Tomorrow night, Scotland will stay up for the result. Two others, not in Scotland, will be waiting for our verdict with more anxiety than any of us – George Osborne at the Treasury, and Mark Carney at the Bank of England.
So important is the result that Osborne has abandoned his planned trip to the G20 meeting in Australia. Our decision on independence can force him into the biggest U-turn in history. All that brave talk about denying us the use of the pound, and saying no to a currency union, will be put to the test when the financial markets open early on Friday morning, and find Scotland has voted Yes.
Osborne, Miliband and Clegg thought they were clever with their three Nos to a currency union. It was a hostage to fortune, but such was their hubris, so certain of a cakewalk in the referendum for No, they thought they had put Alex Salmond in a corner. They never calculated for a Yes victory. Now what they thought was impossible is about to happen, it is those three who are in a corner, and especially Osborne, and the Bank governor. They will need to deal with the consequences of landing themselves with an unsustainable policy. Osborne and Carney need a currency union because if there is none, as Alex Salmond has pointed out, the rUK balance of payments goes even deeper into the red, exposing the fatal weakness of that economy – it cannot pay its way.
So much in this campaign has been about the Scottish economy, when in fact Cameron and his Chancellor should have been looking at the one south of the Border. No currency union means that on independence day, the huge contribution Scotland makes to the UK balance of payments – because we export far more than we import – is withdrawn. The markets will not wait that long, they will be demanding answers from the Bank of England and the Treasury now about what they are going to do and how they will service a debt going above £1.3 trillion, when not only our export surplus disappears from their books but so does our share of debt payments.
There is only one way out for the duo down in London, as the victory for Yes result comes through, they will have to face a reality they never dreamt of – they will have to phone Alex Salmond and ask him to come and talk. One sensible phone call to him will calm jitters on the markets. Lucky for them that Alex Salmond has a bigger sense of responsibility than they have shown. All along he has argued that a currency union is in rUK’s interest more than our interest.
As he spelt out, Scotland has alternatives, all of which are viable. It is they who have no Plan B. You can be sure that if that phone call is made, he will respond like the statesman he has become, and will help them make the U-turn as politically painless as possible. The people of England, who have been told by their media that he is the political devil incarnate, will come to be grateful for the fact that Alex bears no grudges when he saves them from the folly of their leaders.