What’s going on with Project Fear? It’s genuinely perplexing. Some aspects of the campaign so far have gone according to expectations – everyone expected the mainstream media to be universally biased against independence (well, at least those of us who are cynical basterts did), and that’s exactly what they’ve been. Everyone expected that the Unionist parties would mount a deeply negative and dirty fight despite their protestations of positivity. But few expected the Big Beasts, the Heavy Hitters and the Alliterative Architects of Westminster to be so spectacularly inept. And it’s not even like we had a high opinion of them to begin with.
Over the past month or so, all the punches thrown by Better Together have landed heavily in an explosion of blood and snot. But they’ve been punching their own nose. The Yes campaign hasn’t had to do anything much, except get the popcorn and a cosy seat in the front row.
The Scottish referendum is a historic first. It’s the first time in history that the people of Scotland have exercised their sovereignty. When the polls open on the 18th of September, the future of this country will be in the hands of the people. That’s never happened before. But the referendum also represents another historic first, it’s the first time that the Westminster Parliament has had to justify its existence.
They’re not doing a very good job of it, they don’t know where to start. Westminster has always reigned unchallenged. UK politicians have no experience in arguing the basics of democratic representation, of making a case to the people to support the existing system. The existing system, with its unelected lords and reliance on patronage, the unaccountability of culture secretaries who only resign after a concerted media campaign but still won’t accept responsibility for their misdeeds, is indefensible.
Instead they rely on fear and woo, scares and frights, and even though the increasingly hystrionic terror bombs are clearly not working, Westminster’s finest don’t know what else to do.
Today’s BBC Scottish news led with the scare story that fuel bills in an independent Scotland would have to rise. The story is based on claims from Ed Davey, the UK energy minister, so it’s totally unbiased, honest. It’s a couple of days old but the BBC thought it might have been overlooked in the hoo ha over George Robertson’s idiocies, so has helpfully given it prime billing today.
What it boils down to is the assertion that Scotland gets 28% of the UK’s green energy subsidies, over £560 million annually. But Scotland makes up only 10% of electricity sales. Scotland would have to find a wodge of dosh to make up the difference, so domestic electricity bills would have to rise.
It’s a peculiar argument which looks at renewable energy in isolation from the wider energy market. It ignores the fact that the UK is utterly dependent upon Scotland to meet its green energy targets, that the UK has a dangerously small spare generating capacity, and that the EU is making moves to integrate the energy market across the continent. It hopes no one notices that green energy is a developing industry, costs will reduce in the future. There is still quite a distance to travel before renewables are profitable, but a report published in the New Scientist magazine this week highlighted the rapidly falling costs of renewable energy production. The cost of installing wind energy generating capacity has fallen 53% since 2009.
More importantly, Ed Davey’s boo! also ignored the fact that Scotland will no longer be contributing to the massive subsidies the UK pays to the nuclear energy industry – subsidies which dwarf those paid to renewables.
The planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station is alone due to receive £100 billion of UK government funds. The deal done with EDF for the plant means that the UK will be paying through the nose for expensive nuclear power for decades to come. Scotland’s notional share of government funding for the project is approximately £10 billion. We won’t be paying that if we’re independent. So Scotland could fund its renewables industry and still have change of over £9.5 billion. And that’s just from Hinkley Point.
It’s the usual Project Fear trickery. Take a subject and present it in isolation, play up the costs, ignore the savings, and pretend that Scotland would continue having to make all the same spending decisions as Westminster. Voila, you’ve got a BOO! Westminster doesn’t do joined up thinking, and is relying on no one else being able to do it either.
Recycling scare stories is Westminster’s only real contribution to going green. It didn’t work before. It won’t work this time. Project Fear has punched itself in the face again, the green they’re covered in is sticky, gooey, and flowing from their nose.