“The Best of Both Worlds” has started to give me heartburn whenever I hear it. It used to be that ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was the collection of words most likely to turn me into a rampaging rage-beast (not unlike the Hulk when he gets mad) but that’s long gone. These days, I could probably buy a Keep Calm and Drink Wine tea towel and not even flinch.
Keep Calm and all it’s variants has paled into insignificance now that ‘Best of Both Worlds’ has been endlessly rolled out as a paper thin reason and reward for Scotland voting No on the 18th.
Recently, I heard two women on the bus discussing the benefits of an all-inclusive holiday versus self-catering where ‘the best of both worlds’ was used on several occasions and I had to sit on my hands for fear I started punching myself in the head with frustration. I wanted to shout “Oh for goodness sake, woman, there’s no such thing. Commit to one holiday and make it amazing. Get a bloody grip”. I didn’t though. I sat and stared out of the window and marvelled at how two little nostrils and a bit of rage can steam up a whole window so quickly.
Before today’s newest poll (YouGov poll has the Yes vote in it’s first ever leading position of 51% ahead of No at 49%) , ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ (TBBW) was a fairly innocuous collection of words that were used at the end of faux passionate speeches by Dear Leaders & Spokespeople of Better Together Incorporate about how we’ll all get everything we could ever want when we all just stop being silly and vote No. ‘More powers’, and ‘devolved tax raising powers’ – some interesting sounding promises, but when called to confirm what these words actually intended nobody in the Better Together camp (nor in fact, the UK Government as a whole) were able to give any concrete information nor idea.
Yet more empty words chucked about like brightly coloured balls by clumsy juggling clowns – and yes, to drive home the analogy even further, we’re supposed to be the circus audience – lapping up any sort of promise and entertainment, watching slack jawed in the dark with a big blob of candy floss stuck in our hair.
After today’s poll, however, TBBW has been taken to a whole new level and the horsepoop-ometer has been spinning out of control after the announcement by the UK Chancellor George Osbourne (someone who’s remained fairly tight lipped throughout the whole referendum debate) that a deal for more powers would be coming out in the next few days. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he confirmed that after the event of a No vote, a timescale will be put in place to give Scotland more tax and spending powers, greater fiscal autonomy and greater plans over the welfare state. He added three separate times (as we watch goggle eyed from our circus benches) that this means we can have the (guess what?) best of both worlds by reducing the risks associated with independence and gaining greater powers.
So, up till now the Best of Both Worlds that we’ve been offered and promised wasn’t actually the best at all – it’s now being admitted (by it’s creators) that it was actually a pretty pants version of ‘best’ and as of today that rubbishy old BBTW is being scrapped for a new and improved model which this time, really, truly, honestly, really IS the very best of both worlds. And as soon as those plans have been laid out in front of us and we see it for ourselves, we can all stop acting like hysterical demanding children and just vote No.
What Better Together (and everybody else who fancies coming along to the party) fail to realise is that not only have we been paying attention but we also have memories – fancy that! It wasn’t so long ago that the option to have Devo Max on the referendum ballot paper was denied us by the UK Government. It wasn’t so far in the past that the UK Government refused to pre-negotiate on any topic to do with the referendum and wasn’t it only yesterday that the UK Government was unable to name any additional powers that might come Scotland’s way should we vote No?
And yet – here we are today. The major parties are in pre-negotiation to provide us with a version of Devo max – with an action plan! And a time scale! And possibly post-it-notes! On the very day that a poll shows Yes is moving forward. Uncanny.
It’s still up in the air as to whether this new development is even legal due to the restrictions on Government activity in the 28 days in the run up to the referendum – although it is possible the politicians involved will make use of certain loop holes in the Edinburgh Agreement so they can steam ahead with their plans.
And if they do steam ahead with their plans for increased powers for Scotland – the ones they wouldn’t give us till they had some proof that we were very serious about this – remember that Better Together and the UK Government don’t really believe in giving us the Best of Both Worlds. If they did, they’d have worked out what the very best was and offered it to us straightaway. For them, TBBW is another bargaining tool, another goal post that can be changed and shifted to suit their needs and get us to shut up into the bargain.
There’s no such thing as best of both worlds, or having your cake and eating it. This is all just cliché and we’re not buying it. I don’t know how long it will be before I could use a ‘Best of Both Worlds’ tea towel but let’s hope that come the 18th we don’t have to hear that phrase for quite some time.
Until then, I’ll just keep munching down on these antacids and breathe deeply.