From Darien to Gogarburn


To kick off this blog properly I thought I’d try a review of sorts of Iain Martin’s superb book Making It Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the Men Who Blew up the British Economy.  The author, the bank and the principal villains in the story are all Scottish, including former Labour MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who agreed, eight years ago, that all UK taxpayers should have to bail out the huge amount of debt accrued by Fred The Shred and his pals at Gogarburn.  Martin sets the scene by recounting the Darien scheme, which led directly the Act of Union and the creation of Royal Bank of Scotland, as an example of how the Scottish reputation for fiscal prudence has always been tempered by recklessness.  Scotland’s First Minister and former RBS employee Alex Salmond urged Goodwin that RBS should take over Dutch bank ABN Amro – an event that was to lead to RBS’ collapse – ‘for Scotland’.  If only it had been, then the rest of us wouldn’t have been left picking up the tab.  It was Salmond, without any reference to the bail out of RBS, who suggested that an ‘independent’ Scotland should walk away from the UK’s national debt.  But I shan’t ruin a good story for you; if you don’t wish to purchase the book I’d recommend doing an RBS: borrow it or let someone else pay.

Related to the above, another book recommendation is an older one: Britons: Forging the Nation 1707 – 1837, by Linda Colley; originally published by Yale University Press in 1992, with the first British edition by Pimlico Press in 1994.  In her Conclusions, pp 374-5, Colley states: The Scots, in particular, who became British after 1707 in part because it paid such enormous commercial and imperial dividends, are now increasingly inclined to see partial or complete independence plus membership of a federal Europe as the most profitable strategy for the future.  ‘Federal Europe’ propaganda was quite commonplace in 1992 and based on the assumption that small nations such as Scotland could have some influence in how it was run; but what we have had for the past 24 years is an increasingly centralised superstate in which small nations have had diminishing levels of influence.  Britishness, as Colley tells it, pp 117-132, ‘A Scottish Empire’, was formed by the intermarriage of the Scottish and English landed gentries (our recently departed Prime Minister David Cameron being an English offspring of one such family); as well as the partnership of the English and Scottish political and mercantile classes, with these Scots enjoying a disproportionately high level of influence in running both the United Kingdom and the British Empire.  Some Scots – those of SNP inclinations – are suffering delusions of grandeur if they think that they will ever have that level of influence in running the European Union.

The above all has a bearing on Scotland’s status within the UK, hence the future of the UK itself.  The electorate of Scotland need to decide between the UK, EU or genuine independence and if the last of these options, how they could afford it.  As it is, in the context of the limited sovereignty that the UK has within the EU, the electorate of Scotland have a greater degree of devolved home rule than those of Wales, Northern Ireland and suffice to say England, which has none.  Scottish separation from the UK could and should mean that the subsidy which Scotland receives via the Barnett Formula be redirected towards the economically depressed post-industrial areas of the North and Midlands of England; the ‘Brexit’ heartlands, whose electorates are subject to the condescension of the worse-than-useless Labour Party.  With Nicola Sturgeon ‘threatening’ another ‘indyref’, the electorate of the rest of the UK must insist that Scotland inherit all of the debt bequeathed by Royal Bank of Scotland, if Scotland is to separate from the rest of the UK.  Whilst the SNP’s oxymoronic policy of ‘independence within the EU’, ie subservience to a centralised authoritarian superstate based in Brussels, looks ludicrous on the surface, perhaps the SNP’s tactic is that Royal Bank of Scotland’s debt should be socialised onto hundreds of millions of taxpayers in continental Europe, to let the Greeks, Spanish, Italians and Portuguese amongst others inherit the debt from one of the world’s biggest banking failures.