Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Brits resort to bribes to pacify Scotland

  • Print

Scotland’s referendum on whether to split from Britain is a bit more than six weeks away. The battle for the hearts, minds and votes of the undecided, sufficiently numerous to be decisive, is being fought with a mixture of payola and scaremongering unbecoming of such a momentous decision.

A televised debate scheduled for Tuesday evening pits Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and the architect of the referendum, against Alastair Darling, the former British chancellor of the exchequer charged with overseeing the Better Together campaign.

So Tuesday, with a bribe blatant enough to make a Mafia don buying the local garbage-collection contract blush, the leaders of Westminster’s three main political parties signed a pledge to give the Scottish parliament more tax-collecting powers if the country votes to remain part of Britain.

While the sentiment is laudable — London should be devolving many more powers to the regions of Britain — the timing is tacky. It also suggests that Prime Minister David Cameron and his cohorts might just be a bit more worried about the outcome of the Sept. 18 decision than they’ve let on.

Polls have consistently shown a majority in agreement with the status quo. A Survation poll published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper found 46 per cent would vote against independence, with 40 per cent in favour of going it alone. The Don’t-Know camp was worth 14 per cent, and the margin of error for the online survey was 3.1 percentage points.

For those living in Scotland who haven’t made their minds up, the world of finance seems relentlessly bearish on the nation’s prospects as a standalone. There isn’t enough oil revenue to make the country wealthy, for one thing; Britain is likely to saddle Scotland with debts and chunks of the bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland, for another. A research firm called Fathom Consulting had the scariest line, comparing Scotland’s likely financial prospects with those of Greece:

There is only one path to a viable, fiscally independent Scotland: Scotland gets almost all the oil and virtually none of the bank assets. Any other settlement after a yes vote with respect to the distribution of oil revenues or bank assets, could make it impossible for Scotland to borrow, forcing the government into a severe tightening of fiscal policy and Scotland into recession. Scotland would face a situation worse than the one that has been facing Greece for the last few years.

Britain also gets hurt in a split. Citigroup said on July 14 that investors were likely to shun the pound in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Morgan Stanley, in a report a few weeks ago, put the chances of Scottish independence as high as 25 per cent, and said the possible consequences would include a 10 per cent slump in the pound’s value, a greater chance of the remainder of Britain quitting the European Union, and a delay in any Bank of England rate increases.

The relationship between Scotland and the rest of Britain increasingly resembles a bad marriage; one partner is perennially unhappy, counselling hasn’t worked, and while divorce would be painful and messy, the heart may overrule the head and ignore the financial repercussions. The worst of all possible outcomes in September would be a split decision, with enough yes votes to keep Salmond’s dream of ruling his own country alive and sufficient no votes to stop it from happening just yet. But the shabby business of trying to game the voters should end now.





Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gaggle of Canada geese goslings at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg Monday- See Project Honk Day 05- May 07, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google