There’s not much the Cabinet can do about accusations by the SNP that today’s visit to Aberdeen is a typical Westminster attempt to bully Scots by flying up to make yet another tranche of negative announcements about the consequences of independence, focusing this time on North Sea oil. If Cabinet ministers didn’t make this trip, they would be accused of being feart. On balance, it’s better to engage than cower, even if today’s offensive by Ed Davey and others hardly helps the impression that the ‘No’ campaign is wholly negative.
But whether or not the Prime Minister or colleagues find themselves accidentally bumping into Alex Salmond as the two rival camps both meet in Aberdeen, there is one question the ‘No’ camp must address, which is it’s credibility when it makes negative assertions about currency union and other matters. Salmond summed this up in his Today interview, saying:
‘The reason I’ve described it as ‘bluff, bluster and bullying’ is a slightly different point, I think it’s bluff because what they say now will be totally different to what they say after a ‘Yes’ vote – that’s my assessment of the situation. It’s bluster because George Osborne expressed it as about keeping the pound, of course, the pound’s an international tradeable currency, it’s not a question of keeping the pound, it’s a question of whether we agree a currency union, that’s the bluster aspect and the bullying aspect is obvious, it’s diktats from on high.’
He also made a strong counterpoint to the idea that the Union automatically gives stability to the oil sector, saying ‘we’ve had 16 tax changes in the North Sea in the last ten years, we’ve had 14 oil ministers in the last 17 years’. The trick, which Salmond embellished with cheeky patter referencing David Cameron’s Eton schooldays, was to suggest that not only are Westminster politicians turning up in Aberdeen to bully Scots: they’re also just not quite what they seem.
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