Jim Sillars: Beware of the Beast’s debt claims

Gordon Brown states the case for the Union in Loanhead on Monday night. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Gordon Brown states the case for the Union in Loanhead on Monday night. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Gordon Brown has had so many entrances in the referendum debate, he’ll soon be a celebrity. A ­Labour supporting newspaper called him the “Big Beast”. I suppose that’s meant to be a compliment. As Scotland is not a jungle, where big beasts rule, but is a society engaged in vigorous democratic debate, I think they should find another description for Gordon.

Not the one about the man who couldn’t tell the difference between the price of gold and scrap metal; or the man who boasted he alone, whatever capitalist and socialist theory might say, ended the cycle of boom and bust; or the man who single-handedly destroyed the best-funded company pension schemes with his stealth tax – disguised in technical language.

What is comical to the point of hilarity is reading how The Daily Telegraph, Tory to its roots, is now praising him, when a look through its back editions shows they thought him a disaster as chancellor and catastrophic as prime minister.

But Gordon is back again. This time happily labelling his country Scotland as a future pariah, a debt-dodging charlatan of a nation to which every international financial institution will refuse to lend a penny.

This forecast arises out of the possibility that we will not take our share of the UK debt.

Now, I think we should, provided that we are fairly dealt with in negotiations over currency, a share of national assets, and get compensation for the mass dumping of munitions in our seas, the fact we have no oil fund due to the lies they told us from the day oil was first discovered – and the years when oil and gas has lain untouched under the Firth of Clyde because of those nuclear submarines. We are owed some back pay.

But let us assume Gordon’s forecast comes true and we do not take a share of the debt. Does anyone really believe that the international finance industry would turn away in horror from us when we don’t have a penny of debt, our economy exports more than it imports, 15 per cent of GDP is based on oil, with the oil industry (not us) boasting of a “monster” new field in the Clair Ridge west of Shetland? They would see us as pretty smart cookies, well able to borrow and pay, and as we would have no debt we would be able to bargain down the interest rate. We would not be borrowing to roll over previous debt – like the UK.

The possibility of us being debt free, and rUK loaded with debt, is due entirely to the arrogance of George Osborne and the stupidity of Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg for going along with him. That Osborne visit to Edinburgh, and the repeated claims that we could not use the pound (although everyone else in the world uses it) was folly. The so-called three-party veto on a currency union was madness on their part. The international financial markets know how important Scotland’s exports are to the UK balance of trade, and know a currency union is what England desperately needs, while we can get along without one.

When we get a Yes vote on the 18th, perhaps even before that, don’t be surprised if there is the biggest U-turn of all time, and Cameron, Miliband and Clegg agree to a currency union.

Running under different rules

NICOLA Sturgeon, above, has had death threats. So have I. My dead wife was grossly insulted. A Yes shop was firebombed, others vandalised. Not once have any of us accused the official No campaign of orchestrating these actions. In my case I went out of my way to say it had nothing to do with official No. We all know there are headbangers around.

But did you notice that Jim Murphy did not hesitate to accuse Yes Scotland of organising the egg-throwing incident which he claimed made him abandon his soapbox campaign for a while?

Poll position really doesn’t matter

I DIDN’T get excited by the poll showing Yes in front. I’ve known that for some time. But opinion polls are not what counts and we should all be aware that while they get quite accurate about trends in general elections which are contests between parties, they find it more difficult in referenda because it isn’t about parties – in our case it is about the future of the nation.

I ignored the polls when Yes was behind, and will do the same when we are in front.


In the wake of the first polls showing a Yes lead, Westminster politicians have discovered the need to say they will give us more powers. Mark that: “They” will give “us”. A mindset showing they still think they control Scotland. Why should we settle for fewer powers than independence?