Thursday, 5 June 2014

The McCrone Report

There is a point in any Scottish independence debate where - having pointed out the other factual or logical flaws in the pro-independence logic -  the McCrone report gets raised.  I recommend reading this independent newspaper article if you're not familiar with the story but do also scan the "report" itself.

This isn't really about Oil & Gas; it's a "reason why we can't trust Westminster"

Politicians choose not to leak a confidential memo that would play into the hands of their political opponents shock.

I find the Yes campaign's position on this slightly bewildering. Apart from anything else the "report" was a confidential memo speculating about the future; it's subsequently gained a mythical status which has given it a somewhat over-blown significance.

Update 16/07/2014: In fact at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in a public discussion on 29 January 2014 Professor McCrone was questioned about the suppression of his "report"; his response is enlightening: (Emphasis is mine)

  • "Professor McCrone pointed out that this report was a briefing paper written when he was a civil servant.  Briefing papers by civil servants, especially those prepared in advance of a possible change of government, are never published. The paper had not been suppressed"
I strongly recommend you watch this > The McCrone Report: In his own words
It was one man's view and in fact offers a far more balanced and nuanced perspective than many seem to think .  But putting that aside I still get that something bad happened, I get that it's something we as a nation can be rightly pissed off about; but I don't get how the politically expedient suppression of a report (or more accurately maintaining the confidentiality of a memo) 39  years ago leads to the conclusion that we should vote for Independence now.

I've talked elsewhere on this blog about the concepts of inherited responsibility and guilt.  Are we really arguing that an entire political structure can no longer be trusted because of what happened in 1975? Are we expected to believe that some evil miasma seeps from the Palace of Westminster's limestone walls, infecting any who enter there with an uncontrollable desire to screw over the people of Scotland?

Sorry.  I'm capable of bearing a grudge as much as the next man but I can't extrapolate from the failings of some politicians 39 years ago to the conclusion that we can't trust an entire political system now because of where it's housed.  A Scottish parliament will still be populated by the same political class; politicians won't stop being politicians just because there are less of them.  Unless you believe that there's something intrinsically different about Scottish politicians?

But even if you don't share my emotional reaction on this, there's a more fundamental reason why to vote Yes "because of McCrone" is a bewildering thing to do.  As argued extensively on this blog, separating Scotland from the Union today sacrifices many tangible benefits of union - and for what? A desire to punish the rest of the UK, to ensure they inherit the guilt of those historical political failings? Even if you think that is a reasonable position (I certainly don't) it's still perverse to vote Yes; because it's a vote to "cut off the nose to spite the face", because the loss of benefits of union punishes us, the Scots most.

Did you scan the original document?  Because funnily enough if you actually read the McCrone report there's plenty in there about the downside of independence. for example;

"This is partly a question of the scale of the Scottish economy, but more of the extent to which it has become integrated with that of the rest of the UK [...] such measures would risk retaliation from England which, given Scotland's close trade ties with England, could cause damage far in excess of any benefit that may be hoped for. Such policies would also be incompatible with continued membership of EEC and withdrawal [...] would clearly have very damaging consequences [...]
But the Scottish labour market is so closely linked with that of the rest of the UK that it is hard to see how real earnings could be adjusted downwards without giving rise to the most serious difficulties. 
For such a small country heavily dependent on international trade, devaluation would, of course, have serious inflationary consequences since all imports would rise in price".
McCrone Report, 1975

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interested to know whether it was standard practice to classify all reports by Economists as Top Secret rather than just Confidential or Official or even Secret? And also why it wasn't released under the 30 year rule?