Carmichael: Job security and stronger economy mean more than illusory SNP independence promise

The Sunday Herald carried an interview with Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael yesterday.

He talked about how he relaxes away from the stresses of his job, ensuring he gets home at weekends to spend time with his family:

“That’s important to me, that’s the sanity valve. As long as I can just spend some time mucking about with my boys, or walking the dog on the beach,” he says.

But can he really keep that up to September 18? “That’s my intention. Look, this is an important, exciting job, but I have other jobs as well. I’m still the MP for Orkney and Shetland. I would never want people in the Northern Isles to think that I was too busy to do the job they elected me to do.”

He also hinted at a post 2020 career change:

 I don’t know what it would be yet. But there is always a risk for every politician that you stay too long, that your shelf life has past. At the end of that [2015] parliament I will be 54, so maybe, at that point, I might want to look at something else.

You don’t often get politicians admitting to a sub-standard performance in anything, so it’s quite refreshing that he is so candid about that first debate he had with Nicola Sturgeon, although, wisely, he’s put it behind him:

He is still beating himself up over it – but not too strenuously, and says it has to be set against the success of other activity, such as working to secure jobs at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant and at BAE on the Clyde.

He says: “It wasn’t the greatest performance I’ve ever put in, I fully accept that. It annoys me a bit because I didn’t do as well as I can do.

“I know that next time I’m going to have to do better, yup. But, you know, it was one half-hour session out of nine, 10 weeks in the job. I’m not going to let one less-than-great performance define my job.

He acknowledges that the pro-UK side needs to up its game in the months ahead:

Although the recent Scotland Analysis papers have provided “real grounding” and intellectual rigour to the case for retaining the UK, he acknowledges they have been rather dry, and a more “accessible” message is needed for voters.

In practice, that means boiling down most aspects of the independence debate to jobs. “Take something, for example, like the debate on currency. It matters because you have to have a stable currency in order to allow businesses to grow, in order for people to have jobs.

“You have to be able to link the currency to jobs, because that’s the point at which people will sit up and take notice and say, ‘Ah, that’s why currency matters’. It’s not about whether I have to change into euros or dollars or yen when I go on holiday, it matters because it means that I’m more likely or not to have a job. It’s what’s going to put bread and butter on the table that really matters to most people…

…We have just come through one of the worst economic shocks in history and we are now part of the fastest growing economy in the G7. As a result of that, there are 11,000 people this month who’ve got a job who didn’t have it last month. That’s a pretty compelling vision to my mind. And for the 11,000 people… because we’re part of a successful growing economy, I think that means more to them than some illusory promise on childcare [from the SNP]

You can read the full interview here.


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