When The Establishment Dismisses The Economic Pain Of Struggling Americans, Donald Trump Wins

Rick Scott - Florida - RNC - Republican National Convention 2016 - Donald Trump

A throwaway line by a well-meaning journalist reveals the gulf in understanding between the political / media establishment and the struggling Americans who are not just drawn but actively pushed into the arms of Donald Trump

On his live blog of Night 3 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Andrew Sullivan notes:

Rick Scott is up first. He’s informing us that the U.S. economy isn’t growing. That’s not true.

Yeah, okay. One point to Hillary Clinton, I guess. Except that for millions of Americans, the economy may as well not be growing. For millions of Americans, the economy is utterly stagnant – or at least the end of the labour market which they occupy is stagnant.

One of the reasons that so many people are enraged by the political class – and willing to give Donald Trump the time of day – is the airy way which their entirely legitimate concerns are dismissed by the elite.

There is a howl of pain emanating from the squeezed American lower middle and working classes – a cry that the economy is not working for them, not making it possible for them to achieve the American dream. But what is the establishment’s response? Too often, their response is simply to sniff that the dumb idiots have their facts wrong, that the economy is actually growing very nicely (for artisan bread makers and graphic designers and people working in the professional service sector), and that the dumb hicks should just shut up and stop complaining.

We see exactly the same thing with immigration. As Tucker Carlson wrote so memorably (and accurately) back in January:

On immigration policy, party elders were caught completely by surprise. Even canny operators like Ted Cruz didn’t appreciate the depth of voter anger on the subject. And why would they? If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.

And the scary thing is that it is the so-called “compassionate” liberals and progressive conservatives most likely to hold these dismissive views of the concerns of the squeezed middle and working classes. It is the people who make such a sanctimonious show of supposedly caring about equality that happily bank the many gifts that Obama’s economic recovery has bestowed upon them while looking with disgust and contempt at the complaints of their fellow Americans who are being left behind.

If that is how the elite really want to continue behaving then fine – it is their prerogative. But they cannot feign surprise and dismay when struggling Americans then lose faith in their leadership and their policy prescriptions, and go looking for something, anything else.

As it happens, I don’t think for a moment that Andrew Sullivan is indifferent to the suffering of America’s struggling working poor. He is a blogging hero of mine, and someone whom I respect enormously. But he is also very much part of the media elite and lives a life very far removed from those who struggle and live paycheck to paycheck. One can understand his instinctive irritation on hearing Rick Scott falsely state that America’s economy is not growing under President Obama.

But what we need now from the establishment is an enormous effort to find empathy for those Americans who have not seen an economic recovery since 2008, no matter what the top line GDP figures say. When hard-working people are hurting and living precariously at a time of their lives when they had been raised to believe they should be enjoying the fruits of the American dream, it is not enough to summarily dismiss their concerns, even – perhaps especially – when they are poorly or angrily articulated.

The Republican Party has already failed to learn this lesson of empathy and humility. Donald Trump is their punishment. The American Left and non-aligned conservatives and libertarians can scarcely afford to make the same mistake.


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Brexit: How Much Democracy Would You Sacrifice To Reduce Uncertainty?

Brexit - European Union - Democracy - Uncertainty - 3

How much democracy would you give away in the hope of greater short term stability?

Our glorious leader has taken to the pages of the Sunday Telegraph today to offer his standard stump speech, talking down Britain’s prospects as an independent country.

Focusing exclusively on the (mostly) short term costs of Brexit whilst determinedly overlooking the costs of remaining in a relentlessly integrating political union, David Cameron warns:

A year ago, the Conservative election manifesto contained a clear commitment: security at every stage of your life. Britain is doing well. Our economy is growing; unemployment is falling to record lows.

We need to be absolutely sure, if we are to put all that at risk, that the future would be better for our country outside the EU than it is today.

There is no doubt in my mind that the only certainty of exit is uncertainty; that leaving Europe is fraught with risk. Risk to our economy, because the dislocation could put pressure on the pound, on interest rates and on growth. Risk to our cooperation on crime and security matters. And risk to our reputation as a strong country at the heart of the world’s most important institutions.

And in other utterly astounding and headline-worthy news, a group of finance ministers from the world’s leading economies released a statement yesterday, sombrely declaring that Britain leaving the European Union would represent an economic shock.

Or as the Telegraph tells it:

The global economy will suffer “a shock” if Britain votes to leave the European Union, the world’s 20 leading nations have warned.

In a joint statement, finance ministers from the G20 group of major economies unanimously agreed that the risk of “Brexit” posed dangers for international stability.

George Osborne, who is attending the meeting of central bankers and ministers in China, said the danger of a Leave vote on June 23 would represent one of the gravest threats of 2016.

In what will be seen as a coded attack on Boris Johnson, who is campaigning to leave, he added that the leaving the EU would not be “some amusing adventure” but a serious threat to Britain and the world.

Well, that’s it then. Quest for democracy and self-governance cancelled. Call off the referendum and put away all those naive thoughts of Brexit, because the world financial markets don’t like the idea very much, and what’s best for an American hedge fund manager automatically trumps your right to self determination.

Why, oh why do those awful eurosceptics and Brexiteers persist with their alarming and selfish calls for an end to undemocratic, unaccountable, supra-national government? Can’t they see that they are creating economic uncertainty? Won’t somebody please think of the children?

This, by the way, is the same George Osborne who insisted that “we rule nothing out” when it came to possibly campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, until the conclusion of the so-called renegotiation. This opens up the hilarious thesis that while the Chancellor of the Exchequer believes that Brexit would be unspeakably traumatic for Britain and for the world economy, he was nonetheless prepared to recommend that we quit the EU and flirt with so-called disaster, had Britain not secured that precious reminder that we are already under no obligation to adopt the euro (one of our renegotiation “victories”).

If George Osborne is so desperate to warn us that Brexit would not be an amusing adventure, why was he willing to publicly countenance Britain leaving the EU in the event that he and David Cameron failed to win their puny basket of concessions from Brussels? If Britain leaving the EU would inevitably be such a disruptive and traumatic event, why did they insist that nothing was off the table if they didn’t get what they wanted?

But put all of that to one side. The more fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is whether we are happy for every key decision about our civic life to be determined purely by economic forecasts. And not necessarily detailed or well researched forecasts at that, but rather by unverifiable assertions about fickle market sentiment – which inevitably prioritises the short term over the long term, and which can put a price on risk but not on democracy.

A man walks past various currency signs outside a brokerage in Tokyo
The EU apologists in the Remain camp will throw their hands up in mock horror at this statement, but it is true: some things – like democracy – are more important than money.

In fact, you can tell a lot by observing the times when EU apologists and left-wingers earnestly listen to the voice of big business and the far more frequent occasions when they demonise the “greedy” corporate world. To point out the naked confirmation bias at play here is hardly necessary.

As this blog commented some time ago, when HSBC was making dark murmurings about potentially upping sticks and leaving Britain in the event of Brexit:

Isn’t it funny how the voice of big business – usually the object of scorn and hatred from the left – suddenly becomes wise and sagacious when the short term interests of the large corporations happen to coincide with those of the Labour Party?

Labour have been hammering “the corporations” relentlessly since losing power in 2010, accusing them of immoral (if not illegal) behaviour for such transgressions such as not paying enough tax, not paying employees enough money, paying employees too much money and a host of other sins. In Labour’s eyes, the words of a bank executive were valued beneath junk bond status – until now, when suddenly they have become far-sighted and wise AAA-rated pronouncements, just because they have come out in support of Britain remaining in the EU.

The ability of the British people to determine their own future does not appear as a line item on any company’s balance sheet or P&L account, so of course large corporations – as represented by the minority of FTSE 100 chief executives who recently signed a letter arguing against Brexit – do not care whether the people in their home country live in a functional democracy.

Most businesses are just as happy to make money from operating in oppressive autocracies as it is in free democratic countries; nobody is investing in China out of admiration for that dictatorship’s record on human rights. And indeed it is not the job of corporations to make such value judgements, or to safeguard the constitutional frameworks that hold this or any other country together.

That job falls to our politicians, people who should be able to distinguish corporate self interest from the national interest. And who should be able to distinguish between serious macroeconomic upheavals based on a fundamentally worsening economic outlook and short-term macroeconomic shocks based on spooked markets and jittery investors.

Of course Brexit might cause shock waves and be disruptive in the short term. One of the largest and most influential countries in the world would be leaving the most prominent supra-national political union in the world, and it would be concerning if such an event took place without causing a ripple of attention. But potential economic uncertainty is not the point, and neither is it a sufficient reason to fearfully remain in the EU in perpetuity while overlooking the profound and irredeemably anti-democratic nature of the club.

In fact, one can go further and argue that it is the tremulous fear of uncertainty – and our apparent preference for technocratic risk-minimisation at every turn and in every aspect of our lives – which has sucked the ideological contrast out of our contemporary politics and done so much to encourage voter apathy.

Pete North picks up on this point in an excellent blog post, in which he argues that a little uncertainty might actually be a very welcome development:

This is why the EU sucks. We can have any government of any stripe so long as it performs within a set of predefined parameters and does as it is told. How very dull. In dispensing with democracy we have dispensed with politics and in place of politics we have civic administration where everything is merely about the allocation of resources. Where’s the big idea?

We have heard from every politician the same vague promises about returning power to the people and restoring localism, but we’ve heard it from ardent europhiles who do not see the inherent contradiction in their empty words.

By excluding the people from decision making we have killed off social innovation and enterprise, we have beaten the life out of our education system and where our health system works it is more through luck and the application of cash than actual managerial skill. It is little wonder that business looks overseas for skilled individuals in that our schools are micromanaged to the point of insanity, beating the vitality out of teachers so that children are neither engaged nor educated.

Put simply, there is no longer any uncertainty in politics. The corporates have got their own way. They keep saying if we leave the EU, it will cause uncertainty but that’s actually exactly what we need. We do need some uncertainty that causes to re-engage in politics and to learn more about civic participation and steer decision making. We need some political risk taking so that we can innovate. It might mean a lot improves and it might mean some things break down. But wouldn’t that be more tolerable than the interminable beigeness of modern, post-democracy Britain?

And ultimately, it comes down to that one question: what price does the Remain camp put on democracy?

If the EU is frustrating and imperfect (as all but the most starry-eyed europhiles concede) but leaving would simply be too great a risk, where then is the tipping point? At what point do the negative consequences of gradually but relentlessly losing control over the decisions which affect our lives outweigh a brief wobble in the FTSE 100 or a few sleepless nights for central bankers? And if we have not already reached this tipping point, those who argue for us to stay in the EU have a moral responsibility to tell us where they do draw the line.

Europhiles, particularly those on the political Left, love to portray themselves as progressive and enlightened warriors, fighting for freedom and security for the little guy. Well, here is a blazing example of them doing exactly the opposite in real life.

Given the choice in this referendum to stand up for the right of the poorest and most disadvantaged citizen to exert some limited measure of control over their government by campaigning for Brexit and repatriating sovereignty from Brussels, instead the EU apologists would condemn us to yet more political union with Europe. And all because to do otherwise would go against the wishes of finance ministers, central bankers and certain chief executives. Way to fight for the average citizen!

Risk and uncertainty are not dirty words. And while our prime minister seems to believe that we are a nation of frightened children who are terrified of making important decisions and who instinctively run away from the slightest risk, I choose to hope that there are still enough of us who realise that the EU’s anti-democratic status quo is not the best option for Britain’s future, that David Cameron’s sham renegotiation has done nothing to change that basic calculus, and that a brighter and more democratic future could await us if we dare to ignore the many vested interests and take bold action.

David Cameron went to the country at the general election last year offering a Big Government, nanny state “plan for every stage of your life”. He now asks us to trust that the future he has carefully planned out for us – one of sheltered irrelevance, tucked away in an anachronistic 1950s regional political union – is the best that modern Britain can hope for.

This referendum provides the opportunity for British citizens to show that we hold our country in much higher regard than does our own prime minister – and to help consign David Cameron, together with our EU membership, to the dustbin of political history.


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Labour’s Economic Policy: The Slow-Motion Car Crash You Can’t Not Watch

John McDonnell - Labour Party - Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s loose cannon Shadow Chancellor is behaving like an economically illiterate, childish simpleton with no clue how to oppose effectively, let alone one day govern the country

The past month has not been pretty for those of us who hoped that Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party might help usher in the return of serious ideological debate to British politics.

Jeremy Corbyn has scored just one significant victory so far: his first outing at Prime Minister’s Questions, where the opposition leader’s measured tone and clever decision to raise questions submitted by the general public succeeded in changing the tone of the session – and for the better.

But that one bright spot aside, it has been utterly miserable – unforced error following self-inflicted wound, compounded by acts of astonishing political naivety. On the rare days when the newspaper front pages have not carried stories about Labour Party splits and internal warfare, the newly energised Hard Left supporters have stolen the show with their venomous spitting, their rape threats and their incessant chants of “Tory Scum!”

And now Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has succeeded in undoing the parliamentary party’s only truly coherent and sensible position, for reasons which seem to change by the hour. In his infinite wisdom, John McDonnell decided to reverse Labour’s policy of following the Fiscal Charter – the commitment set by George Osborne to run a budget surplus during normal economic times – having announced it only two weeks ago at Labour Party conference.

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The Middle Class Needs Relief Too

Too many people paying too much.
Too many people paying too much.


David Skelton, director of the campaign group Renewal, has penned a provocative article for The Telegraph in which he dares to suggest that the 40% rate of income tax should be scrapped because it punishes the hard-working middle class rather than skimming off superfluous income almost unnoticed from the ultra-rich.

This is a bold move given that most of the political focus is currently on helping the lowest-income earners by increasing the tax-free allowance again and again. And while the current approach certainly has merits, it is undeniable that the middle class has received far less support.

It may have been quite right to begin means-testing child benefit – this blog certainly thinks so, as the first step toward ending universal benefits which simply should not exist. But actions such as this, while correcting discrepancies, anomalies and moral wrongs in the tax code, were not accompanied by countervailing efforts to lower the overall tax burden. This is where Skelton’s proposal shows its value.

Skelton writes:

It is also important for the Government to help middle income earners who have played such a big role in making sacrifices during the recession and in reducing the budget deficit. George Osborne should take a major step to unwind the undesirable drift towards an ever higher proportion of the working population paying higher rate tax. In doing so he could relieve the pressure on the squeezed middle, so many of whom have borne the burden of paying for Labour’s profligacy.

His proposal would see more than two million people taken out of the higher rate tax band:

A number of Tory MPs have argued that the Chancellor should look to raise the higher rate threshold to £44,000. Our proposal at Renewal would go much further, taking many more people out of paying the 40p rate while simplifying the tax system. We believe he should scrap the 40p rate and start the 45p rate at a much higher level of income. 

Potentially, this could take more than two million people out of higher rate tax, giving a significant tax cut to the squeezed middle.

The retention of the punitively high 45% top rate of income tax is the only unwelcome part of the proposal, but was clearly included to keep the break-even point at what was considered a politically palatable level. But aside from this regrettable acceptance of Gordon Brown’ final act of economic vandalism before being kicked out of office, Skelton’s proposal is very strong.

It is long past time to address the fact that the 40% tax band now includes a very different sort of person to the type envisaged when the rate was set by chancellor Nigel Lawson. As Skelton rightly notes:

More and more people on middle incomes have been dragged into paying the 40 per cent rate of tax over the past decade. That includes teachers, nurses, bricklayers, police officers and Tube drivers. These are not people who should be in the higher rate tax bracket but are because the threshold at which it is paid has been repeatedly frozen. 

The number of people paying 40p tax has risen steadily from just over 1.7 million in 1993/4 to 4.4 million in the current tax year. That is a staggering one in six of taxpayers, up from one in 20 when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor.

Quite right. A person on around £40,000 a year in the early 1980s was far more affluent than someone on that same salary today. But cowardly government after cowardly government have deliberately chosen not to increase the tax rate threshold in line with inflation, bringing this whole new cast of characters into a tax realm originally intended for those who were genuinely, comparatively rich.

The chances of this proposal becoming concrete policy remain slim, however. As James Kirkup notes in the Telegraph, the increasingly boisterous and assertive Liberal Democrats are intent on defending the laser-like focus on raising the minimum tax threshold above all other ideas:

Increasing the basic threshold has been driven by the Liberal Democrats and the party’s Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, defended the focus on lower-paid workers. 

He said he “understood the argument” around 40 per cent tax, but insisted that lower-paid workers had to come first. “I think it’s right that we have a policy that is focused particularly at that part of the population.”

More worryingly still, the Conservative leadership also appears slow to embrace the idea – perhaps because it is a good piece of economic policy that originated somewhere other than Number 11 Downing Street. The Daily Mail reports:

In a major speech on the economy, the Prime Minister promised that further savings from public spending would be used to fund tax cuts.

But Mr Cameron, who confirmed the Government would accept a rise in the minimum wage to £6.50 an hour, appeared to indicate that any future tax cuts would be targeted at the low-paid.

He made no reference to raising the starting point for paying 40p tax, which is emerging as a key Budget demand among Conservative MPs.

Whether the Conservatives have any fire left in their belly to enact a genuinely useful tax cut in the face of this opposition and distraction remains to be seen, and go some way toward showing whether there really is any conservatism left in this coalition government at all.

If they do find the courage, it will be a major victory for middle class earners and for common sense.

Scottish Independence vs Reality

It has not been a good week for the Scottish nationalists, however they try to spin it.

First came the three-pronged scolding from each of the main Westminster parties, denying a potential future independent Scotland the possibility of a currency union with the rest of the UK, sharing the pound. And then the European Union piled on the pressure, casting serious doubt on the possibility of Scotland acceding to EU membership as a separate country.

For once they agree on something.
For once they agree on something.


The overhyped emotional appeal (to some) of Scottish independence is finally running smack into the wall of cold, hard reality and common sense. This is a good thing for those people who want to preserve our Union, not just because it is heartening to see the nationalist pipe dream suffering a setback, but because it has thrown two important arguments against Scottish independence into sharper focus.

The first of these is the fact that the pro-independence movement, led by Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party, really haven’t fleshed out any detail as to how a newly independent Scotland would engage with the rest of the world. The very first issue that would be confronted by a future Scottish Foreign Secretary would be the question of how to normalise relations with the rest of the United Kingdom and the European Union, with whom the new nation would now share a land border.

Scotland historically leans further to the left than England, and as a very small country would almost certainly want to preserve membership of the EU. But it is now clear that this will almost certainly not happen, as The Guardian reports:

It would be “difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to become a member of the European Union, the European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, has said.

The statement will be seen as a blow to the hopes of the Scottish Nationalists who claim the country would join the EU in the event of a yes vote in September’s referendum.

Barroso told the Andrew Marr Show that member states seeking to prevent their own semi-autonomous regions from seceding would almost certainly block Scotland’s membership. He said Scotland would have to apply for EU membership in the usual way.

“It will be extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state,” he said.

This is a good point. Various other European Union member states wrestle with problems relating to semi-autonomous regions of their own. Seeing Scotland secede from the United Kingdom and accede to the EU as a separate country would set an alarming precedent for them, and the only way to send a strong message to their own restive would-be breakaway regions would be to make an example of Scotland by leaving them in the wilderness and denying them membership.

The counterargument by the SNP – that Scotland’s case is very different to that of other newly-separated countries such as Kosovo, the recognition of which has been opposed by Spain – is correct, but irrelevant. Scotland is already a part of the European Union by virtue of being part of the UK. This means that the laws, customs and processes of Scotland are already in alignment with EU norms, which would make the harmonisation process much easier, if not nonexistent. Aside from agreeing Scottish monetary contributions to the EU and rearranging Scotland’s representation in the European Parliament, there are precious few complex steps toward membership that spring to mind. Scotland as an independent nation would instinctively be much more at home within the EU than is the United Kingdom. Precisely none of which would matter once Scotland’s membership is vetoed. Fantasy – meet reality.

Given this somewhat counterintuitive reality, and given the looming deadline of the independence referendum, it is no longer sufficient for Alex Salmond and the SNP to continue to publicly stick to Plan A and assume that the European Union would welcome an independent Scotland into its fold. The Scottish people deserve to hear the fallback plan, since that is the one most likely to become reality.

Is Plan B an individually negotiated free trade agreement with the EU? A series of bilateral treaties and trade agreements with other nations? Either way, New Scotland would likely quickly realise the pitfalls of being a minnow of a country negotiating with giants. The argument sometimes falsely leveled at the UK – that we are somehow a small country incapable of punching our weight and negotiating favourable terms with other countries – actually applies to Scotland quite strikingly.

Scotland would also wrestle with Small Country Syndrome in the matter of her currency, as it has now been made abundantly clear that there is no appetite within the main UK political parties to share the pound. The BBC reports:

[Chancellor of the Exchequer George] Osborne said: “The pound isn’t an asset to be divided up between two countries after a break-up like a CD collection.

“If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound.”

He went on: “There’s no legal reason why the rest of the UK would need to share its currency with Scotland.

“So when the Nationalists say the pound is as much ours as the rest of the UK’s, are they really saying that an independent Scotland could insist that taxpayers in a nation it had just voted to leave had to continue to back the currency of this new, foreign country?”

The SNP is desperately trying to spin this refusal as an act of bullying by Westminster, but that is not the case. It is true that the announcements from the three main parties – the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – were coordinated, but this was for purely party political tactical purposes, and the necessity to avoid muddying the debate through separate interventions in the debate.

George Osborne summarised the reasons against allowing an independent Scotland to continue to use the pound in his Edinburgh speech. By default, a national currency should remain with the remaining bulk of a fracturing country, and not the small breakaway entity – that much is self evident. So why then should the rump of the UK agree to continue sharing the pound?

The one sole advantage is quite important and quite obvious – the fact that it would be a nightmare to have two currencies operating on what is geographically a very small island. Those living on the land border would find it especially difficult and would be beset with new currency exchange transaction costs, as would all businesses trading both north and south of the border.

The disadvantages are not so immediately tangible, but they are many, and together they outweigh the sole advantage of sharing a currency (avoiding increased transaction costs). Since the Scottish electorate sits somewhat to the left of the English on the political spectrum, it is reasonable to expect that there would be quite radically divergent economic policies operating north and south of the border soon after independence. Certainly, the SNP would favour more government spending on virtually everything that moves, and higher taxes to help pay for it all.

Whether or not you think that such an economic policy would lead to greater economic growth and prosperity – and it won’t – it must be understood that hugely divergent fiscal  and government spending policies cannot sit under a common monetary policy without causing tremendous strain. You need look no further than the comparative experiences of Greece and Germany within the eurozone for proof of this fact. If a future independent Scottish government wants to essentially pick up where Gordon Brown left off in Westminster, spending hand over fist without a care for the consequences, why should the 53 million people of England, the 3 million people of Wales and the 2 million people of Northern Ireland be on the hook as the ultimate guarantor for Holyrood’s spending spree?

It is not a case of bullying when George Osborne and his shadow counterparts refuse outright to entertain the idea of sharing the British pound with an independent Scotland. Rather, it is the only prudent and responsible decision that could be taken in protection of the best interests of the remainder of the United Kingdom.

Spending decisions made here by an independent Scotland should not be underwritten by the rest of the UK
Spending decisions made here by an independent Scotland should not be underwritten by the rest of the UK


It can be argued that both of these twin setbacks suffered by the Scottish nationalists – being denied the pound and being rebuffed by the EU – are unfair. They are certainly keen to make this argument, at every opportunity and to anybody who will listen. And they have a point. Having two currencies operating in the British Isles would be immensely awkward, and the costs to the UK of not sharing the pound with Scotland are not inconsiderable. Though the announcement made by the main Westminster parties is doubtless the correct decision, a detailed feasibility study weighing the potential risk and costs of a badly managed Scottish economy harming the remaining United Kingdom in a currency union scenario against the costs to the economy of the 5.25 million people at the top of the British Isles using a different currency would have given solid credibility to the statement.

The case of Scotland’s future EU membership can also be seen as unfair. All things being equal, it would probably be in the interests of both an independent Scotland and the EU for membership negotiations to be quick and painless, and so it is regrettable that the accession of an independent Scotland would likely be blocked by other member states. Regrettable but highly likely and easily predictable.

So in these two key aspects of the debate, the aspirations of the Scottish nationalists bump up against obstacles that can be seen as unfair. But sadly, that’s just life. It would be nice if countries like Spain would not veto an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU for domestic reasons, but they probably still would. And it would be nice (for Scotland) if the rejected rump of the United Kingdom would simply roll over and allow the seceded Scotland to continue sharing the currency of it’s southern neighbours, thus making them also share in the economic risks incurred by the socialist experiment north of the border. It might be nice, but it won’t (and we now know isn’t going to) happen.

Once the SNP’s bleating about unfairness dies down, the awkward silence will urgently demand to be filled with details of their Plan B. The SNP and the Yes to Independence crowd don’t like to talk about a Plan B because it involves grappling with the the United Kingdom and the world as they are, not as they would like them to be. But, hemmed in by George Osborne, Ed Balls, Danny Alexander and now José Manuel Barroso, they no longer have a choice in the matter.

So, Alex Salmond: What does your independent, non-EU aligned, non-sterling based Scotland look like? Paint us a word picture. More importantly, describe it in detail to the people of Scotland so that they can make an informed decision based on the facts, not on nationalist wishful thinking.