Friday, 23 January 2015

Leadership Debate and the Smaller Parties

I was just listening to BBC 5 Live getting in a tizz about the prospect of leadership debates with so many party leaders expected to take part: seven at the current count, with the prospect of the DUP joining in as well.

Although the Dutch approach of a series of one-to-one debates, drawn by lot, does have merit, I think there is a more appropriate way forward for the current UK situation.  A series of regional debates.

First of all, formal debates take place, involving those parties that are represented either at Westminster or in the regional parliamentary body: SNP & Greens for Scotland, Plaid Cymru for Wales and none of the mainland parties (apart from the Greens maybe?) in Northern Ireland.  UKIP would be therefore limited to England only, which is a fair reflection of current representation.  Owing to the wide availability of modern media (internet or digital television and radio for example), it should be made easy for those who have an interest outside the respective region to tune-in and follow these debates.

This isn’t the end of it though.  Instead of then having an eight-way debate across the entire United Kingdom, as an finale why not have a Question Time-style format with all the party leaders?  This style of questioning is far more suitable for a large group holding a variety of view points.

Much has been written about the rise of smaller parties.  One of the reasons particular to the UK is that the first-past-the-post system is designed to funnel power towards two large opposing parties: the Conservatives or Labour.  Those who express dissatisfaction with coalition politics ought to remember that the large parties are in themselves coalitions, representing a wide range of views, often in direct conflict with each other.  Labour, for example, has a large section of their party divided by the future of Trident and as for the Tories and Europe, well, need I say more?

As people seek to organise around common views and opinions closer to their own, we are facing the partial dismantling of the larger parties.  In terms of democracy, this is no bad thing.  Instead of coalitions being a matter of internal discussion and debate inside large over-arching coalition parties, why should it not be a matter of public debate and discussion as governments are formed?  The biggest issue preventing it of course is that we do not have a Westminster voting system that allows for such an approach.

As for those who claim that the two-party system blocks the rise of extremism, have a look around.  Does it really feel that way to you?  The suppression of representation within the two largest parties has led to the poisoning of the body-politic as a whole and the widespread disillusionment now felt by many when it comes to mainstream politics.  The supporters of first-past-the-post are still plugging their finger in the dyke without realising that all around them that the levees have already burst.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Edinburgh is Missing an Eco-Tourist Trick

Yesterday my daughter and I cycled from our home down to Crammond village, on the coast of the Firth of Forth.  On the way out, I had made a point of using the cycle paths rather than risking the half-mile or so rather busy and dangerous main road that runs between Newhaven Harbour and Lower Granton Road.  After that though, we were forced on to the road again for although there are few pedestrians in the area of West Habour and West Shore Roads, the numerous industrial gateways are not suitable for a child to ride a bike on the pavement.  The condition of the road is not much better.

Once off the road and on to the coastal path, it is a delightful and easy ride along the Silverknowes section and on to Crammond.  The amount of people along this stretch is a testament to the popularity of coastal walks.

It is a similar situation to the East at Portobello, where the coastal path is often packed on any weekend with good weather.  Even the less picturesque length behind the Lothian Bus depot and car showrooms of Seafield Road East are available for cyclists and runners.   Beyond there, heading west and one soon is into convoluted routes as the cycle paths (often mere painted lanes on the road) meander through Leith.  I would currently suggest pedestrians follow that path as Salamander Road is hardly an oil painting.  Leith itself though is very pretty with a wide selection of bars and restaurants for all budgets.

So, what is this eco-tourist trick that Edinburgh is missing out?  This year, I led the family (and friends on occasion too!) on walking sections of the Fife Coastal Path.  Although some parts are undoubtedly industrial, most of it is an extremely beautiful trek along the Fife coast.  What we would do is leave the car at a given point, go the our furthest point of the day, have a snack or even a high tea, turn around and trek back again.  Hopefully by the time we finish, we would have walked the path effectively in both directions.  For those who wish to see more in a day, there is an excellent bus route to take party back to their start line.  When entering an eatery, it is usual to be asked if one is "doing the path" and from where we have started.  In other words, the Fife Coastal Path is an established part of the tourist scene as is relied upon to bring custom to businesses along its route.  What is more, the path is well-signposted on the ground and the website has good suggested walks with clear, printable maps.

In the Lothians, we have our own version:  the John Muir Way.  It is clearly signposted at its Westerly end, the Forth Road Bridge, which links it directly to the Fife Coastal Path.  The John Muir Way continues in a similar vein along the coastline of East Lothian.  There is currently a gaping hole in the route though, and sadly that is the city of Edinburgh and the Port of Leith.  There is not one sign post for the path within the city bounds.  I dare say that plans may be afoot for the path to be linked in the future but I ask, when businesses as still trading on a knife-edge, why wait?

To my mind this is a crazy situation.  Edinburgh is indeed the UK's second tourist destination after London.  Much of the tourist trade though stays in the centre.  The communities and businesses along the north coast would greatly benefit from the extra trade that walkers and cyclists would bring as they follow the John Muir Way.  There are undoubtedly challenges but as can be seen from the experience of Fife; if we build it, they will come.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

TTIP and ISDS - one good, one bad.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has hit a major stumbling block, with the announcement that France will not sign it in its current form and Germany has grave concerns over a section known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS).  
Minister of Foreign Trade, Matthais Fekl, told the French Senate that “France did not want the ISDS to be included in the negotiation mandate.  We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values,"  according to an article on the EurActiv website.

It is this very section, the ISDS that has also led critics of the project to claim that the NHS would be opened up further to corporation takeover, whether the government of the day welcomed it or not, for the ISDS would allow corporations to challenge legislation that they claim would be putting a brake upon profits.  The US is loath cut this section but it seems that Germany is not going to sign any agreement that contains ISDS. 

Quite right too in my opinion.  TTIP is more than a look at tariffs between trading nations: it is a massive unification of regulations across vast trading zones.  Although there is a lot of potential upside – for the UK alone this is estimated at £10 billion a year, it is important too that governments are able to keep control over their own legislation – this should not become a battlefield for lawyers.  Surrendering of sovereignty to corporations is unacceptable.

A lot depends on the TTIP negotiations: at this time in the UK economy an estimated 3.5 million jobs are linked to the EU, and that number will only increase if TTIP goes through.  I want to see that happen, but it is also correct for both Germany and France to highlight the threat to both sovereignty and therefore democracy that this contained within ISDS.

The TTIP negotiations also show how wrong-headed and muddled the views of UKIP and the Conservative right are on Europe.  Outside the EU, we would not be part of the negotiations and would have no influence upon their outcome.  Should a Britain outside the EU seek to join the TTIP group, it would be on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

My view is that the UK can benefit greatly if TTIP is secured, and that we should be backing the views of France and Germany on ISDS.  Trade is good: having corporations being able to dictate legislation, not so much.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Lidl Supermarket bans Polish

I don’t speak Portuguese.  Neither does my family.  So it was with relief that when in Lisbon last year that in the local supermarket that the people made an effort to communicate, even finding a member of  staff that spoke English if the pointing and sign language was not enough.

I don’t speak Swedish but do have a little Norwegian to my name.  No matter: if neither is enough in either Stockholm or Kristiansund, shop workers will instantly switch to English.  They don’t ask if I live there or just visiting; they just do it.

The question I have then is what on earth is going through the minds of the managers at the Lidl in Kirkaldy that have just banned their Polish employees not only speaking Polish between themselves, but have also ruled that they can no longer speak to Polish customers in their own language either?

It is certain that the workers there have better things to do than talk about their managers.  This move is both petty and racist.  It is not as if the Polish workers in Lidl refuse to speak in English to their Scottish customers.
More worryingly though is the many comments of support that the ban has solicited social media, such as The Scotsman’s Facebook page.  I would say that opinion is divided fifty : fifty.

To those people who support the ban I say this: next time you are abroad, in whatever capacity, and a store worker makes the effort to speak to you in English, you had better stop them right there, even if you are not able to speak the local language.  Anything else would be hypocritical.  


It has been drawn to my attention that some people are uncomfortable with a foreign language being spoken around them.  Perhaps of working in an international environment for the past eighteen years, I have lost any sympathy with such a view.  There are those which equate other speaking in foreign tongue in their presence with whispering in public.  Really?  The chances are that the people are talking about some other subject, as their body language will usually make clear.  If you are the subject of a discussion in front of you, the chances are you will know.  I see little difference between that and talking about somebody behind their back.  If people are going to be rude, it makes little difference what language they are going to be rude in.  In my experience, most people are neither stupid nor rude so being stressed about foreign languages is a matter of personal insecurity.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

History, Europe and Being British.

I’m looking at a portrait of my wife.  

That mere statement should identify me as rich, privileged and thus most likely a Conservative.  Which by outward appearance would be confirmed but in actuality could not be further from the truth.

The trouble is with us British, is that we don’t give enough account for difference, until that is it has becomes embedded: another layer in the thick, deep quilt that is modern Britain.  As we have always done though, each addition has always been initially resisted but ultimately accepted.  For example, who of us outside the realms of the BNP still harps on about the baneful influence of Huguenot refugees, the 19th Century influx of Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, or the arrival of people of Indian heritage after being expelled by Idi Amin from Uganda?  No.  People we accept.  Ideas though take a lot longer.

This initial resistance to ideas is, although irksome to the more intellectual class of UK society, has actually being, and continues to be, a strength of British society.  We are a wary people; one might even say a small ‘c’ conservative people.  That comes too from deep history but one fashioned by no human virtue, but rather from geography.  Historically, it was that very geography that initially led us to be vulnerable, then defensive and ultimately offensive (in whatever way one might take that term), conquerers of what became the British Empire and, perhaps finally to enter a period of geopolitical decline, as air power superseded the power of the Royal Navy.

Our continental neighbours on the other hand have, well, enjoyed would not be the correct word, perhaps endured, a different past.  One of the waxing and waning of powers, of borders, of kingdoms.  Who remembers the princes of Burgundy or the extent of to Lithuanian kingdom?  Certainly if your knowledge of history is restricted to the curriculum taught in UK schools, you will wonder what the hell I’m on about and perhaps ask the question “why is this relevant?”   

Both are relevant because in Britain, we didn’t have to endure the trauma that such constant warfare did to communities and borders.  At least, not since the Civil Wars.  Britain was spared such brutality.  When the nephew of King Charles the First wanted to burn Leicester to the ground for the crime of not accepting terms of surrender, Prince Rupert was confronted both the burghers of the city and by his generals saying “We don’t do such things here in England.”  It is a shame that Cromwell, who showed similar restraint here in Scotland, did not do so in Ireland.  History shows that religious brutality does not work out so well.

What is my point?  We are all products of history: of the grandest of events.  Example: Billy Connelly.  This guy alway thought he was of poor Irish background only to discover, and that is only owing to his talent and fame, that actually part of his family took part in heroic deeds during the Indian Rebellion and his ancestry is partly Indian.  He would have never have known if he had stayed in the shipyards of the Clyde.

Owing to our geographical defences however, we have lacked a certain degree of empathy with our European neighbours.  Our islands were seldom under serious threat of invasion.  London has not endured the marching tramp of a foreign invading army in a thousand years.  I doubt if the Normans even marched.

Mrs Veart came from a different background.  Her great uncle was killed outside Moscow.  His last letter to his sister spoke that he knew he was to be thrown against the German invasion to his death.  Her paternal grandfather was a successful fighter pilot against the same foe.  

That is how come I am looking at a portrait of my wife.  She comes from a background where wealth was not necessary to have a portrait done.  Just the time and location.  
Neither of us are from a rich nor privileged background, just a different background.  

The differences within us may unsettle some but looking back, it is surprising perhaps how commonplace such differences are among the British.  We are a complicated people.  

So why on earth is it that we are encouraged to continually seek easy answers from our politics?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

What Now?

There are so many “What Nows” that, like Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, one can be easily answer another point when the question is put.  Let’s just take stock and first ask “What just happened?”

Thursday was nerve-wracking for all of us who cared, either way.  There seems to be most of us, as 84% of the Scottish electorate turned out to vote.  Safe to say, in terms of numbers that is the highest figure one can expect in modern day politics: everybody who ever intended to vote in this nation did so on Thursday.  It means therefore that the result is valid and credible.  After two years of campaigning by Yes, the campaign to stay in the Union won.  The result may have been despite some of the Better Together efforts: one cannot say that Alistair Darling was an inspired leader.  From Labour, Jim Murphy and that grand old bruiser Gordon Brown came good.  From the Libdems, Alistair Carmichael and Jo Swinson shone brightest.  For Yes, Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie should be acknowledged    On both sides though, it was thousands of grass-root activists that were the real stars.  When the Yes campaigners had the feather banners, balloons and badges, there were a lot on the No side too, no posters in their windows or badges for their lapels, just quietly going door-to-door, sliding leaflets through letterboxes.  On both sides, it is those new to the realities of political campaigning that should be honoured most highly.
Of great interest though is is those who, when asked, answered “I don’t know.”  Now, I am sure that at the outset of the campaign, that was a viable option.  On the day of the referendum though, it is clear that the Don’t Knows mainly voted No.  Although it could never be proven, I suspect for this campaign at least, “I don’t know” really meant “I’m not telling you.”
Although there were highly publicised instances of companies threatening to head south upon a Yes vote, dismissed by the SNP as moving a brass plate on the door, there were others not reported that would have had a huge impact on jobs across Scotland.  Their preparations were share-price sensitive hence the media silence, but one preparing for immediate departure, a major UK utility company, would have had a profound effect on Scottish homes and businesses.  Many owners of small and medium businesses linked to financial services and IT were also preparing to move south.  Most of us, including myself, did not at the time realise how rapidly some businesses were prepared to leave Scotland.  Although the result was a profound disappointment for many, in economic terms we had an extremely narrow squeak.  

What now?  The first thing is new powers for Scotland.  This has to be decided as a matter of priority and I urge all interested parties and individuals to make their voices heard.  It cannot be agreed around a table in London and handed down.  The three main Westminster parties disagree as to the level of autonomy to be ceded: the Scottish Government needs to be a party to negotiations as well.  It should not just be left to politicians though: bodies such as the CBI, research councils and trade unions, will have views and should be heard.  This may slow matters down a bit but it is necessary to get it right, whoever is in power in Westminster.  It should certainly be all in place by the end of 2015, before the Scottish parliamentary elections the following year.  Gordon Brown has came out with a very rapid timetable: it sounds great but I have no idea how he came up with it.  If we just spent two years fighting over independence, we can take a year sorting out the actual future of our nation.
Out of all the Westminster parties, the Labour proposals are the most modest.  In 2012, the Liberal Democrats came out with a manifesto for Scotland which is effectively one of self-rule within the United Kingdom.  The key points, with a link to the full version can be viewed here.  Whatever is finally agreed though, it has to come first and not be linked to reform within the rest of the United Kingdom.  Hardly fair, might be your response, but if you have not been living in Scotland for the past few years, you haven’t been through a two-year independence referendum campaign.  In its way, the trauma has been intense.  All of Scotland is united in this one thing: we expect reform.  The other night I was speaking to some of the most ardent supporters of the No campaign and all of us agreed that we would review our support of the Union if the promises made are not delivered upon.  Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Milliband, you have been told.  Take it seriously.

As an aside, before we get objections about levels of spending per head of population in Scotland compared to England, just remember that we have one third of the landmass of mainland Britain with less than one tenth of the population.  We do not have the economies of scale enjoyed by many parts of England, especially in the South East.  The Highlands and Islands are especially awkward in demanding luxuries like roads, hospitals and schools, despite not having the density of population that, apparently in the eyes of some, discounts their worth as citizens of the United Kingdom.

What follows for England?  As made clear above, David Cameron’s attempt to link change for Scotland with change for the rest of the United Kingdom at the same time should be utterly rejected.  Change is necessary though, not least because it is fair.  Why should Scotland have more democracy and have government closer to the people than the English?  I am disturbed for this scheme of English MPs only voting on English affairs in the House of Commons.  The parliament represents the whole of the UK and every MP should have equal weight.  Besides, what are English affairs?  Say the discussion is on health, for an example: an area devolved in Scotland so should be a no brainer for England.  In reality though, the NHS is only devolved in terms of priority of national spending on services.  The research and academic components are firmly UK-wide issues.  The same can indeed be said for universities: while some in England resent Scottish undergraduates not having the pay for tuition, the systems are totally integrated for post-graduate and higher research.  Another instance would be strategic transport: the planning of further airport capacity and H2S high-speed rail ultimately affects all of us.  
One simply cannot say “this area is for England, so MPs from other parts of the UK have no right of say.”  Each issue would have to be looked at case-by-case.  While some maybe easily agreed upon by the party whips, others would not.  It would not be a system: it would be chaos.
What is to be done?  The obvious solution is that England needs to devolve powers away from Westminster and into the regions.  It is up to themselves whether that means a new national parliament or regional assemblies but what is clear is that the state quo is no longer tenable.  Such a process of reform may have a the similar effect of reviving political debate among the wider public as the referendum did here.  A system of first and second class MPs is not viable: the Westminster Parliament should remain the ultimate sovereign body for the United Kingdom with equality for its members.

What now for Scottish politics?  The first thing that the SNP has to accept is that they lost the vote.  Naturally though, they are not accepting the democratic outcome.  Despite claiming that Yes was not the SNP, that it was a broad coalition and a grassroots organisation throughout the campaign, on the Friday they immediately set up a new organisation called 45, officially in order to carry on the fight for independence.  Their party membership has ballooned: putting on 20,000 over the weekend.  I cannot blame the SNP from wanting to preserve the campaigning organisation that arose during the referendum campaign, but to tell these new members that a new referendum can be recalled and won in the short term is simply a lie.  Even the name, 45 (the percentage who voted Yes), is a misrepresentation.  I personally know many Yes voters and while some are firm SNP supporters, other Yes voters are far from their camp politically and have very different visions for the future of Scotland.  This division within Yes was hidden in order to present a united front but I will predict that non-nationalist members of the coalition will not continue with the fight for Scottish independence because, unlike the SNP, that is not at the heart of their politics.  They will instead attempt to see their politics take root through existing avenues, of which there are now many and more to come.  Even the cracks in the SNP are beginning to show with MSP John Wilson resigning from the SNP, citing differences with leadership and policy. 
What I ask new members of 45, many new to politics, is while I genuinely welcome your entry into political involvement, the question for you is what do you want?  Yes, I know that you want independence for Scotland but what then?  A change of government is not an end in itself: it is a means to an end, usually a better life for citizens.  How are the changes you wish for going to better the lives of Scottish citizens?  Much of the reason why Yes lost was that they were unable to convincingly answer this question during the campaign.  The question has not gone away.

What is clear though is that forty-five percent of the Scottish electorate that did vote Yes, for whatever reason, have one thing in common: they have lost faith in current UK politics.  That is a matter of upmost seriousness.

It will be an interesting couple of years ahead for us all.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum: The Pound and Why All the Fuss?

Friday morning and we shall all know.  Until then, footwear will be worn out, voices cracked, keyboard tapped and nerves frayed.  Televisions and radios will be sworn at.  Friday will see desolation for some, manic celebration for others.  The weekend will pass in a similar vein. 
Come Monday, that is when the hard work really begins.

Whatever is the outcome of the vote on Thursday, we all know that the referendum campaign has changed Scotland and the United Kingdom for ever.  If Scotland votes No and stays with the Union, at least that is one variable out of the equation: we get to keep the pound Sterling.  If it is a Yes vote, Friday will still see me spending my pounds at the local ASDA.  The question for all of us is what will we be buying our groceries with in a couple-three years time?

There are several options, the first of which is to keep Sterling: the preference of the SNP.  They want to enter into a monetary and banking union with the UK government, thus retaining some influence with the Bank of England, whom the last Labour government made independent.  Of course, it would take the most leaden of intellects not to see the irony of the position: “we like your currency and financial system, just not you.”  There has been currency union since 1707, when the pound Scots was exchanged at a rate of twelve to one for pound Sterling.  The claim continues though that it would be to mutual benefit to both nations.  Let us have a closer look at this.

Staying in monetary and banking union with the UK would certainly be a good deal for an otherwise independent Scotland.  Up to now, Britain has managed to retain a triple A rating with the financial markets, meaning that government bonds are of the highest safety, thus being able to pay out the lowest of interest rates.  In other words, the UK can borrow money cheaply.  Introduce more risk and borrowers to the state would wish to see a higher return to offset the chance of the country defaulting upon repayment.  Scotland’s credit rating will be higher than if standing alone financially because if a bank should undergo a crisis, the Bank of England remains the borrower of last resort.  Great for the Scots.  Trade would also be stable as there would be no additional currency fluctuations or bank charges.  Business as usual:  Scotland would remain plugged into one of the world’s largest and most successful financial systems.

The question has to be asked though is “what’s in it for the rest of the UK?”  After all, the claim is for mutual benefit.  True, north-south trade remains but this is of far greater value to Scotland than to England: the main market.  The only real benefit I can see for England is maintaining the value of Sterling.  Scotland does have most of the oil (if one counts Shetland: that is another story) and thus would be the main beneficiary of the tax revenues.  Oil revenues are a major pillar of currency value but in a currency union, that will not matter so much because the revenues are still going to uphold the value of Sterling.  Sterling stays relatively strong.

What happens though if the UK keeps true to its word?  There will be no currency union: this has been stated by all the major Westminster parties.  Sterling falls in value, because current oil revenues are no longer counted towards its strength.  This makes imports more expensive: ironically enough even the price of fuel at the forecourt will rise because Sterling falls against the US dollar: the price of crude rises relatively, owing to the fact that oil and gas are traded in dollars.  The price of imports go up, everything from coffee to televisions to the price of foreign vacations.  There is good news too: suddenly it is cheaper to visit Britain, so one would expect numbers of tourists to rise.  It is also good for export business, as goods and services sold in Sterling also become relatively cheaper.  The effect on business will take some time to filter through; in the meantime the rest of us see the price of many goods rise.
It is not all bad news: government revenues from oil rise as a result of the strong dollar-pound rate.    The Scottish government though is under an imperative to build cash reserves because the Bank of England is no longer the lender of last resort for Scottish banks.  In order to avoid a run on Scottish banks, there has to be a credible lender of last resort.  That in tern will mean a new Bank of Scotland, an alternative to the Bank of England..  Since that title is already taken, let us call it the Scottish Central Bank.

The Scottish Central Bank has to be set up, initially to secure the future of Scottish banking.  That still leaves Scotland without control of its own interest rates or money supply and thus with absolutely no control over its own economy.  This is denounced for the craziness that it obviously is, and the Scottish Government decides to launch our own currency.  The pound Scots (abbreviation £Scots) is reborn.

Celebrations all around.  It maybe the case that now backed with oil (assuming both the Scottish government have honoured their share of taking responsibility for UK debt and have also being willing to issue bonds at inflated rates demanded by the money markets) the £Scots gains in value.  It is even conceivable that, as the Irish Pund did in the 1990s, it on occasion even excesses Sterling in value.  The Nationalists burst with happiness.

Here is the bad news.  The rest of the UK is still Scotland’s largest market, regardless of currency, just as the UK is still Ireland’s largest trading partner.  Geography is an inconvenient truth that ignores sentiment and politics.  Now trade both ways faces exchange rate charges and the added volatility of oil price fluctuations.  Proportionally, the stress is far more upon Scottish firms than UK business, purely on proportion of overall business done.  Just as Ireland has to turn their best minds to getting the advantage in trade with the UK, the same will happen in Scotland.

Throughout this essay, I have referred to oil and it is worth taking a moment to consider its long term future.  Now the Yes campaign will tell you, with truth, that there is still years of production ahead and there are new fields to the west of Shetland.  

What they will not tell you is this: 

The graph above are based upon figures from the UK government website linked here.  I have not updated it for 2013 but as you can see by following the link, the production trend is still downwards.  From the peak in the late 1990s, both oil and gas production has fallen by 70% and both proven and probable reserves have also fallen.  It is true though that oil and gas production are still important: when the Buzzard field went offline in September 2012, it nearly threw the UK economy into a triple-dip recession (report here).  
If one field shutting down for a month has such an effect upon the UK economy as a whole, imagine the effect upon the far smaller Scottish economy.  It is important because business needs stability, they need to be able to plan ahead with a degree of confidence.  An independent Scotland may offer dizzying heights but equally abyssal lows.  Especially over short time frames, both are equally damaging.  This is what economists call volatility. 

We are not yet finished with the currency though, so please forgive the digression.  To return to the narrative, Scotland now has a central bank and we also have the £Scot.  The next big question is whether we rejoin the EU.  Like the rest of the United Kingdom, there is divided views on this.  One of the reasons I am voting No on Thursday is that I will not cast a vote to leave the European Union.  Let’s give the SNP the benefit of another doubt though and think through the end game for the brief life of the £Scot.  Its life as a currency would be brief owing to the fact that new applicants would be expected to join the Euro Zone as condition of entry.  The process is never swift: negotiations take years, sometimes decades.
The alternative would be to join EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, and go the way of Norway and Iceland.  This maybe economically appealing but in order to really work, I believe it takes a Scandinavian mindset - a willingness to be truly fair to each other in society and be united.  This unity is both in the view of the outside world and within society.  As an academic from the University of Edinburgh recently observed on the Today Programme, Scots believe themselves to be more progressive and tolerant that the neighbours to the south.  When views and beliefs are actually measured though, we are all pretty much the same in outlook across the entire United Kingdom.  We all think British, because we are British.  No matter in what high regard we may hold our neighbours, we are not Scandinavian.  The division with Scotland caused by the referendum is enough to prove that case.

There is two alternatives ahead on us on Thursday.  To vote, regardless of consequences, Yes for an independent Scotland.  The SNP are keen to emphasise the benefits of independence while at the heart of their campaign is a single dishonest word: scaremongering.  Exploring the avenues, looking ahead and assessing the possibilities, that is not scaremongering.  That is making an informed choice: a choice that by using terms like scaremongering and Project Fear, the SNP have been keen to shut down.

I am making an informed choice on Thursday by voting No.