The 10th of September 2014 will forevermore be known as Alex Salmond’s Black Wednesday. Unfortunately for the First Minister, it is not going to get much brighter from here on in.
It started off well enough with the three amigos, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband coming north to pledge their troth to Scotland and asking, nay pleading, for us to stay in the United Kingdom.
It was all so choreographed and a tad unseemly, for they just don’t get it. Part of the reason so many Scots are sick to the back teeth of Westminster politicians is precisely because of all these publicity stunts that are meant to show us how sincerely they care.
So Salmond made merry with a joke about “Team Westminster” coming north – but got carried away, as he is often likely to do and talked about them facing “Team Scotland”, as if he and his campaign spoke for the nation. It was at that point that the wheels began to come off his bandwagon and his nightmare began.
Soon athletes who have represented the real “Team Scotland” in the Commonwealth Games were objecting to Salmond using the description to brand his political campaign to the exclusion of all others.
Many of them professed their support for staying in the UK and the First Minster was suddenly on the back foot, looking arrogant and partisan. To the amazement of many, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband did not trip themselves up and gave no hostages to fortune.
Indeed, Cameron, who’s always a better performer when he gets emotional about something he believes in, came over all dewy-eyed and put on a strong performance. Frankly, I would have cleared his diary for the next week, got him a tandem and taken him round the country with Chris Hoy, or someone like him, pedalling at the front.
But after all that the screws really began to turn on Salmond, for now the announcements and statements from the businesses that matter to Scotland started to roll out. BP – the largest operator in the North Sea – together with Shell, denounced the false expectations being built up on inflated oil production and said that Sir Ian Wood is right, we can expect 16.5 billion barrels of oil to be left – not the 24.5bn that Salmond is claiming.
That’s a 50 per cent difference and it’s a huge black hole in Salmond’s finances.
As if this was not bad enough, the price of oil has just fallen below the crucial $100 a barrel – throwing the SNP projections into the dustbin of history.
There then followed a string of announcements from first Standard Life and then Lloyds and TSB that arrangements were in hand to move their headquarters and some operations to England in the event of a Yes vote.
Salmond tried to dismiss this as just being about brass plaques, but it wasn’t that long ago that Salmond was encouraging brass plaques to come north to Scotland.
The location of the HQ is vital for that’s where the corporation tax is paid and if companies relocate their legal domicile to England they will pay their taxes to the UK. Remember, this is why Salmond is promising a cut of corporation tax of three per cent!
Then the Royal Bank waded in, saying it would also have to move its HQ to London – after all the UK owns 83 per cent of the bank and most of its customers are down there so it would have no reason to stay in the land of its birth. Claims that it has no plans to move any jobs are just that, claims that it has no plans. We all know plans can suddenly appear when the moment suits.
Even so, many punters might not think all this talk of plaques and HQs matters a jot to them – but they would be foolish if they didn’t stop to consider what it will mean for the Edinburgh property market and jobs.
People will be relocated, numbers will shrink, houses will be sold with fewer buyers able to snap them up. Prices and values will fall – properties will go unsold and others will move into negative equity.
The Edinburgh housing market will be carnage – with all the attendant spin-off to other businesses that feed off it, printers, plumbers, decorators, sparks – all of the trades and the retaliers.
And as if this was not enough, the reports from the City simply rubbed salt into the wound, with shares of Scottish-located companies and Sterling continuing to fall.
The SNP had said this was due to events in Syria (I kid you not), but everyone was left scratching their heads asking what number of bus Brian Soutar’s Stagecoach, which lost six per cent of value, goes to Damascus.
A new poll, putting No back in front, soon had Sterling recovering and making the SNP look stupid. There is no hiding the fact that both the UK and Scotland will suffer from breaking the United Kingdom in two – but being only a tenth of the size there can be no doubt that Scotland will feel the greater pain – and that would be a black day for all of us.