He would have thrown away a Trump card in order to make a personal point.

      Never reveal your hand in negotiations and always leave false trails.

  2. Thanks for a very insightful article, Jonathon. I, too, agree that Mr. Salmond is showing great political savvy in refusing to be drawn into the quagmire of plans B-Z. I have been tweeting these two articles today which, no matter what your opinion of Wings over Scotland may be, present some *very* interesting and perceptive points:

    http://wingsoverscotland.com/why-there-will-be-a-currency-union/

    and:

    http://wingsoverscotland.com/why-we-shouldnt-do-walking-away/

    I would also encourage readers to refer to Robin McAlpine’s article previously published on Bella:

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/02/13/born-honest-born-clever/

    where he suggests, “Perhaps we should pay a proportion of our annual ‘direct debit’ payment not to the Treasury but to local authorities in the North of England, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, the Midlands… Better still, perhaps we should set up large cooperative development funds in these areas and put all our payments into them, allowing the people of the North of England and so on to manage their own resources. Scotland could send them money in a way London never would. ‘You can’t do that’ screams Boris Johnstone. Sure we can Boris.”

    Magnificent idea. Anything that makes Boris scream is ok in my book.

  3. I think Salmond should have responded to the currency Plan B question like this: “Of course I have a Plan B in my drawer. And a Plan C. And a Plan D. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t. However, if I revealed my alternative plans, I would effectively reveal my negotiation strategy, and that would inevitably lead to a worse deal for Scotland. I want the best deal for Scotland, so I can’t do that. Do you not want Scotland to get the best possible deal, Alastair?”

    • Sounds good to me too but I am neither a politician (thank God) or a money-man. I thought there one or two Independent Reports surfacing which supported the benefits of currency union (at least for the moment)

      • think the reason he didn’t answer plan b,c,d or even e is because if he did then he would be saying that they could stop Scotland from using sterling which is not the case, was shouting at the telly that night about that one lol

    • Thomas, that is the wisest and most succinct response to the issue that I have read since the debate!

  4. Jonathan – a very good article and I understand why the Plan A Currency Union is the best option and why Alex Salmond is sticking to the plan.

    My main issue is why nobody on the Yes side is pushing back aggressively on this issue?

    If rUK do not agree to the plan A but are liable for all of the current UK debt, why is this point not being pushed that turning down the CU would wreck the rUK economy?

    I would just like to hear Alistair Darling admit that the rUK is liable for all the debt and Scotland would not have to repay any of this as they do not share the £.

    This is what rUK are proposing but they are not admitting to the logical consequences of their decision.

    • Would saying, publicly, what money markets know privately;that without Scotland’s VAT contributions, export duties, income tax and population, the rUK economic situation puts them in danger of default on deficit servicing, not panic markets? As long as no one says it out loud, they can carry in as if everything will carry on as before, but as soon as the wee boy says the Emperor is naked, then nobody can pretend any more. Sterling instability will be good for nobody and BT know that FM cannot blow their position out of the water, without taking Scotland’s defenses too. Their cynical lie makes me want to say, post Indy, keep your pound and your debt we will use one of our many other options, but then my daughter and brother down there would suffer too from the economic turmoil that would follow.

    • I don’t think the idea of wrecking the UK economy worries the Wastemonster crowd one bit, as long as their individual wealth remains intact when they walk away from the mess and leave it to others to pick up the pieces. The UK has always been spiteful and vindictive, and probably always will be.

  5. Perhaps and certainly Salmond could not have introduced a plan b last night but is this a no win question for the First minister? Neither response removes the uncertainty which is the real concern of don’t knows and a concern that is not easy to overcome. I kind of believe the no currency union policy of the three parties. A currency union is not going to go down well with the wider rUk electorate in 2015 and if pushed through by party leaders might trigger a cross party back bench revolt. I kind of also cringe a bit when the First minister declares he knows what is best for the rest of the UK, they might not agree. The anon. senior unionist politician who told the Guardian this was a bluff if they exist allowed the SNP to park this problem as solved and not address it with the care it needed. Too late to do this now sadly and this will continue to figure big I fear and the no plan B line will continue to get a bad reaction. It could even be an unnoticed checkmate for Better Together.

  6. Arrrghhhh! Sorry to be “that guy”, but my biggest bug-bear in the entire debate cropped up, and I can’t ignore the itch…

    “The biggest problem with the final main option, of joining the Euro, is mostly psychological.”

    No, the biggest problem with joining the Euro is that the rules of Eurozone membership would specifically prevent it. It’s not like EU membership, where there’s nothing in the treaties dealing with Scotland’s situation – the Eurozone criteria is there, in black and white.

    It. Isn’t. An. Option.

    Unionists love bringing up the spectre of being “forced into the Euro”. We shouldn’t even entertain the idea that it’s an option, because it just isn’t. Unless we do what Montenegro do, but that’s the same as just using sterling, minus the (supposed?) benefits.

    I agree though that when your opponent is desperately trying to get you to do something, it generally means you probably shouldn’t do it. (Mind you, it could always be a double-bluff, in the way unionists threw away their best chance of winning the referendum by refusing to allow devo max on the paper, all because they thought it was what we really wanted…) Having heard bugger all about currency when canvassing etc, I’m not convinced people really give much of a toss about currency, which can go both ways – it means it’s not the Achilles heel unionists think it is, but it also means Salmond potentially made himself look bad for no tangible benefit. But if it is a problem for some people, then perhaps we should worry less about how unionists will twist things, and more about what people actually want to hear.

    But in reality, it’s far too late to change tact now. It would look flaky, which is probably the real reason unionists want us to “reveal plan B”. Just make sure everything else is watertight and trust people to be able to see through Osborne and co’s bullshit.

    (Ireland used a currency board, incidentally, which would be akin to a Scottish pound pegged against sterling, rather than simply continuing to use sterling.)

    • (And just to be clear – what Montenegro does could not be classed as being “in” the Euro, since “in the Euro” really means “in the Eurozone“, which they’re not.)

    • Which Eurozone criteria could not be met? Create a Scottish currency, peg it to the euro at 1-1. Don’t actually use it physically, announce your intention to join the Eurozone in two years, spend the two years in ERM II at a fixed exchange rate, and meet the deficit requirements. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I don’t see which criteria we cannot possibly meet, and I don’t see why the Eurozone would refuse to let us join?

      • I’d be interested to hear Doug, why what Alan proposes isn’t feasible, in your view?

      • “Create a Scottish currency, peg it to the euro at 1-1. Don’t actually use it physically, announce your intention to join the Eurozone in two years, spend the two years in ERM II at a fixed exchange rate”

        And at which point between now and the day of independence are we going to do all that, exactly? Bearing in mind independence day is less than two years away…

        We could join the Eurozone eventually, but it’s not an immediate option. It’s even too late to convince the UK to put sterling into ERM II and get in that way!

      • Criteria 5 I believe.

        5. Exchange rate stability – the country’s existing currency must have been part of ERM II (Exchange Rate Mechanism II) for at least 2 years without severe tensions.

        As seen here… http://wingsoverscotland.com/joining-the-euro-for-idiots/

        …or criteria 4 here… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_convergence_criteria

      • Alan Ritchie – you’ve described “creating an independent Scottish currency and joining ERM2” as “using the Euro” – flaw is pretty obvious there. We wouldn’t be using the Euro at all.

      • Ah, so are you just saying that we wouldn’t be in the eurozone for day one of independence?

        If we decided we wanted to be in the eurozone in the medium term, it would make sense to simply adopt the Euro from Sterling. I don’t see the point of transitioning the economy to a new floating Scottish currency for a few years and then to the Euro.

    • Thank you Doug, I was wondering if anyone else had spotted this one rather large error in an otherwise good article.

  7. Canvassing tonight with RIC in a working class area of Alloa, we did not come across a SINGLE mention of currency- and wait for it, we got a 70% Yes response. Best evening’s canvassing yet!
    This is why we are going to WIN.

  8. I have recently been trying to understand the competing theories in international law on succession of states which could be applied if Scotland votes Yes. The UK Govt’s case is that Scotland will be a new country and will start with a clean slate. Only the rUK would inherit the legal obligations of the UK, including the obligation to pay the bearer of its currency . So in this way, it would be entirely in the gift of the rUK to agree to a currency union with Scotland.

    One alternative theory in international law is that the UK would dissolve into 2 new successor states – rUK and Scotland – both of which, co-equally, would inherit the UK’s existing legal obligations. On this basis, I believe that an iScotland could reasonably lay claim to the pound as belonging as much to it as to the rUK. And this is what I understand the SNP’s case to be (but I am not sure). (Obviously the apportionment of currency obligations as between rUk and Scotland would be a matter for bi-lateral negotiation and probably on a pro rata population basis)

    I understand that international law in respect of succession of states is not enforceable – no court has been given such jurisdiction. And so, the competing theories do little more than inform political negotiations. If I am right, should Mr Salmond make more of this and assert that Scotland has the right to the pound as its own currency on the basis of the theory of co-equal successor states? If he doesn’t make this clear, he lets the “No” campaign get away with the sleight of hand that the rUK will keep the pound as a matter of settled international law. From what I understand the UK Govt has chosen the school of international law that suits them and portrayed it as a) the legal consensus. and b) binding, when neither is true.

    • I Am Not an International Lawyer. However, I would say the rUK will definitely be considered the successor state, for realpolitik reasons. USA will want them on the UNSC for example.

      • you can’t have a single successor state in the break up of a supposed union of equals. (whether that reflects the real situation or not) the UK will no longer exist.

        Back to the old divorce analogy, you don’t have a successor married person, just either a squabble or a reasoned discussion as to who gets what .

        further , being a successor state has little or no bearing on what happens in the UN, the UN can just as easily have a “new” member appointed if it so wishes.

      • Edinburgh Eye, the Treaty of Union of 1707 remains in force, (otherwise the SNP government could declare UDI and walk away tomorrow without any need for this referendum) as do the 14,000 other treaties the United Kingdom of Great Britain has signed since 1707. For instance, the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) which brought us Gibraltar. Are you suggesting this and the other approximately 13,999 treaties are no longer applicable simply because they’re three centuries old? You are ignorant of international law. Treaties remain in force until the signatories agree to annul or amend them.

        The Treaty of Union of 1707 is the foundational constituional document setting up the British state. Wales did not sign it, because Wales was not a sovereign kingdom able to make international treaties, neither did Ireland, which was a kingdom (declared to be so by Henry VIII but never actually a kingdom ‘united’ under an Irish king), because it was not invited to do so neither did it wish to.

        The kingdoms of Scotland and England created the UK. Both were sovereign nations, able to make international treaties. In 1800 Ireland joined the UK which was henceforth known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, until 1922 when Ireland left the Union except for a rump of six counties in the province of Ulster. Henceforth the UK was known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, UK asserting its territorial claim to the remaining six counties as part of the former kingdom of Ireland. This claim continued to be a bugbear in relations between UK and the Republic of Ireland, which continued to press for a united Ireland including the six counties. This was a major issue preventing co-operation between UK and the Republic in resolving the Troubles.

        As part of the deal to resolve this both the UK and the Republic dropped their territorial claims over the six counties. Both agreed that the rump of Ulster was not an integral part of their territories but that the population would remain British for the purposes of administration and citizenship, until such times as the population decided otherwise, but the territory would belong to neither. So far the population has been happy to remain British (including the minority Catholics). But that might change, if for instance the Catholics ever became a majority and wished to be Irish rather than British.

        By the Good Friday agreement the territory of Northern Ireland is no longer an integral part of the UK.

    • have recently been trying to understand the competing theories in international law on succession of states which could be applied if Scotland votes Yes.

      There are no competing theories in international law. There is an idea that’s been thrown up by Scottish nationalists who don’t pay attention to history, that if a part of the UK splits off and declares itself an independent country (qv Ireland, 1922) that part becomes a new country, but rUK is the same country just a bit smaller, in terms of square kilometers and population size.

      That’s obviously not true. If Yes get the majority, in March 2016 the UK will still exist – the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – and will still have all the international obligations and memberships that it had before.

      iScotland would be a new country under international law.

      The idea that the pound “belongs to Scotland” is not enforceable under any law. For Scotland to “just use the pound” would be unworkable.

      It may “work” to have Scotland, as the SNP plan, still under the control of Westminster with regard to our economy – to have the Chancellor and the Bank of England make all decisions, impose whatever austerity cuts they decide Scotland “needs”. (We wouldn’t have a say in any of that, of course.) That would certainly suit the Tories.

      Unfortunately, there is insufficient support in Scotland for a central bank/own currency, which would be real independence (and would allow Scotland to enter the EU as an equal partner). If even so-called YesScotlanders can’t muster enough enthusiasm to campaign for independence, why is anyone surprised that No still has the majority?

      • If the treaty of union is ripped up by Scotland there will defacto be no Union continuing! So England will be in exactly the same position as Scotland. However, how we leave the Union is open to negotiation and the UK elite have a shopping list they will give a lot to achieve.

        • If the treaty of union is ripped up by Scotland there will defacto be no Union continuing!

          And yet, the UK continued to exist after 1922, despite “ripping up” the 1800 Act of Union. So, you know, you’re just factually wrong about this.

      • Northern Ireland is NOT a kingdom, but six counties of a province of a former kingdom. It is also no longer an integral part of the UK. This was what the Good Friday agreement reached – the UK has renounced its territorial claims. Sadly, Wales is a principality, not a kingdom and was annexed by England in the thirteenth century. It was never a signatory to the Treaty of Union which created the UK. If Scotland leaves the UK, the UK is dissolved. What remains may wish to call itself ‘rUK’ (what’s in a name?) but the only kingdom that will remain will be that of England.

        • I’m sorry, I was under the impression we were living in the 21st century, where the huge differences you perceive between “kingdom”, “principality”, and “province” were unimportant.

          If Yes gets the majority and Scotland ceases to be a part of the UK, the UK is no more “dissolved” than it was in 1922.

      • “The Treaty of Union is the name given to the agreement that led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain,the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland, which took effect on 1 May 1707. The details of the Treaty were agreed on 22 July 1706, and separate Acts of Union were then passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the Treaty.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_union
        The Act of Union (Ireland) and “The Union with Ireland Act2 were repealed by the Republic of Ireland.
        When Scotland leaves, the Treaty of Union will be repealed and the United Kingdom will no longer exist.
        Do you have any evidence for your assertion that there insufficient support for a central bank?

        • I can see you’ve obviously done a lot of very serious research into the issue, as you have managed to not notice that the UK will still consist of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Ho hum.

          Do you have any evidence for your assertion that there insufficient support for a central bank?

          The SNP thinks Scotland can’t have a central bank of its own but ought to remain dependent on Westminster and the Bank of England.

          In this discussion thread alone you’ll find several examples of Yes supporters arguing vehemently that Scotland can’t have a central bank.

          I’ve been raising this issue with Yes supporters for months, and found only a handful who agree that the SNP should drop currency union before 18th September and aim for Scotland to have a central bank by March 2016. The support just isn’t there.

  9. Fact is that most people don’t want to bugger about changing currency and any plan that suggests that might happen loses confidence and therefore votes.

    The argument needs to get across that you can use what ever currency everyone accepts, if what’s in your pay packet is the same as you spend in the shops then everything ticks along. Ultimately then it’s up to the people to decide which currency they use no matter what the politicians think.

    Whether there’s a currency union or not.
    will your employer still want to trade in pounds? – Yes
    will your employer still want to pay you in pounds? – Yes
    will you be willing to accept them? – Yes
    will you be able to buy your messages with them? – Yes
    why do you want a plan B? um…

    • That’s the thing. There’s absolutely no doubt that an independent Scotland will be using the pound for the foreseeable future. The outstanding question is about technicalities: Will we be using it as part of a formal currency union, will we be using it informally, or will we create a Scottish pound linked 1-to-1 to the rUK pound? For political anoraks this is really interesting, but for the vast majority of people the main thing is we’ll be using the pound and not the euro or the bawbee.

      • Yeah, that’s the point really.

        Westminster can’t stop the people on the street using pounds, so what’s all the fuss about?

        We theoretically could use Pounds, Euros *and* Dollars, if we really wanted (Some shops in the touristy bits of Edinburgh do accept Euros already, btw), the only issue is what people are willing to accept.

    • Fact is that most people don’t want to bugger about changing currency and any plan that suggests that might happen loses confidence and therefore votes.

      Quite. As you say, not enough people in Scotland want independence. Independence is a vote-loser. No will get the majority in September.

      • Did I say that?

        I suppose just telling us no will win is a useful contribution to the discussion?

        • Did I say that?

          Yes, effectively. Either you want Scotland to be a fully-independent country – in which case, yes, Scotland will have to “bugger about changing currency” or you don’t. If you think changing currency is going to lose votes, you think voters don’t really want independence.

          And that defeatist attitude says even the Yes campaign doesn’t believe Scotland is ready for independence.

      • Very good. This is just like shouting your existing opinion at people. Odd.

        • *shrug*

          As I noted elsewhere, I don’t see any point in writing long comments explaining exactly why currency union is a bad idea when no one here is interested in that.

          But yes, it is a tad irritating to have a so-called Yes supporter explaining that real independence would just lose the Yes campaign votes.

  10. 56% of people said the currency would make no difference to their vote! This is a no campaign invention as its all they have. Unfortunately our myth peddling media just want to talk about monetary units rather than the country we are actually voting for.I reckon some undecided voters need to get off their lazy arses and find stuff out themselves.There seems to be a spoon fed culture in this country.People want a personal inventory given to them of everything that will happen to them after a yes vote.These people who can’t decide are obviously incapable of personal research and conclusion.Surely if they come out with lines like we don’t know who to trust…?da da da.Then the first thing you do is find out your own truth.I am not sure these people are capable of voting for their nations future!

  11. Has anyone given thought to the possibility that AS actually WANTS no CU with the rUK and is pushing them into a position where they almost have to deny it because of the sheer bloodymindednes, forcefulness and entrenchment of their position. If they do back down then we have CU ( and they are exposed as the connivers that they are ) if they do not, then no debt for iScotland. As I see it, a win win scenario. After all if markets see ScotGov being refused CU then they will view it as the rUK taking responsibility of the debt ( as previously promised ) not iScotland refusing to take their share of debt.
    AS CU position may not be the most palatable for a lot of the voters out there but I do have faith that he has weighed all this up and trust he has nothing but the best interests of Scots as his guiding light. After all, I know he will be aware that sticking to his guns has made people doubt. H

    • My thoughts exactly – did he not once call Sterling a millstone around Scotland’s neck. BT are too busy looking at the stripes (from “Catch me if you can”).

  12. Remember another recent article describing the UK gov. when do they ever agree with each other, normally they shout and ridicule each other with glee except when they are at war. Now I know that seems extreme but its a battle of sorts now like the EU the UKgov could obtain a definite answer but won’t as the decision is out of their control and thats what this is about control. The SG has to appear reasonable and calm to portray a sensible stance. BT can’t do the same as they know when people hear the debate in those conversational terms they side with Yes so they have gone with putting up the shutters, the arsenal off side trap circa George Graham if you like, its not pretty but it’s effective. It is a strategy to hide a deficiency , that is not a lack of pace but a vacuum of positives in remaining in the union. Think about all the reasons generally its the g7 or security council which don’t get me wrong I often hear people in the food bank express their relief at being a part of these organisations. So the shutters went up in order to try and create uncertainty and to exact a shift by saying well look they were wrong in the CU and they or he as the debate is of course Alex Salmond another schtick. Its the old barter heid once you change your opening gambit the opponent knows he has something you want and gains the upper hand. Yes I am disappointed as much as anyone that a more constructive debate was not orchestrated but thats never the UK way.
    If anyone doubts Salmonds plan A entrenched position think back to Osborne and Balls when EB was urging Gideon to disclose a plan B did he respond ? So it was ok for Osborne to stick to the original default position.

  13. I would use sea shells or bottle caps as currency so long as the system of governance was accountable and transparent.

    I simply couldn’t care less about currency. Its an important part of the mechanics in any country, but when considering the enormity of the question of ‘how you wish to be governed’, it comes that much farther down the list of priorities.

    Of what use is a currency however stable, when those who are in control of its flow and management refuse to aid those in need or mismanage the economy in their care? Putting the right governmental system in place which prioritises the care of the electorate and manages the economy accordingly is by far and away the true priority here.

    To state ‘the bleedin’ obvious’, all the power of Westminster’s establishment and the BoE and yet we see people begging for food in our streets today. All that wealth in our own country and yet instead of putting people back to work and rebuilding Scotland’s industrial heart and making it fit for the 21st century, we’re replacing weapons of mass destruction at our own expense. We’re helping to pay for a train service we’ll never use. We helped to pay for the regeneration of London’s infrastructure for the Olympics and so much more besides. Yet where does the UK stand in the rich – poor divide? Something like the fourth most unequal in the developed world and with a £1.4tr debt mountain besides?

    FFS currency? Plan B?

    The problem which needs fixing is the system of government,

  14. This (via Elaine May Smith)

    Reporting the Referendum
    “The Treasury case against a post-independence currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK has been dismantled as ‘misleading’, ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘the reverse of the truth’ by one of the world’s leading economists. Professor Leslie Young, of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, accused the UK Government of relying on a ‘lurid collage of fact, conjecture and fantasy’ in making its argument.” (The Herald, 23 March 2014 http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/osbornes-case-against-currency-union-ripped-apart-by-top-economist.23757346)

    George Osborne says there won’t be a currency union. The unnamed UK minister, Philip Hammond, says that of course there will be as, does Alistair Darling (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKht7X6P0T4) and the Nobel Prize winner Sir James Mirrlees of the independent Fiscal Commission working group (http://www.scotreferendum.com/2013/04/currency-in-an-independent-scotland/ and http://www.scotreferendum.com/2014/02/currency-union-is-the-most-logical-option/). The British government doesn’t want us to vote Yes so of course it will say, now, that it won’t agree to currency union. But what will it do after we actually have voted Yes? How can we know whether it is Mr. Osborne who is right or Mr. Hammond, Mr. Darling and Sir James Mirrlees? Those claiming there will obviously be an agreement (like Mr. Darling and Mr. Hammond) cite a common, mutual interest in having one, after a Yes vote. If only there was an independent, expert economist who could give a view.

    Professor Leslie Young is an independent, expert economist and he was commissioned by Sir Tom Hunter’s independent Scotland September 18 site to assess the British government’s claims. An independent expert commissioned by an independent think-tank. So what were his views on the British government’s position?

    Pretty clear. There are, he thinks “only two explanations for this stance by the UK Government, which has shaped the current debate on Scotland’s currency: either confused logic and inadequate economics, or a subterfuge to frighten Scottish citizens to vote against independence by raising the spectre of economic chaos immediately afterwards. Neither explanation does the UK Government much credit.”

    He won’t say it so starkly because he can’t, but we can: the British government is either ineptly incompetent or it is lying to try to frighten us. Either way, it is not to be believed. Because, as he continues:

    “If Scotland votes for independence, then a currency union with rUK would be better for both economies than Scotland’s other currency options: unilateral use of the Pound Sterling, a currency board, an independent currency with a flexible exchange rate and joining the Eurozone.

    I arrive at [this conclusion] via a comparison of how each economy would function under the various currency options if Scotland were subject to a reckless fiscal policy, or to financial instability, or to a drop in oil prices. Treasury presented these contingencies as reasons to oppose a currency union; they turn out to be reasons to advocate it over an independent Scotland’s other currency options. I then offer three general arguments in favour of a currency union: it offers microeconomic advantages to both economies that are likely to outweigh any macroeconomic advantages from the other currency options; it better insulates both economies from international disturbances; and it minimizes the massive legal issues that both economies would face immediately if Scotland switched to a new currency.”

    You can read Professor Young’s full paper at http://scotlandseptember18.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Currency-Options-for-an-Independent-Scotland.docx.

    We’re in a political campaign and the British government (and all the British parties) are players in it, on the No side. They’ll say, now, whatever they think will help them get a No vote. As Crawford Beveridge of the Fiscal Commission working group politely understated it: “we understand that political considerations will play a role prior to the referendum” (http://www.scotreferendum.com/2013/05/shared-currency-in-best-interests-of-scotland-and-ruk/). However, once we vote Yes, the British government are not going to punish us for being so cheeky. And that is particularly the case if doing so would slash the UK’s balance of payments, lead to a plunge in Sterling’s value and result in tens of thousands of UK jobs being lost as businesses that trade with us (we’re England’s second biggest trading market) close.

    Problem is, of course, not every claim and not every pronouncement by Better Together and the British government can be subjected to such detailed, independent scrutiny. There’s not enough time, not enough money and would everyone read it anyway? Many people see only headlines in unionist newspapers. Still. “Misleading”. “Unsubstantiated”. “Confused”. “Inadequate” “The reverse of the truth”. “A lurid collage of fact, conjecture and fantasy”.

    A lurid collage of fact, conjecture and fantasy.

    We can all bear all that in mind when we read anything else they say. But most especially, and most especially when we get to the ballot booth, this: “a subterfuge to frighten Scottish citizens to vote against independence by raising the spectre of economic chaos immediately afterwards”. A subterfuge to frighten Scottish citizens to vote against independence. By our own elected government. That, most especially.

    • They have used fear, uncertainty, doubt and social division against their own electorate from day one, when all we asked for was a positive case to contrast and compare.

      I’ll never vote for another party in support of such a system of governance as long as I live. I’ll support no party that has been willing to cause harm or distress to its own electorate.

    • Professor Young’s paper concludes that Scotland and rUK are so similar economically, culturally and socially that they would run the same macroeconomic policies anyway, and that if they didn’t labour and capital would simply cross the border.

      He also envisages the currency union would have only a single central bank, rather than each state having its own central bank as actually happens in currency unions (with a central central bank in the case of the eurozone).

      And he assumes that Scotland can simply enter the eurozone without having first met the neccesary tests (own central bank, own financial regulator, own record of meeting eurozone financial disciplines in managing its own currency).

      I think he has started with his preferred option and worked backwards, ignoring the real world conditions that would apply.

      The reality is that we need our own central bank (whichever option we go with) and our own currency, backed by our own efforts.

      • A central bank leads to banks behaving in ways that necessitate them being bailed out by the “lender of last resort”. In countries where there is no central bank, the banksters watch how they behave much more carefully, so that they won’t fail – as they know they will not be bailed out.

    • Yes – Westminster lacks statesmen brave and honest enough to challenge the UK Govt’s tactics in this campaign.

      • @tiggsy – can you name a country that doesn’t have its own central bank?

        (I think the only ones in Europe are the Vatican, Monaco and Andorra)

      • Interesting point Tiggsy – the Panama situation. – and maybe Iceland’s bankers are being a bit more cautious these days. But a Central Bank allows proper regulation – preferably including a conversion to higher rates of fractional reserves (which also stabilises the system) and eventually full reserve banking. Also if the Central Bank is sole creator of money (the sovereign system) then it can be used for social objectives instead of 2/3 money issued by banks for property mortgages … which leads to a property asset bubble … which leads to a collapse in the system a la 2007/8

  15. As separate to the indyref question as is possible, I would be concerned at the irresponsibility of Osborne proposing to undermine the value of Sterling by insisting on not having the oil or Scotland’s economy to support it. I would question the medium-term value of rUK Sterling without Scotland and present it as a bigger problem than the currency problem for a Scotland with oil.

  16. He should have explained one or two of the other options, and then said we are not going to use them. As it is, the whole debate nearly was about this. He let Darling dictate what the debate was about. A lot of people don’t really care what currency we use, but would have loved to hear about other stuff.

    • After “what’s your plan B” there would just be questions on each of the ideas brought forward as possibilities and it would be no better than now, except that AS would have thrown his cards into the ring, which is exactly what the No camp want.

  17. I too favour a scottish currency on the long term. I know why salmond is doing what he is doing though. I’m looking 20 years down the road, not two months.
    We do need to move away from exponential fiat currency such as the pound in the long term. Also the great myth about the all controlling Bank of England makes me laugh. It didn’t manage to prevent the tripling of the money supply by private banks over a decade which caused the financial crisis. Interest rates adjustment fails in recession – banks don’t want to lend and people don’t want to borrow. Also if your economy is built on private debt and not real growth, they are a blunt tool that kills the economy.

    What people who see the UK as safe and strong need to realise is that the tail very much wags the dog. The BoE is servant to the banks, not master. There is no money multiplier or reserve ratio anymore. Private banks create the money – 97 percent of it.

  18. I’m going to assume that Alex Salmond is neither stupid nor ill-informed, okay?

    “This is a non-issue because the currency union makes so much sense for both sides, but if sound economics and common sense doesn’t prevail, plan B would be to use Sterling outside of a currency union, like Ireland did for 50 years after independence.”

    He could have said that, but he would have sounded both stupid and ill-informed.

    Currency union makes sense for the finance industry in the short term. It means control from London for the Scottish government, and if you think that’s “sound economics and common sense”, why are you voting for independence? In the long term, of course, it’ll lead to economic disaster for a whole bunch of reasons, which I’m sure no one here is interested in.

    Using sterling outside of a currency union makes no sense at all for a country with an economy the size of Scotland’s. A country which “just uses” another country’s currency has to keep enough currency – actual, physical currency – for “all debts, public and private”. There currently exists about 3bn worth of Scottish banknotes. The public sector in Scotland alone costs over 60bn. It is entirely possible for a government making use of another country’s currency to quite literally run out of money. I’m sure Alex Salmond understands this. At least, I hope he does.

    Ireland between 1922 and 1928 did “just use Sterling” outside of a currency union. Scottish Yessers keep repeating this, apparently vaguely under the impression that Ireland 1922-1928 was just like Scotland in 2016 and what worked for Ireland ninety years ago will therefore work perfectly well for Scotland today.

    But you’d have to be too ill-informed even to look the facts up on Wikipedia to claim that Ireland used Sterling outside of a currency union for fifty years. Ireland established its own central bank in 1928, and thereafter issued its own currency.

    So what else? The principled position is to create a completely new currency, but then the risk is how that currency would be valued by global markets on day one. The Scottish economy is objectively very strong, and there is no particular reason to fear the judgment of the markets, but that feels too much like playing dice.

    Quite. And given that apparently the majority of Yes campaigners don’t believe Scotland can cope with its own central bank and own currency from day one, it’s downright hypocritical to be campaigning for independence.

    • Oh, you again.

      Seriously, who gives a toss about what picture’s on the bits of paper we trade for our food? Or where they were printed?

      It’s all numbers in a computer these days anyway, unless we want to go back to the Gold Standard (which I wouldn’t personally object to). And the country’s numbers are essentially irrellevent anyway, or the UK having £3,000,000,000 or so of (government) debt would actually cause people to stop lending them money. But it doesn’t stop them the same way it would stop you or me.

      So who gives a shit? And *why* do they give a shit? Oh, right, because their numbers in those computers are currently far, far higher than most people’s, and they like waving their dicks around about it.

      Seriously, lets get everyone fed and housed, as a nation we can afford it (in truth the whole UK could afford it if they wanted to, it’s not exactly hard if there’s the will to do so)

      • or the UK having £3,000,000,000 or so of (government) debt would actually cause people to stop lending them money. But it doesn’t stop them the same way it would stop you or me.

        Yep. But the UK has a central bank with the power to print money backed by the UK economy.

        Scotland won’t have that.

      • ‘Yep! But the UK has a central bank with note-issuing powers.

        Scotland won’t.’

        Would love you to point me to the article that says where our banks will lose their note issuing powers ? You don’t need a central bank to issue notes, if you did then we would all have to use Bank of England notes.

        Maybe you’d also like to respond to my point regarding your claim that we have to hold enough currency to cover all debt ? As I pointed out, the UK currently doesn’t, why would we have to ?

    • ‘of course, it’ll lead to economic disaster for a whole bunch of reasons, which I’m sure no one here is interested in.’

      No we are interested, please lay them out in some detail.

      ‘A country which “just uses” another country’s currency has to keep enough currency – actual, physical currency – for “all debts, public and private”.’

      – why ? the current UK doesn’t have enough currency to cover all it’s debts and quantitive easing (the issuing of new currency) happens at the click of a computer nowadays, not with the printing of actual money. Scottish banks also have note issuing powers, won’t that continue ?

      • No we are interested, please lay them out in some detail.

        Okay. Let Bella know you want me to write a main-page article and I’ll outline them.

        why ? the current UK doesn’t have enough currency to cover all it’s debts and quantitive easing (the issuing of new currency) happens at the click of a computer nowadays, not with the printing of actual money.

        Yep! But the UK has a central bank with note-issuing powers.

        Scotland won’t.

  19. AS: The best option for both Scotland and the rest of the UK is a currency union.

    AD: Yes but what is your Plan B Mr Salmond?

    AS: Our Plan B is to start considering ANY other option, then wait for Westminster to beg us to join a currency union to avoid the massive overexposure of its national debt against a balance of payments without most oil and gas, the prospect of Scotland being relieved by Westminster’s decision of any responsibility to shoulder any part of the UK National Debt, and a consequent run on the pound.

    AD: That would be chaos! Are you suggesting you would bring economic disaster upon the UK in an unnecessary and totally destructive move of total selfishness??!!

    AS: No – our choice is a currency union, and the choice to reject it would be Westminster’s. And we don’t believe that even Westminster would bring that fate on its own people. Which is why there will be a currency union.

    Although AD would love to create the frightening impression of economic chaos caused by independence he wouldn’t be able to admit that rUK was so vulnerable. In which case he’d have a problem…

  20. ” Still, the basic problem is that every individual plan B includes a potential negative factor “.

    I hope you’re not suggesting Plan A hasn’t negative implications. I would suggest the line should be to hold to Plan A with the proviso that our new neighbour’s government doesn’t show, post vote, the hostility the rhetoric suggests.

    If in the very unlikely scenario it does, then we should create a new currency.

  21. I think the real problem voters have is that Alex Salmond hasn’t explained the sensible rationale behind a currency union adequately so far.

    Even though polls say its not a major issue for voters in the referendum, the fact is that by not explaining it adequately to voters as has been done here, he gives the impression that it hasn’t been properly thought out.

    I’m confident they would support him and move on if he had succinctly put across the explanation you have given in this piece.

    Politicians like Alex Salmond take too much for granted regarding the average voters understanding of complex issues such as why there will be a currency union but not everyone is following the progress of these issues or understanding them as fully as keenly as the politicians or commentators, and so need to be brought up to speed.

  22. Why are Central Belt issues being rammed down our throats all the time?

    I have been struck by how much politics from the Central Belt we have rammed down our throats on a daily basis through television, the radio and newspapers in Scotland. To the extent that hardly any issues from other parts of Scotland get a look-in. The Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands and islands are part of Scotland as well but it seems their issues don’t count in this Referendum.

    Why are we having the same issues rammed down our throats continually, it’s as if a game is being played where only money counts. So much for equality, fairness and freedom. But is that what we are really aspiring too in this Campaign.

    I remember a man telling me in London that only issues in London were important, sadly it seems that only issues in the Central Belt are important when it comes to Scotland.

    • It is being addressed by the Scottish Government. Part of their strategy for immigration is to increase the working age population and stimulate growth in agricultural and rural industries by improving transport links to the highlands and islands and, with a Yes vote, offer a range of changes to tax and financial incentives. A lot of information can be found here: http://scotreferendum.com/topic/agriculture-food-and-rural-communities/

      The problem you see is the mainstream media doing what they always do, ignoring the rural areas for the population centres. All are guilty and it does a disservice to the public. I doubt that will change until our media are cut off from London.

      • Danish TV, I know, and Norwegian TV, I am told, seem to be able to stitch together a mosaic of TV news, based on three or four centres.

        It is a question of devolution and the provision of resources.

        I am sure that a system of satellite broadcasting centres, real ones, could be set up with a range of production and research teams, size dependent on the population centre.

        For example. Orkney and Shetland, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth, Glasgow, Dumfries, Inverness, Lewis, maybe Oban. Not fully teamed in all centres and each could bid for specialty backup for approved projects.

        I am all for the dissemination of Gov administration too.

        It would cost of course but the BBC spend next to nothing in Scotland whilst sookin on a nice little dripping roast. There is more than enough to go round.

    • I don’t understand this complaint. Firstly you say:

      ‘I have been struck by how much politics from the Central Belt we have rammed down our throats on a daily basis through television, the radio and newspapers in Scotland. To the extent that hardly any issues from other parts of Scotland get a look-in.’

      So you’re having a moan about the media. Fine. But then you go onto say:

      ‘Why are we having the same issues rammed down our throats continually, it’s as if a game is being played where only money counts. So much for equality, fairness and freedom. But is that what we are really aspiring too in this Campaign.’

      At the end of this quote you have a go at the campaign.

      What has the campaign go to do with the media ?

      Maybe you could also explain how ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons is also a ‘central belt’ only issue ?

      Or indeed why childcare provision is a ‘central belt only issue’, or indeed free prescriptions, bus passes, elderly care and so on. I’m sure they are universally available across all of Scotland.

      • I’m with Finlay. If you don’t understand how Scottish concerns outside the central belt are being sidelined, then it’s clear you’re not following the situation. For example, the people of the Northern Isles recently submitted a petition to the Scottish Government seeking a right to self-determination by way of a referendum, and the Scottish Government, in the words of the Shetland Times, simply “blew a raspberry” at the very idea. In short, it wants self determination for itself based on a referendum but is disinclined to apply the same principle elsewhere.

        OK, the petition was perhaps ill-phrased, but the contempt it provoked from central belt politicians was fairly breathtaking.

    • I think the reason that the money is being rammed down throats is because Darling and his cohorts just love money and want it to be the main topic.Secondly the unionist press just follow what their bosses tell them to do,and that is stuff CB and money issues down everybody’s throats,so to say.

  23. I’d say the weakness in the SNP position comes from refusing to contenance the establishment of a Scottish central bank or an independent financial regulatory (both neccesary in any event for EU Member State status).

    If we’re reliant on the Bank of England, a public organisation held under a royal charter and accountable to rUK politicians, then there is a very real chance that political decisions will over-rule any economic logic, as with the euro. BoE can’t contract separately with a new Scottish state.

    If we state that Scotland will have its own currency, backed by a strong Scottish economy, and which will be pegged against sterling, then we have the basis for a negotiation. We can aim for the same framework as the successful Luxumbourg/Belgium currency union, which preceded the euro, and saw two pegged currencies, two cooperating central banks and free exchange.

  24. This article shows what the City really thinks (former head of currency research at JP Morgan):
    http://www.cityam.com/article/1394565144/big-independence-lie-scotland-could-keep-pound.

    It is interesting in stating openly that a Currency Union is needed to shore up the pound and states “courtesy of 90 per cent of the UK’s oil and gas being in Scottish waters and other foreign currency earners like whisky and tourism, sterling liquidity will likely flow from the rest of the UK to Scotland. Scotland will be a net lender to England.”

    So anything other than Plan A would be simply gross negligence.

    However, I think the pound will weaken no matter the arrangement because rUK will at best keep its same debt to revenue ratio. However it will suddenly lose export goods and value and national resources to back up the borrowing. There are over 100000 jobs in London dependent in oil and gas, much of it insurance etc… many Headquarters and office jobs will have to move to the country that the Oil and gas industry is operating in. (See http://www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/).

    Note: The biggest single UK export class of goods is Gold and Gems products. It accounts for nearly 2O% of all UK exports by value. However the UK is just a middle man it has to import this first.
    See http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/26248-top-10-uk-exports.

    The weaker pound will be good for our exports but will hit those with a trade deficit. In fact Scotland also has a trade deficit but much less than the rUK. The key difference though is that our main trading partner is the rUK so as we will be using the same currency a lows pound wont hurt us at all imo.

    • The Professor’s paper is mostly arguing for a dollarisation approach – Scotland using sterling in the same way that Panama uses dollars.

      This appeals to the more right-wing economists as it is the closest they can get to the gold standard. I.e. next to zero inflation and you can’t lend money you don’t physically have.

      The Fiscal Commission took such a dim view of the economic consequences of that that they didn’t even consider it, only sterling union (Plan A), euro (Plan B) and a Scottish currency (Plan C).

      The quality of that group wasn’t high, though. They ignored the fact that you have to have your own currency, and demonstrate succesful management of it, before you can become eligible to join the eurozone.

  25. as a sit on the fence voter so far ( but leaning towards naw}, i find no fear factor in the case for better together this has been fabricated by the yes fraction but the better together party proved nothing in the debate,so before i cast my precious vote i will still be listening ,but not to drivel like some other country done it so we can do it we are in a very serious place at the moment with the country divided and a lot to prove,so stop trying to get point scoring and give us the PURE facts……………just saying like ..ps to the yes campain dont and persaude me on here
    pps i mean it

    • Huh, why comment if you don’t want to have a conversation?

      Unless you just want to cause trouble?

      What facts would you like to know?

    • So let’s get this straight Tam, if at anytime we look at another country and think to ourselves, ‘that’s a really good idea, why don’t we try that – it could help poverty/childcare/the economy/healthcare etc’ then thats ‘drivel’.

      Thanks for giving us such a positive outlook.

  26. Reblogged this on dylankjoneswriter and commented:
    When I said in the blog yesterday that I didn’t understand why Salmond didn’t mention Plan B, this sums up very well why that may be the case. Part 2 of the debate coming up soon also….

  27. Reblogged this on charlesobrien08 and commented:
    Articulated like I would like to be able to do,I think puts my thoughts and perhaps some other folks thoughts as well into a very good blog.

  28. “Boldly opting for our own currency might have been a powerful plan A, because it’s consistent with the otherwise confident position on the economy.”

    But not if you know with 100% certainty that your opponent is going to go all out to blast holes in your currency Plan A, whatever that is, because currency one of those issues that is inherently uncertain, because it’ll ultimately be the choice of an independent Scotland.

    If you know for certain your Plan A is going to be mercilessly attacked, it makes sense to propose the option that your opponent would actually probably most need and want if the vote doesn’t go their way.

    It means Salmond is in a hellishly difficult position, arguing for something he needs his opponent to agree to deliver, which they obviously aren’t going to do for political reasons, and are going to make huge capital over him even asking for. But it also makes him look like the statesman – offering the option that’s least divisive, would give the smoothest transition, be the most favoured by opponents, and is backed up by a heavy-weight fiscal commission. While it leaves his opponents mostly arguing against something that would be in their interests and that of most of their business backers.

    All the potential Plan Bs are deliverable without negotiation and without the help of Westminster if they really do continue with the no CU line. And by not stating which is actually “Plan B”, all of those options which are ours alone are left relatively unscathed while only the one useful to Westminster has holes blasted in it by them. And if he continues not to reveal Plan B, and a Yes vote begins to look more likely, or actually happens, their bluff will be called and they’ll have to either continue with the no CU line, or look like utter fools.

    Looks to me like a very good plan A!

    • I’d say even as Plan B, our own sovereign currency is a good idea. In a negotiation, if you only have the one option, that is no negotiation at all.

      But no-one can doubt we can do what Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, or Sweden can do and create our own currency.

  29. I think this article identifies the need to reply to the Darling-type taunt; the reply, however, does not have to be a plan B, it can be a statement that the referendum is about independence. Emphasizing that A vote for independence is not a vote for the SNP would have allowed Salmond to present alternatives envisioned by others and come back the position of his party and the one he would advocate in negotiation. I also think it would have been worth while to speak about repudiation of a share of the national debt should the no to indy troika keep to their refusal after the 2015 election.

  30. Plan B on currency is in the best interests of SCOTLAND and the remainder of the UK. End of. Darling keeps on talking about declining Scottish oil reserves and revenues when he knows perfectly well that this not the case and that the SCOTTISH ATLANTIC MARGIN oil and gas reserves, off the west coast of Scotland, contains two to three times the amount of oil and gas (at least) than was in the Scottish North Sea before extraction began. The biggest oil field in the WORLD lies to the west of Lewis and oil experts have said that the Scottish Atlantic Margin is the next global hotspot for oil and gas exploration in the 21st century. What Westminster don`t want the SCOTS to know is that the life span of Scottish oil and gas will last for 200 years or more and is worth (cumulatively) about £4 TRILLION. Why was PM Cameron on a secret visit to Shetland recently to meet with senior BP oil executives? Darling`s alleged victory in the debate against Salmond (if indeed it can be defined as a victory) was based on shifting sand. Those who reject Plan A on currency have neither the best interests of Scotland or the remainder of the UK at heart.

  31. What is Alasdair Darling’s and Westminster’s Plan B? Because their Plan A looks to be a miserable failure doesn’t it? Massive transfer of public money into the hands of failed private individuals and organisations (aka “bailing out the banks”, and a year-on-year systemic unbalancing of the economy (aka blowing and maintaining a housing bubble), leading to record inequality between rich and poor (exhibit A: food banks). Or does that count as “success” in Alasdair Darling’s books?

    I would think -anything- that the SNP could come up with for an independent Scotland would work better than the status quo.

  32. What an interesting article.

    For me Scottish independence has to be primarily about the economics as this is really the foundation of any country. I don’t think the UK government is bluffing on the customs union Firstly, there will of course be economic fall out from not having a customs union for rUK but it will be far less scary than underwriting all of Scotland banks if there were to be a repeat of the financial crisis. Politically, I don’t think George Osbourne could credibly back down on this after being so explicit on the position. Labour and Liberal Democrats too have committed themselves. It’s not bluff. Secondly, I think the rUk won’t want it either, and I think the reality of what a customs union would sink in quickly for rUK. The opinion of the rUk has played little role in the debate, but there will I think be great reluctance to economically underwrite the Scotch if they were to go it alone. There isn’t enough in it for the rUK.

    Taking Independence in a literal sense the logical thing to do would be to set up a Central Bank of Scotland and build up reserves, but this is problematic given the amount of money that would be needed and the cuts that would be needed to do this. Finally, on this point if they get a customs union (which they won’t) they’ll still be controlled on fiscal policy by the Bank of England. If they join the Euro they’ll be under the thrall of the Central European Bank. Talking of Europe, I think EU membership is also something that’s desperately complicated and is being put into far to simpler terms by Salmond. If you join as a new member (and two Eu presidents have said you’ll have to apply as a new member) you are expected to join the Eurozone. There is no wriggle room, you lose the rUK opts outs. Likewise all the states have to agree to admit a new member. What if it’s gets vetoed? Spain might, and likewise if Salmond’s saying he won’t honour the debt, I wouldn’t hold my breath on a rUK government voting for Scotland. The rUk is currently treating Scotland like a stroppy daughter’s whose threatening to leave home, trying to placate her with Devo-Max and kind loving words. If the rUk starts playing rough (more likely if it’s a Conservative government) it will be popular at home and it will cause the Scots economic problems. No one wants this but it’s all part of the escalation that could occur if the split goes ahead. A EU less/currency union free Scotland is a possibility. The Better Together gang won’t show their teeth and be as blunt as this, but if this was a reality, it could leave Scotland about as competitive and as important as it’s national football premier league. Speaking more broadly, if there was another crisis in the next 3 years (the time-expected to get them in) the EU might just say “no new members”. As it is, you’d expects some kind of associate membership to be set up in the short term to iScotland joining, but the EU has been very reticent to commit to any detail. All of this would worry me if I were living and working in Scotland, there’s just too much that could go wrong.

    One thing I thought missing from the debate is any kind of future perspective, which I think Armando Iannucci brought up. What would an independent Scotland be like when a child born in Sept 2014 is 65, so 2079. From my perspective staying in the Union seems to make sense. Salmond describes London as a Black Star, but like the Sun, it’s warms the rest of the UK, like it or not. Many people from Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Hull et al. get riled that London is so dominant. But I’m glad it’s there. I’m from Birmingham and I earn about a third more working near London that I would at home. My brother works in the City and earns four of five times as much. The world is becoming smaller and our nationalities, important as they are to our identities are not that economically important. London and Greater London are the economic heartbeat of the UK and are a global hub, that with all due respect Scotland lacks. My big concern for Scotland would be companies fleeing to the UK and the stronger economy and currency. Likewise with all the doubts over oil revenue in the next 50-100 years (a brief period of time for a country) what does the future hold? There are so many things to worry us. Salmond talks of Unionists talking about fear and rot about the positive side of the argument always prevailing but that’s nonsense. The rUk has a lot to worry about to. You don’t just break up a Union as old as ours without worrying. In the short term I think both economies would suffer and who wants that. Going forward ten years I think rUK would be in a far stronger position that iScotland just based on our size. But I think it’d be stronger with the Scots with the rUK. One thing I think would be certain the public spending just wouldn’t be sustainable. It’s not sustainable in rUk and we’re cutting back!

    One final thought. After all of that part of me feels that maybe Scotland needs to go alone. One of the worse thing that’s happened to Scottish politics (and I think it started with the poll tax and the collapse in Conservative support that was a result of high handedness of Thatcher) is that much of your debate has a simplistic – it’s all London’s fault. The English are the whipping boys for everything that goes wrong. For that reason, maybe Scotland should go alone and see what it’s like. The problem is, using the daughter analogy from earlier, is that if your daughter leaves home and cuts her ties with you and then at some point in the future wants to return to the way it was, she probably can. Blood is thicker than water. If Scotland goes that is it and if she regrets her choice (and it’ll be for economical reasons that she does regret it I would think) the rUk almost certainly won’t take her back.

    It’s a fascinating debate!

  33. What a very interesting debate – Bella Caledonia at its best. A few random thoughts.

    As far as a currency union is concerned, there’s no real disagreement that this would be in the best interests of an independent Scotland. The real question is whether it would be in the interests of rUK, because without rUK’s agreement it ain’t going to happen. Expert opinion is divided on this one. For every report arguing that it would be in rUK’s interest, there’s another equally substantial report arguing the opposite.

    Walking away from some degree of responsibility for the national debt is not an option. Governments that repudiate their perceived international responsibilities (setting aside the legal issues) lose the world’s trust. We’re talking banana republic here – look at the catastrophe that is Argentina at the moment. That’s not a Scotland I would ever want to see.

    Using the pound on an informal basis – “sterlingisation” or “dollarisation” – won’t work. In fact it’s batshit insane, as others have remarked. As Crubag points out above, the Scottish Government’s own Fiscal Commission didn’t even bother to consider it as viable option.

    But sterlingisation with a currency peg – now we’re talking.

  34. I think Salmond is absolutely right not to give in to demands for a Plan B for the reasons already stated. However, I don’t think that simply repeating ‘it’s Scotland’s pound and we’re keeping it’ is a very good strategy, because it looks like he doesn’t have an answer. The better approach would be:

    1) point out that there are a range of currency options in the white paper, all of which could work, but all of which have advantages and disadvantages

    2) state that sterling currency union is plan A and the only option you are considering seriously.

    3) state the practical reasons why you think that Westminster would agree to a currency union, despite what they say. i.e. to support balance of payments, because they need us to agree terms for our share of the debt that they are solely liable for, and because the markets will demand it. These are stronger arguments than the Guardian quote from the unnamed cabinet minister.

  35. I am a big fan of us using the Euro, that is so the way forward for Scotland, the fact the Euro did come through such a massive global economic meltdown just proves it is a robust global currency, but if Scotland is to succeed it will sink or swim on how much money we make, generate and inward investment, using the Euro opens up new markets, new exports, new revenue streams to 18 countries, to over 300 million new customers, all using the same currency, no exchange rates, free movement of goods and services, all working on the same playing field, it eliminates the lender of last resort issue and resolves any pensions questions, it is the way forward for a 21st Century Scotland, why continue to cling to a dead archaic Pound only really used in the UK, it’s a dead currency and best left behind

    • Being in the Euro means you’ll have even less fiscal control than you have now! Lols.

      Honestly. The Euro zone is struggling because the European Bank can’t accommodate the needs of the extremely varied economies. You moan about the English, under the current status quo at least you get a right of reply. Join the Euro and you’ll just be another small economy in a grouping controlled by a German/Franco axis.

      Plus, what exactly are your goods and services after oil? You make whisky. I mean come on! The financial sector is probably going to jump ship to the rUK if by some miracle you win the independence debate!

  36. The fixation of BT and the media on the currency issue has nothing to do with economics. It is simply a ploy to demonstrate their control of mass communication in Scotland. For a very long time they have treated the bulk of the Scottish public as idiots who will accept whatever they are told by their betters. Fortunately, BT and the media are incapable of changing their superior attitude towards people and cannot even see that they are being systematically undone by their own smugness. The FM is a man who has more brain cells than the supercilious individuals who have commented here (if the cap fits wear it). He will be resolute and infinitely patient in reiterating the position of the Scottish Government and the public will see through the hollow attempts of the self-interested No campaign to smother the debate. In particular Scotland’s female population will increasingly find common cause with a Yes campaign that is trying hard to address the issues that they consider to be most important.

  37. Every time I read – or start to read a comment by EdinburghEye I wonder where that eye is located. When I was wee if I scratched my bum my mother would chuckle and say ‘have ye got an itchy eye son?’ I suspect EdinburghEye is getting an awfully jaundiced view of life.

  38. Looking towards the prospect of full independence, I wonder which currency the other main Holyrood parties would advocate and what would they have as their plan B?

  39. See that pound in your pocket right now? Take it pout and look. That is a Scottish pound. Right now. Already. Every bit as much as it’s a British Pound It belongs to 4 and a half million times more of us than it does to George Osborne. On September 19th, with a Yes vote, it will still be Scottish and British. Then we start talking. And if Westminster decides to play silly buggers, it will still be a Scottish Pound. Nothing they can do. We done now?

  40. Plans A, B, C and D? In the short to medium term we use the pound while we negotiate. The pound belongs to us. We will be using it. How other people respond is their business. We are open to all reasonable offers on debts and assets. So, “what currency will we be using after Independence? ” The pound. In ten years? We’ll sort it. Next?

  41. They have also threatened not to buy Scottish electricity.Scotland should be looking to sell its
    oil ,gas and electricity elsewhere.

  42. Plan B is get the vote for independence then we’ll sort all that out, plan A is stick with the uk and continue with failed plan A’s from governments we didn’t vote for!

  43. Salmond is reluctant to articulate a currency plan B. He could hedge his bets though, by saying that plan B is for Scotland to have a currency called Pound Stirling, administered from the city of Stirling.

  44. EdinburghEye is a troll ,his/her/its names are legion ,Douglas ,dougie ,jimmie,think there was a dug and a dave something.
    He/she /it works in the potato industry and gets paid by the Astroturfers of project fear to spread misinformation and tie up pertinent discusions as a side job.

  45. Let’s not forget that WM et al have come to the No CU decision without any discussion or negotiation with ScotGov. What responsible Government would take such an entrenched position without hearing what the other side is willing to offer. The fact that Con/Lab/Libdem have agreed to it without a squeak of disquiet says it all for me. This is a dishonest tactic to place doubts in the minds of Scots voters. They have gambled the house on it in the knowledge that it can only ever be exposed after a YES vote in the referendum.

    • The Scots are the one’s gambling the house on it. The rUK will be bruised but you’ll be the one with no Central Bank to back up your “pound”.

      However, I think the Yes supporters have a point though, it might be a bluff, but consider this, If Osbourne were to back down, I don’t think he could continue in office as Chancellor to back down would mean resignation and probably the end of his political career. I don’t think the rUk political elite could back down – the rUK, especially the English will not be dictated to by Salmond and breakaway Scots. Especially as it’s clear that the cost of not having a currency union with Scotland is worth the potentially far larger cost of having fiscal union with no political union. I also wonder how much of Scotland’s business will just relocate south of the border if you do say Yes. Your financial sector in particular. The brutal truth is that if the rUk sticks to it’s guns there is nothing you can do about it.

      At the moment the rUk are playing nice, but there is a threat there, you can’t walk away from your debt (try it and see the consequences from the rUK; the EU when you try and join and the markets when you try and borrow money) The Scots will be walking away from the UK, the £ is not an asset. You can’t join the Euro, you can’t even guarantee joining the EU (though I think you will in 3 years though not 18 months but it’s still a risk) and you definitely can’t guarantee joining the EU under opt out terms that UK governments have made. All of this is a huge risk. All your economy really has is oil. There is great debate on both the future supplies, and also the cost of getting it out? What’s certain is you need oil to be at a high price, but what if dips to below a $100 a barrel or below $75 or below $50? All of these are factors that need considering. It’s a hell of a risk. The whole Yes debate is so focused on getting independence but very little on the long term consequences of it.

      I just don’t see how the Yes campaign can win. You’ve never been ahead in the polls and now we’re getting down to the meat and drink of it, well, the risks are too much to convince a don’t know. I wonder just how well the no vote will hold up. You could drop below 40%.

      • As I previously posted “AS actually WANTS no CU with the rUK and is pushing them into a position where they almost have to deny it because of the sheer bloodymindednes, forcefulness and entrenchment of their position.” You kindly added the precariousness of Osborne’s position should he back down. Cameron’s position would be no better.
        You point out that Sotland reneging on their share of the debt would face increased costs to borrowing, this is true. But where that argument falls flat on its face in that by AS sticking to his guns Scotland will NOT be reneging at all. It will be the rUK who in fact keep Scotlands debt share as a consequence of not sharing the asst that is the £. This is a clear legal position. No assets no liabilities. You will notice that any outrage of this possible outcome has been deafening by its silence. Why? Because WM knows it is a strong card that AS holds. So, you see, CU or not an independent Scotland would not be in such a bad position at all.
        As to your remarks re: Business exodus, weak economy and oil revenue; These are all well used and pretty much universally debunked arguments from the “better together” campaign and I should not need to expand further. Suffice to say that Scotland has a diverse and strong economy that would quickly fill the vacuum of any Business that decides on relocating. But just as pre-devolution had its harbingers of a doom that never materialised so does the Independence referendum.
        I will grant you that oil prices could go down to the globally catastrophic prices you indicate, but I notice you mention no upside scenario. $113 per barrel is a reasonable price point. The long over due oil fund & a volatility fund for those times when prices are suppressed is something WM never did, to their eternal shame, would, to most, be welcome and sensible policies for future resource management. As for oil being all the Scottish economy has? Really? Oil is only 15% of the total Scottish Economy (Norway is 30%). I guess the other 85% must be Scotch Mist, a resource that is abundantly utilised in the arguments of “better together.”

    • Dear CraigD am actually replying to your comments on my response to this post

      Just to respond to your points.
      You are right the silence from WM is interesting. I think that they don’t want to fuel the fire. I’ll say this, if they do back down on this it’ll be the an absolute humiliation for all 3 parties and I think you might be right, Cameron’s position itself might be threatened. You have to say putting themselves in this corner if they don’t intend to follow it though will go down as the biggest blunder in post war Uk politics, if you get the Yes vote and your customs union. That’s why I don’t think it’s a bluff. But I concede there is an element of doubt. What makes me smile is that you have no element of doubt at all that it is a bluff.

      The walking away from the debt thing that you talk of as being a done deal is anything but. Say Salmond did, and then he tried to borrow on the international markets, at what rate would you expect to borrow at? It’d be far higher than the rUk borrowing rate, though I agree the rUK credit rating could worsen if you leave. When you attempt to join the EU, do you think the rUK will vote for you in? The rUk would essentially view Scotland as a hostile power. It could get quite nasty.

      As for the Oil price, you’re right it could go up, but let’s just look at 2000-5 for most of the time it was well below that. Oil’s so volatile and with gas becoming such a player whose to say oil might not depreciate? The Yes campaign don’t seem to see this. As an rational individual you have to think of the worse case scenario. So when I bought a house I could have borrowed more but I was worried about interest rates going up. I calculated that if they went to 8% that’d be that I couldn’t afford it. It hasn’t happened recently, but it did in the 70s and 80s when they went far higher. You have to think long term and look at the potential risks. Which I don’t think you or the Yes brigade do.

      I do think the point about WM and an oil fund is one that is well made. It should have been done 30 years ago. The question is why wasn’t it? it’s because the whole of the UK, like Scotland, has been living beyond it’s means for so long on our generous welfare state – we just chose to live in the present and let the future look after itself. It’s a daft policy, that is part of short term policies that revolve around 5 year general election cycles. Darling pointed it out at the debate that that there is no fund made for pensioners it’s just tax from todays workers. Salmond will face the same choice, if he wants his oil fund he’ll have to cut back on public spending. To be honest that’s a good idea, but even the Tories can only slow spending in the rUk, we can’t cut it, we as a nation are addicted to it! For the Scots who want a universal welfare state rather than a means tested one, well, you’re twenty years behind the rUK, it will go down badly cutting services as you like your jam (or haggis) today.

      As for my scare story on the Scottish economy – yep it’s something to fear, but the idea that it won’t happen can’t be proved. The rest of the Uk looks a far more secure base to invest. No one worried about it when we devolved a few powers to you, but this is very different, you’ll be a foreign untested country.

      3 final things:

      1) the Yes brigade are true believers who discount the risks with a blasé attitude that kind of astonishes me. If I was a Scot and you said yes, I’d want to move all my assets to the rUK.
      2) They also have a faith in Salmond and the rewards of independence which is either naive or kind of inspiring. I mean I am a Cameron supporter but I don’t expect him to do anything other than manage the economy sensibly and not do anything daft. The Yes brigade have a kind of fervour that’s a wonder to behold.
      3) Although I support Better Together Campaign, part of me is fascinated to see what would happen if the Yes Campaign won! It would be really exciting, but I think it would end in tears.

  46. Alex Salmond taking about currency union at the Business for Scotland Vision conference – http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/first-minister-no-currency-deal-no-debt-deal/

  47. Reveal plan B and you fall into trap of not wanting to pay for debt, no plan B, no CU, pay no debt

  48. Informative article from Jonathan (and balanced response from Andy). Point noted about the “trap” avoided by Salmond although my own take on that was in appearing evasive and refusing (from the public’s perspective) to answer the question, he plunged headfirst into the trap set for him by Darling! For the most part, Salmond never recovered from this.

    I was utterly dismayed at his response and cannot believe this absolutely predictable scenario was allowed to materialise.

    And don’t get me bloody started on pandas and aliens!! 😕

Trackbacks

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