Almost the entire British Unionist campaign against Scottish independence is built on lies and scare stories.
So extreme are the lies now being trotted out by Unionist politicians and newspapers, it is becoming difficult to tell them apart from jokes. Last week a web site suggested Scots would not be allowed to use any British oxygen that might drift across the border from England. Yes, it was a pro-independence website and it was a joke at the expense of the Better Together campaign, but it wasn’t that different from some of the ridiculous stories and lies that the anti-independence campaign has actually produced.
Yesterday (February 19), ‘Tame Jock’ Danny Alexander, Lib Dem UK Treasury Minister, claimed Scottish mortgages would rise by £5,200 a year if Alex Salmond “reneged” on Scotland taking its share of UK debt after independence. British Unionist newspapers and broadcasters gleefully reported the story, despite there being not a shred of truth in the claim.
Firstly, the SNP position is that Scotland should enter a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom following independence and should accept a proportional share of the UK’s accrued debt. No-one in the SNP, far less the party’s leader Alex Salmond, has suggested otherwise.
The only mention of Scotland not accepting part of the UK’s debt arose after the three main British Unionist parties – Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat – united to say they would not allow an independent Scotland to share the pound in a currency union and would deny Scots access to the Bank of England. Rightly, the SNP pointed out that the pound (sterling) and the Bank of England are assets of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. If the UK Government, in negotiations after Scots vote for independence, were to deny Scotland its rightful and proportional share of UK assets, then Scotland would be well within its rights to correspondingly reduce any liabilities, such as accrued UK debt. The whole issue only arose because of the threats issued by British Unionist political parties: the SNP, meanwhile, stuck to its position that an independent Scotland would be willing to accept its fair share of UK debt.
Secondly, Alexander’s claim that Scottish mortgages would rise was based on an independent Scotland ‘defaulting’ on its share of UK debt, which, he asserted, would result in Scotland having to pay more to borrow on the international money markets.
Danny Alexander is a UK Treasury Minister, so he must know that the UK continues to borrow, hand over fist, from the markets, and that UK mortgages have not risen despite Britain losing its AAA credit rating, which means it has to pay more for the money it borrows. His entire story was based on a lie.
Thirdly, according to the first analysis paper on Scottish independence published by the UK Government, if Scots vote for independence in September, the Scotland created by that decision will be a new state. The UK position is unequivocal: an independent Scotland would not be a continuing state, it would be an entirely new state. The analysis paper goes further: it argues that an independent Scotland created as a result of this year’s referendum would not even be the re-establishment of the Scotland that existed prior to the Act of Union with England in 1707 – it would be a new state.
If we accept the UK Government’s position, then, as a completely new state, an independent Scotland would have no debt. A new state cannot be forced to accept debts or liabilities stemming from earlier membership of another state. The UK accepts this, which is why the UK Treasury has already stated that all existing UK debt is its responsibility. Clearly, therefore, an independent Scotland could not ‘renege’ or ‘default’ on debt belonging to another state, the UK.
Despite the UK Government’s own stated position, the SNP still says an independent Scotland would be prepared to accept a proportional share of UK debt, even though, legally, that is something it does not have to do.
That is the truth, but the lying British Unionist liars continue to lie, which is why we continue to see headlines like the one in the above photo.