Brian Monteith: The case of the SNP dogs that did not bark

Kevin Hague was branded a dog food salesman for his analysis of the Growth Commission reportKevin Hague was branded a dog food salesman for his analysis of the Growth Commission report
Kevin Hague was branded a dog food salesman for his analysis of the Growth Commission report
What is wrong with dog food salesmen? I ask in all seriousness because it is a matter of great importance for the future of Scotland.

Is being a dog food salesman such a low-level, detestable occupation that any opinion, recommendation or argument put by such a fellow should instantaneously be dismissed as unworthy and beyond the pale? Even recommendations about dog food?

One would expect a dog food salesmen to know his “Butcher’s Tripe” from his “Turkey and Carrots”. Dog food is a multi-billion pound business and is actually quite complicated. When I was a kid my Golden Cocker Spaniel had a choice of Pal or Chappie and an occasional Sheep’s Heid; now there’s wet and dry foods of all types, with a wide range of ingredients and pack sizes to feed a wee dug to a pack of hounds. Then there are chew bones or dental sticks, and treats such as Schmackos and Ranchos!

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So selling plain old dog food is now quite complicated: you need to know your onions, understand pie charts, work in different currencies, separate the wheat from the chaff to establish the truth in those sales and tax statistics, work out your estimated turnover and likely costs – and write up your sales reports. Why, being a dog food salesmen is no easy task and, I bet, many a politician – so many of whom would not know a real job if they were given one – would not be up to it.

So when a Scot who self-evidently cares deeply about his country writes a lengthy report on the prospects for the Scottish economy if we left the UK why would anyone wish to dismiss the author as nothing other than “a dog food salesman”, no matter how correct that might be?

Yet that is what happened this week when Kevin Hague, a robust campaigner for Scotland remaining in the UK, demolished the recent report of the SNP’s Growth Commission. Rather than engage Kevin on his analytical dissection of how the SNP’s latest business case makes independence a collective and national act of self-harm, the SNP MP Peter Grant tweeted “Dog food salesmen being well known for their grasp of economics.”

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Well, there’s every reason dog food salesmen would understand both macro and micro economics – making sales is after all an economic act that will be influenced by purchasing power, productivity, inflation, import tariffs, levies, taxes, wage costs and all sorts of other economic factors.

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From my experience the level of ignorance amongst Scottish politicians, especially nationalist types, who do not know the difference between the national deficit and national debt, or the Phillips and Laffer Curves is deeply worrying.

Kevin Hague gets all of this and more; he has gnawed away at the Growth Commission’s work like a dog with a bone, right down to the marrow. His work has been complemented and praised by no less than esteemed economists and finance experts such as Professor Brian Ashcroft, Professor Ronald MacDonald, Sir Andrew Large, Brian Quinn and Professor Jim Gallagher.

Meanwhile the authors of the Growth Commission are the dogs that did not bark; they have not responded with any salient arguments but instead prefer to avoid comment as if they have a bad attack of kennel cough.

The same approach of making personal attacks has been meted out to fellow Scot Professor Tom Gallagher since he started writing and tweeting on the dangers of nationalism across Europe.

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So much for civic nationalism, so much for Scottish exceptionalism – when ordinary Scots of any rank, religion or other distinguishing mark such as employment choose to provide a clinical and coherent case for the maintaining our Union their arguments are ignored and instead they are marginalised and abused.

What’s food for dogs may be poison for cats – but we are all entitled to have our opinions treated seriously.