In the film There Will Be Blood, Daniel Plainview, a monomaniacal oilman played by Daniel Day-Lewis, tries to lowball the Sunday family, whose hydrocarbon-rich land he covets, by claiming that he wants their acreage for quail-hunting. But Eli Sunday knows Plainview’s real intentions. He asks for $5,000, ostensibly to invest in his evangelical church. Many years later, Eli, who never received the money from Plainview, tracks the multi-millionaire oilman down in his Xanadu. Eli complains of past grievances and brings a quixotic plan for future exploration of the Sunday land.
I won’t spoil the ending but there is something – an admittedly tenuous something – of the Eli Sunday in the Scottish National party’s arguments about North Sea oil and gas. Alex Salmond’s party is right to be critical of how opportunities were wasted but it is too sanguine about what oil and gas would offer an independent Scotland. Read more
In a lecture last year, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, HM Treasury permanent secretary and perhaps the most powerful old Etonian in Britain, explained the “Origins of Treasury control”. Sir Nicholas said that Treasury’s power came from three sources: conflict, links to Parliament and being able to outwit the rest of officialdom. All three were in evidence this morning, as George Osborne cited his top official’s advice and told Scots they can have independence or the pound – but not both. Read more
An independent Scotland would be refused entry to a monetary union with the rest of the UK, according to reports on Wednesday. George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander – a Cerberus of currency doom – are later this week expected to individually reject the Scottish National party’s proposal for a formal sterling union. I do not know whether this means a monetary union would be ruled out under any circumstances – but words being used by those involved in the interventions include “definitive” and “emphatic”. So far, the chancellor has said that a monetary union would be “very difficult”. Read more
The Scots who have yet to make up their minds ahead of September’s referendum are the most important people in Britain. They will decide whether the 307-year old political union will come to an end. In the third of our videos for the FT’s Scotland series, I tried to figure out who they are and what they want. Read more
On Wednesday, Mark Carney made a speech about the issues an independent Scotland would have to consider if it were to seek a currency union with the rest of the UK.
Although the Bank of England governor insisted that his remarks were of the technocratic variety, their political implication was obvious: a currency union would require the ceding of sovereignty by the newly independent country. There would need to be a banking union, “shared fiscal arrangements” and an agreement over how the BoE would provide facilities to Scottish banks as lender of last resort. The history of the eurozone gave Mr Carney’s speech its context; it was one of the best that Jean-Claude Trichet never gave. Read more
The FT is running a week-long series entitled “If Scotland goes“. As well as an interview with Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, there will be news, opinion and analysis concerning the independence referendum.
For my part, here is the first of three short videos filmed last week. I argue that Scottish nationalism – note the small ‘n’ – is often caricatured. It is not the tartan-clad, Braveheart-quoting jingoism of stereotype. It is, ahem, a post-modern nationalism with some pre-modern symbols: dependent more on sentiment and residence than on ethnicity and language, hallmarks of 20th century nationalisms. Read more
The Scottish National party today launched its white paper for an independent Scotland. It takes the form of a 670 page collection of FAQs, which on the face of it is more suggestive of a complicated electrical appliance than a manifesto for a new nation. Nevertheless, this is a historic and important moment in the history of Scotland. Read more
An independent Scotland would have to dramatically cut public spending or raise taxes, according to a report out today from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. As ever in the McPanglossian world of the Scottish referendum, the No side is saying this new evidence is further proof of the need for union, while the Yes camp is arguing that this is precisely why Scotland needs autonomy. Read more
In a departure from spouting errant Social Darwinist nonsense, Ernest Renan said that a nation depends for its survival on a “daily referendum”. The nineteenth century French historian meant that a country is no more and no less than an expression of collective identity. When that idea goes, so does the nation. Read more
On January 1 1993, Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The two new states opted to keep a monetary union. Thirty-three days later that union collapsed. Over the next five years, exports from each country to the other quickly fell as a share of total trade. Economists cite this as a dramatic example of the “border effect”, the lack of trade and capital flows between two areas due to a territorial limit. In a paper released on Tuesday, HM Treasury suggests that it also provides a warning to Scots: they will be poorer if they vote for independence and for a formal border to be established near Hadrian’s Wall. Read more