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Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Scottish independence may mean no Scottish banknotes

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist, and author of the blog Dilettante. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Salmond’s Scotland: Out of the loop and off the money

Another of the strangely integrationist ramifications of Alex Salmond’s separatist ambitions came to light this week, when a Treasury paper revealed that in the event of a post-separation currency union between Scotland and the continuing UK, it might no longer be possible to continue issuing Scottish banknotes.

According to the Treasury, this is because Scotland’s weaker commitment to sterling under a currency union might have a negative impact on the confidence of the public and currency speculators in the “Scottiish pound”, in case Scotland were ever to withdraw from the union and devalue. Those notes issued and backed directly by the central bank underpinning the currency – the Bank of England – will be a safer bet. And despite SNP claims that the right to issue Scottish notes is ironclad, the relevant legislation – most recently the 2009 Banking Act – is issued by Westminster.

Yet Salmond’s plan will have farther-reaching consequences than simply sparing cashiers south of the border the occasional squabble over the legality of an unusual note. The Treasury is also expected to argue that for Scotland to maintain a ‘sterling zone’ it would have to accept budget constraints set in London - a foreign city where, Nicola Sturgeon’s unilateral declarations notwithstanding, Scotland would no longer be represented. Unionist politicians such as Alistair Darling and Danny Alexander maintain that Scotland would have to face cuts to sustain an economic union.

Thus the currency becomes another one of those strange issues where the SNP seem to be shrinking from the shiny new levers of statehood that independence is supposed to proffer them. Indeed, in this instance they appear to have stumbled into reverse gear.

And of course, all of this assumes that a currency union can be made to work at all. As one of Salmond’s former advisors points out, that’s the opposite lesson drawn from the Eurozone. A viable currency union seems to need a degree of banking union, fiscal union, political union… In short, it really just needs a Union. Happily enough, we’ve got one.

Defending Wales

According to a report seen by Wales Online, Wales might be seen as a softer target by terrorists looking to avoid the tough security climates in places like London. It also mentions the risks of domestic extremists inside the Welsh Muslim community. Earlier this week, a pair of would-be terrorists who trained in Snowdonia were jailed.

Whilst England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have each had their share (doesn’t seem right to say “fair” share) of terrorist experiences in the last few decades, Wales has been spared most of it, and with the above-linked article taking great pains to stress that the authorities are on top of things in Wales we’ve every reason to hope that remains the case.

After all, the security services have past form when it comes to rigour in their treatment of Wales. Don’t take my word for it: read this report from the Wales on Sunday about MI5’s monitoring of Welsh nationalists in the run up to the Prince of Wales’ investiture back in 1969, after a series of “bomb outrages” perpetrated by hard-line nationalists. They weren’t being completely paranoid either – two men apparently blew themselves up on the eve of the investiture in what is believed to be an attempted attack on the Royal Train.

Happily Welsh nationalism declined to go down the urban warfare route and the programme was closed after the ceremony. Today’s Plaid activists can rest safe in the knowledge that they are no longer considered a threat to realm.

Though cowards flinch, and traitors sneer…

…we’ll keep the red flag flying here! At least, they keep it flying at the Scottish Labour conference, which was held in Inverness this week. It seems rather surreal, since I always associate that song with footage with those Labour conferences from the Eighties when they were busily and democratically engaged in helping Margaret Thatcher get re-elected. It seems like something Blair would have abolished. But as Dan Hodges discovered, “there’s no New Labour in Scotland, and there never has been”, which is disheartening for those who hoped that some vestige of the Blair election machine might be rolling like a unionist panzer onto Alex Salmond’s lawn.

Not, of course, that there will be much push in that direction from the UK party. Turns out that Blair did ban the socialist anthem from the Labour conference, but that like so many of the trappings of Labour’s less successful phase, its back. Is there a video? Oh yes. Be warned though, it is as exactly as excruciating as you would expect.

The changing face of Saint George’s Day

For those of you who sometimes complain in the comments that this blog seems to focus on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but not England, I’ve got to break it to you that that is its entire purpose. My remit for this little corner of the site is to keep an eye on the goings on of our three smaller partner-nations and occasionally put that into the broader British constitutional context.

If you do want to read about England from that perspective, I can heartily recommend this article from the Telegraph about the challenge posed by the resurgence of Englishness to the future of the British constitution and nation. There are also a couple of good pieces up on Open Unionism, if you’ll excuse the plug, including one from a former vice-chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament.

Since this goes out on Wednesdays I hope that all of you had a happy Saint George’s Day, English or no. I intend to set out to see if I can find somewhere to celebrate it, which I admit isn’t my usual game, but I’m in Ireland and filled with a spirit of bloody-minded adventure. Which, as no doubt at least one person I meet in my little quest will tell me, is itself a rather English state of affairs.


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