Carmichael: Scottish Independence is a double dose of Brexit disease

Alistair Carmichael is in blistering form in a Scotsman article in which he argues that the SNP’s push for independence is like treating the Cold with Flu.

He compares Nicola Sturgeon’s pursuit of independence against all the evidence to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s ideological trashing of the economy:

The accusation has never been that leaving the UK would be “too good” for our economy. The concern was that those advocating the nationalist cure-all were blithely or intentionally ignoring the harm to businesses and livelihoods.

In Brexit and the disruption of recent weeks, we have had an abject lesson in the harm caused by ignoring reality in favour of fervently held beliefs. The only surprise is the SNP think that these failures are an endorsement.

He reminds us all what the SNP Government does (or doesn’t) with the powers that they already have:

Set aside for a moment the cack-handed, indifferent approach taken by the SNP over the aspects of the economy they are already responsible for; the drip-drip of scandals around hundreds of millions spent on overdue ferries, the reckless gambling of our taxes in the Lochaber deal, or businesses’ struggles under their watch.

Even if we ignore those myriad failures, it takes some neck to concede, as the First Minister did in her conference speech, that dividing up the UK would not be a “miracle economic cure”. We are past understatement and into the world of Alice in Wonderland inverted fantasy.

He concludes:

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon thinks she has a more innovative approach to economic cures than the rest of us – just like Truss and Kwarteng.

Perhaps she knows better than professional economists, who will tell you that drawing hard barriers through your economy does fundamental harm.

Perhaps the indifference to business shown by the SNP over 15 years in government is pure coincidence.

Or, perhaps, as with modern medicine, we are better off ignoring the fervent believers and the snake-oil salesmen – and listening to the experts.

The damage to Scotland of being out of both unions, UK and EU, would be awful.

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  • Alistair is right. Both nationalisms are essentially the same, and like most nationalisms, both are convinced their nationalism is the good sort, not like those other ones.

    Both are carried by copious amounts of populism, opportunism, exceptionalism and the frequent moving of goalposts.

  • For many voters (or non-voters) I suspect that the underlying feelings prompting opinions given as answers to the pollsters’ question “How would you vote in a General Election/Independent Referendum tomorrow? are pretty much the same – “I hate the current crop of Tories so that means Labour, I hate the current crop of Tories so that means Independence”. We know that for vast swathes of the electorate no one party or policy is seen as representing them. We should hesitate in taking comfort from this as lying behind a huge Labour putative lead or actual SNP electoral success. It is fertile soil for neo-fascist parties.

  • Andrew Melmoth 14th Oct '22 - 1:34pm

    There’s some weird logic going on here. The Scottish people, for some reason never explained, are uniquely incompetent to exercise the basic democratic right to choose who governs them. Instead they must stick with a system of governance which has delivered a series of horrors – Brexit, PM Boris Johnson and economic crisis.
    The choice facing Scotland is between self-determination or rule by corrupt, anti-democratic, incompetent populists. It’s really very strange that the Lib Dems consider the latter to be the better option. One can only conclude that the attachment to British nationalism goes much deeper than commitment to PR, EU membership or even democracy.

  • I would be careful about policies on relationships between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These are countries with differing cultures, histories and experiences.
    The UK is unfortunately not a union of equals and there is a lot of frustration about the centralisation of wealth and powers in the UK around London and Westminster.
    Since the UK decided to embark on its disastrous decision to leave the EU, Devolution has been rolled back and powers taken back to Westminster. It is a reaction to this that has seen the growth of the SNP.
    In Wales (where I live) Plaid Cymru has become the effective voice of liberalism in Wales.
    – a feeling of ‘We can be better’, ‘more democratic’, ‘power closer to the people’ etc.

    Do not rule out independence for Wales and Scotland, nor an united Ireland.
    Plaid Cymru, SNP and Sinn Fein have policies for our nations to join the EFTA and EU as newly independent democracies.

  • A real union is one that inspires democratic values, has a parliament elected by PR, has a 2nd house as a Council of Ministers representing all independent nation members, A strong human rights charter, single market & customs union. And a default option Clause 50 for leaving the union (which the UK doesn’t provide).
    The EU is such a democratic union of nations and that is why most of Eastern Europe including the Ukraine want to join.
    Wanting your countries independence is normal, Why is it any different for Wales and Scotland than for the Ukraine?
    The Welsh Lib Dems mainly appeal to English settlers in East Wales. In the rest of Wales including Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru is the effective Liberal force here. Why not work together to bring more powers to the Welsh Senedd and for the people of Wales.
    Plaid Cymru believes in decentralisation, STV, EU, Human rights, Individual freedom just as any ALDE / EFA member party.
    The UK level of power could actually be an expensive redundant instrument between the nation states of the British Isle and the European Union.

  • That’s quite a bingo card of stock phrases & mental gymnastics you’ve managed there Andrew.

    Us Scots (as individuals, we’re not a homogenous blob) had a democratic exercise in 2014 and most wanted to stay in the UK. That’s more choice than has been given to the English, the Bavarians, the Sicilians or even the people of Yorkshire or the Kingdom of Fife.

    The SNP and Tories are both populist parties in a symbiotic relationship, who use each other to deflect from their own poor governance and benefit from presenting our future as a binary choice. How naive do you think we are to believe that’s the case?

  • Ernest, survey of attitudes of different countries consistently show that the Scots and English have very similar values. The suggestion that we think differently, or as some think, are morally superior is a myth, sometimes rooted in xenophobia.

    Which powers have been taken from Holyrood to Westminster? Devolution has been rowed back in Scotland, but within Scotland. Since the SNP took over, Holyrood has centralised powers and funding away from local authorities.

    It’s not a case of ‘ruling out’ independence. It’s that it would be worse than Brexit and if we’re against Brexit, why are we OK with inflicting worse damage on Scots?

  • George Thomas 15th Oct '22 - 8:40am

    In order for Scottish Independence to happen I think the SNP have to show both that: i) leaving the UK will make Scotland better and ii) staying will make Scotland worse.

    I don’t think they’ve been able to show leaving would be beneficial but don’t think anyone can argue that staying makes Scotland worse.

    A politician with capabilities of Liz Truss recognised that only way to become Prime Minister was to become a Tory and say things Tory membership and media want. If she had delayed the mini-budget by 18 months she would still be Prime Minister come next election despite it still being particularly cruel on the whole.

    Is there a point where people within LD’s recognise that Westminster isn’t working and that it’s so many decades away from working effectively that using that time to start afresh might be the better option?

  • “To be or not to be” Independent is for the Scottish people to decide..

    However, for a party that demanded a second referendum on Brexit (and even called for the vote to be cancelled), to advocate denying the elected Scottish government’s right to call for an ‘independence referendum’ is indefensible..

  • Andrew Tampion 16th Oct '22 - 12:25pm

    The purpose and objective of the SNP is independence because they believe it to be in the best interests of Scotland. Presumably they would hope and argue that in time the UK will rejoin the EU which would solve the border problem. This of course coincides with the Liberal Decrat position on the EU at least.
    But for the SNP rejoining the EU is a device for securing a second independence referendum when under other circumstances their defeat in 2014 wiould mean that a referendum could not be held for many years. If the roles were reversed and Scotland had voted to leave and England to remain the SNP would just as happily argue that a second independence referendum was justified to prevent Scotland being kept in the EU against her will.

  • @andrewtampion

    “But for the SNP rejoining the EU is a device for securing a second independence referendum when under other circumstances their defeat in 2014 wiould mean that a referendum could not be held for many years. If the roles were reversed and Scotland had voted to leave and England to remain the SNP would just as happily argue that a second independence referendum was justified to prevent Scotland being kept in the EU against her will.”

    The SNP position and manifesto commitment was that there could only be a new referendum if there were to be a significant change in circumstances such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.

    Remaining in the EU would not have been a change of circumstances so your argument is invalid.

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