Six months away from the referendum the posh papers and network TV have finally realised the Scottish people are serious about independence. It's no coincidence that one or two drowsy unionists have been shoogled from their slumbers and told to start doing something. I laughed the other morning as I listened to a sleepy industrialist try to put the fear of God in me because 'business wants certainty.' They must live in a different world to to mine.
Who has certainty in business? I remember the start of the crash in 2008 when people were trying to put some kind of figure on the likelihood of the western economies turning round quickly. Some would say it's going to take six months and others, a little more accurately would say it might take years. But no one knew. If someone had known I'm pretty sure they would have been carried round the square mile shoulder high. Certainty is not something business people have ever claimed a right to expect. So being told that's the only thing they want is disingenuous and wholly distracting but why political journalists nod their heads and stroke their beards as if they're hearing great wisdom is beyond me.
Let's spin back and take a little historical look at business and certainty. I'm old enough to remember the hunger of western industry as the wall came down in Berlin. As the bricks and concrete were being torn apart by young Germans, companies were lining up to get their hands on the new market. Did it worry them that there was no infrastructure for capitalism, huge uncertainty over the currency and the hangover from an alien soviet industrial ethos? Of course it didn't. They were queueing up at checkpoint Charlie in their haste to get their hands on the potential millions to be made. A few years later as the coalition of the willing was camped out on the borders of Iraq before the invasion in 2003 US companies were carving out the best deals to be made in the post Saddam state. In this case they managed to set aside their worries about civil war, chemical weapons fall-out and the high probability of staff fatalities because the chance to make a very quick buck was still so tempting.
But we are asked to believe companies are going to withdraw from Scotland because the future is so uncertain. Let's not be confused here. When they tell you about seeking clarity, the only clarification they would like is for someone to withdraw the possibility of a fairer and more democratic and therefore accountable state. Unfortunately that's not going to happen so they will continue to throw their toys out of the pram until such time as they know that independence is inevitable and then, like countless money minded people before them, they will work out that they'd be better off staying put as there is a very good chance of making money.
Believe me, there will be so much more of this to come. Everyone remembers the golden promises of tired rockers in the late 70s and 80s promising to leave the UK should Labour come back to power and introduce fair taxation. We also remember the bitter disappointment when they never left. It was also very similar in 1999.The Blair administration had given us two hoops to jump through in order to secure a Scottish Parliament. Firstly, did we want a Scottish Parliament then did we want one which had tax-raising powers? Yes and yes came the reply quietly and strongly. Yet before it there was warnings of fire, plague and pestilence. Businesses (one of whom tried to reheat the old flames again last week) told us that they could no longer proceed to be based here if this referendum was one yes never mind two.Tories whose whole life's mission had been to kill off any possibility of the parliament taking any kind of shape were adamant that life as we knew it would soon cease to exist. So deeply entrenched were they in this certainty that they immediately did a volte-face and put up a full list of candidates to be elected in the new chamber. Without that small foothold on democracy the party itself would be reduced to their one MP in Westminster.
So, yes, by all means take soundings from business. Ask them what they may or may not do but please also ask them if they can certainly tell us what they are going to do in the advent of independence. I suggest that, on past form, not all of them have been giving us the clarity of position they so desperately seek from those of us who want a bright democratic future.
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