24 Feb 2017
February 24, 2017

Unionists and oil

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Sometimes, civil servants get paid to lie – other times they’re paid to just keep quiet, knowing truths are being distorted or hidden and untruths are being insinuated into place by their paymasters. That’s just the way it is. You can’t blame regular folk for just earning their wages, looking after their families, paying the mortgage and letting the big-ticket moral issues wash over them.

So here’s young Professor McCrone producing a perfectly straightforward official government report in the mid-70s explaining how oil would make Scots rich, and the report being kept secret  because Scots would obviously have demanded independence. It’s pointless now to make a value judgement about that; it was a long time ago. However, it’s strikingly stupid of today’s unionists, although good news for independence supporters, to rub the lie in the face of Scots by taunting us that the oil price is so pathetic these days, and production so low, that Scots today are essentially beggars to the English service industry powerhouse we paid for. They’re laughing in Scots’ faces, right?

However, what’s even more striking is the way unionists are talking about oil today. Unionists always argued in the past that you couldn’t run an economy based upon the price of oil – it’s too volatile, you see. Every Labour politician who wanted to pretend they knew something about economics used ‘oil price volatility’ in every second sentence. Oil price could never be a BIG THING in Scotland’s economic planning regardless of how high it might be, right?

Now, though, with nothing else to base their anti-independence argument upon after Brexit, unionists are arguing that we should make a BIG THING about the oil price after all. Yes, the low oil price of last year meant Scotland wasn’t a viable nation after all. Never mind volatility and the fact that oil and gas represented a small (but still important, of course) part of the Scottish economy, or that Labour had always argued for the importance of economic diversification, suddenly we should plan the future on the basis of oil and gas prices alone.

The previous paragraph is in the past tense of course, because oil prices are now heading towards the median point between the highest (used with little caution by the SNP then) and the lowest (welcomed enthusiastically by some unwise Labour folk regardless of the effect it has on other folk’s jobs). The SNP bluffed it when the price was high and Labour bluffed it last year when the price was low. The simple truth is that at the next referendum it’s going to be in a broadly sensible place in the middle and because of that it’s going to be largely removed from the equation. Neither side will be able to talk up triumph or disaster on the basis of the oil price.

For indyref2, both sides will need to talk about Scotland’s wider economy. Instead of being obsessed about the oil price, unionists will need to show why Scotland can’t prosper as a diverse economy like most other regular EU states who don’t produce oil or gas. They’ll find that tougher gig than laughing in the face of Scots over how they pulled the wool last time, or calling Scotland a beggar nation.

But don’t forget. Tory unionists believe that Scotland is a beggar nation – that’s the logic of their politics.

And Labour folk? Well, the jury’s out. Plenty have moved to the Tories and we can assume that such folk share the Tories way of seeing Scotland. There’s still a significant few left, though. Maybe some of those folk still feel the same way as the Tories do about Scotland; but a lot don’t. That latter lot will be having their say in the coming months, that’s for sure.