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I See No Ships

17 May 2012

1:46 PM

17 May 2012

1:46 PM

There are times when the SNP’s attempts to persuade us that there are no regrettable consequences to Scottish independence cross the line between worthy and absurd. The future of shipbuilding on the Clyde is one such case. According to the nationalists the suggestion that the Royal Navy (or what is left of it) might be less likely to place orders with Scottish yards is just the usual "scaremongering" put about by Unionist parties that want to put the frighteners on braw and brave Caledonia. 

Aye right. It is, of course, true that an independent Scotland might have modest shipbuilding needs. True too that the Clyde yards, if they remained open, could bid for international business. But one can accept this while also recognising that they must be less well-placed to attract custom from the Ministry of Defence than is presently the case. To pretend otherwise is, in the end, silly and diminishes the SNP’s credentials as a serious political party. 

The absurdity of the SNP’s position is demonstrated by a simple question: does anyone imagine that Edinburgh would place orders for a new fishery protection vessel with an English yard? It seems fairly improbable. Why then is it supposed that London would cheerfully ask for its new ships to be built on the Clyde? Of course it might but it is hardly controversial to think Glasgow shipyards are better-placed to win those contracts now than they would be in a post-independence environment. 

That’s not "talking Scotland down" it’s accepting an obvious or at least probable reality. The alternative is a retreat to childishness. Pretending there can be no adverse consequences to independence is to treat the electorate as fools. 

Of course, one can understand why the SNP must insist upon this pretence. Because once it is admitted in one area, "uncertainty" must be acknowledged in many others. But an honest answer to the question of shipbuildings’ future on the Clyde is "We don’t really know. We’ll find out when independence happens."

That doesn’t make independence a futile or daft notion, far less does one suppose that the matter should be decided by a claculation on the likely consequencs of independence for shipbuilding or any other given industry. It does mean, however, that the SNP’s sunshine-whatever-the-weather approach to arguing about these matters undermines their chances of persuading at least some presently-undecided voters. 


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