By Alex Bell
I’ve been Daily Mailed. Apparently I’ve ‘slated’ the Yes campaign and accused it of ‘deceit’. Who knew.
To explain, when I left government I promised on Newsnight Scotland to present my case that the issues at the heart of the referendum were more complex than the number of barrels of oil in the sea. Luath took me at my word and the short and eminently readable The People We Could Be came out this week.
On the first page it says I am voting YES and goes on to argue why. The state at large and the UK in particular is a busted flush and it’s the duty of this generation to design a new model of governance. I suggest a number of ways of doing that and explain why some were possible within government and others not.
Before I made the remarks on TV the Yes campaign was already outgrowing party interest and developing a popular and diverse critique of the state and the possibilities for the future. That process has blossomed and Scotland now surveys a dynamic political landscape the like of which has rarely been seen. In short, history has proven my view, and that of many others, correct. We are more than the SNP or the government case.
My mistake is to presume that with that expansion of political activity and consciousness we have also gained a more complex view of the UK and what Scotland can be. Well, presume that the Daily Mail can handle such complexity.
It’s true that I write that pensions are unaffordable, as that’s what the Institute for Fiscal Studies says about the UK pension system. The UK government itself reports a £30bn shortfall for the NHS in England, so its reasonable to assume the IFS’s verdict that tax will have to rise to keep the NHS on safe grounds is also accurate.
A YES vote will not stop spending cuts because the UK will impose them on Scotland before independence in 2016 – I rather imagined this was a critique of the status quo, but apparently not.
Similarly, when I said Governments lie, I thought readers might think of the Iraq War or denials over oil reserves – or indeed threats over currency unions – but not imagine the finger was pointed at St. Andrew’s House.
The sub-title of the book – not a diary as described – is ‘how to be £500 better off, build a fairer society and a safer world’. The £500 stuff is about how we could raise more money for a comprehensive Early Years policy. You see, you have to read beyond the headline, or title, to get at the detail. I wrote a book that I think is an honest contribution to my nation’s future.
Inevitably I stand accused of having an ‘axe to grind’. I don’t. My loyalties today are where they have always been, to Scotland and the best outcome for her people. To the former colleagues who are working so hard, and the legions who have transformed this country with the intelligence of the campaign they have fought, I am indebted. I don’t think it’s a mistake to treat Scots as smart, but accept that the Daily Mail is in a different category.