In addition to a few surprising revelations, I counted at least 48 things* that Alistair Darling said which were incorrect in some fashion – either mistakes, misrepresentations, half-truths, non-sequiturs, assertions-stated-as-fact, or flat-out untruths. So, until an official transcript is online, I’ve compiled them here, as well as pointing out why they’re not true. And stealing some graphics from Politifact, which badly needs a UK division.
“Alex Salmond has No Plan B”
Actually he has Plans B, C, D and E from the Fiscal Commission Working Group alone
Mr. Darling returned to this a number of times this evening despite the First Minister being perfectly clear why there is no explicit “Plan B,” because assuming a Plan B for no currency union is like assuming a Plan B if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow. It’s a completely pointless contingency, because in the event that it does happen, you have far bigger problems to worry about than knowing your original plan isn’t going to work. That said, the First Minister was remarkably restrained in choosing not to articulate just how disastrous it would be for the rest of the UK to refuse a currency union – which makes his later comments completely baffling.
“We Are Offering More Powers”
The Scotland 2012 act was set into motion long before the referendum, and the woolly “powers” on offer are not powers at all, but responsibilities, and tax-variation powers can never be put into place. If you were serious about more powers, why didn’t any of the parties push for more powers to be enshrined in the Edinburgh Agreement? And given recent revelations about English antipathy to what they perceive as Scottish “freebies,” how can you possibly guarantee more powers without incurring the wrath of English voters?
“We have no answers on currency”
We have the answers – it’s just nobody in Better Together seems interested in entertaining them.
“We cannot base our economy on oil”
While it’s technically possible for a country to base their economy on oil as Brunei, Libya and Kuwait have, oil and gas only accounts for 15% of Scotland’s revenue.
Scotland has many thriving trades beyond oil and gas, and as the First Minister points out, oil and gas revenues only accounts for 15% of Scotland’s earnings. In contrast, Norway’s oil and gas revenues make up 20%. Yemen’s is a colossal 75%, yet it doesn’t seem to be clamouring for a union with Saudi Arabia.
“What Alex Salmond wants… (inaudible murmur)”
Is independence, even if it means retiring from politics and dissolving the SNP. That’s the difference between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling – can you imagine the latter saying that if he could retain the union at the cost of retiring from politics and dissolving the Labour party, he would?
“Ireland and Iceland failed in the financial crisis and aren’t doing well”
Ireland is now poised for a strong recovery and Iceland decided to jail its bankers instead of bailing them out. The result is that in 2013, Ireland’s economy grew by 2.6%, Iceland by 2.5%. The UK’s? 0.8%. Tell me who’s doing better six years after the crisis?
“The government has been too optimistic in their predictions for North Sea Oil”
If by “optimistic” you mean “have been predicting the oil would run out almost as soon as it was discovered,” then… Wait, that’s STILL wrong.
“£5 BILLION of money from oil was LOST”
No, £5 billion (wasn’t it £9 billion a while ago?) of money from oil was INVESTED. We know exactly where the money went, and why revenue went down, and it isn’t because of “volatility,” you mendacious creature.
“Don’t say things that aren’t right!”
“We’ll be so dependent on oil!”
Scotland has already managed to balance the books without the vast majority of its own oil under its own control
Considering we have 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resources, 25% of its tidal potential, 10% of it wave potential, and countless more industries, trade and qualities, I think we’ll manage without 60% of Europe’s oil production.
“Scotland’s economy is all based on oil”
Scotland’s economy has thrived for the better part of a millennium without a drop of oil. Even before the discovery of North Sea oil, Scotland has paid more into the UK treasury than it has received. How on earth could that be the case before the 1970s, if Scotland had nothing else to base its economy upon?
“You see all this hostility to the Euro…”
“A currency union would be bad for Scotland”
I completely fail to see how. If it’s because we’d have no lender of last resort, well, the Adam Smith Institute doesn’t seem to view that as a problem. If it’s because some elements of our finances would be controlled by another country, well, how does that make it any different from what happens right now? If it’s because we’re ceding sovereignty, then why wouldn’t you want it – don’t you want Scotland and the UK to “pool and “share”?
“You wouldn’t want to be like Panama”
Heaven forfend we have an economy that “only” grew 8.4% in 2013, has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, the most sophisticated telecommunication networks in the world, one of the best retirement options in the world, the largest marine merchant registry in the world, and the happiest population in the world… But most pertinently, has some of the most trusted banks in the world.
“A currency union only works within a political union”
Somebody had better tell Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain and the Vatican. Or the United States, Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. Or Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, or Gabon. Or Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Or, more pertinently, the UK, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and Jersey.
Or any of these countries.
“What would the world think of Scotland defaulting on its debt?”
They would think “well, a country cannot default on a debt it didn’t incur, right?” Scotland cannot incur debt, since it has at present no borrowing powers. In any case, the UK treasury has already guaranteed the UK debt – after all, if it’s “the UK’s pound,” then it’s “the UK’s debt,” right?
“The Euro isn’t voluntary”
“Everyone has to join the Euro”
“The SNP are scaremongering about the future of the NHS”
See, what Mr. Darling fails to understand is that there’s a difference between scaremongering and genuine warnings of bad things about to happen. If someone’s standing on a train track, it is not scaremongering to warn them about the oncoming train. And as Andy Burnham MP pointed out, it is not scaremongering to say the NHS is under dire threat.
(If I could pick one other thing for the First Minister to point out, it would be the danger of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, but I guess he can’t do everything.)
“The Scottish government has full control over finance of the NHS”
How can it have full control over the NHS’s finances when it doesn’t even have full control over its own block grant?
“We get £1,200 more per head in public spending than the rest of the UK”
This is one of those “technically true, but completely misleading in isolation” points. It’s true Scotland has £1,200 more allocated per head than the UK average – but that doesn’t translate to greater spending, when a significant proportion of it goes towards debt that wasn’t even incurred by the Scottish government, spending on services that the Scottish government has no control over like Trident and defense, and even on things that have nothing to do with Scotland like HS2, the London sewage system, and the Olympics. And, of course, it ignores that Scots raise £1,700 more per head in tax revenue than the UK average.
“The Labour government increased health spending”
The problem is that it was money the government didn’t actually possess, which is why the UK has a £1.3 trillion debt.
“Labour didn’t start privatising the health service”
You’d think the former Labour Chancellor would know that, since it happened under his watch.
“£6 BILLION BLACK HOLE!”
The First Minister ably handled that, but I’m a bit disappointed Mr Darling didn’t go for a third BLACK HOLE.
“If we became independent, Dundee Cancer Research could lose UK funding”
No, it couldn’t. Using the emotive subject of cancer research and suggesting Scottish independence could stall the search for a cure for cancer is a particularly craven and despicable lie, even for Mr. Darling.
“We could lose Royal Navy jobs and threaten Ferguson if we become independent”
Ah, because the UK’s done such a grand job protecting Scottish shipbuilding… But in any case, the MOD have announced that Royal Navy contracts will remain for the Prince of Wales, and BAE systems have no plans to halt production in the event of a Yes vote.
“It’s better to spread money over 63 million over 5.3 million”
Size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts
It is not necessarily better at all. If this was true, India would be a greater economy than Luxembourg. The actual volume of money is not nearly as important as how that money is spent: hence how small first-world countries have much healthier economies, finances and populations than third-world countries with vastly greater populations.
“I spent money in 2006 on oil incentives, that’s why they were higher than I predicted”
Mr. Darling has apparently mixed up 2006 with 2009, which is when he did indeed plan incentives – at about the same time he planned to slash the Scottish government budget by £1 billion. Is that why the economy did worse than you expected, then?
“Scotland spends more than it gets in”
This is the sort of insidious nation-assassination which stirs up resentment with our brethren in England, and directly threatens the possibility of those “powers” you keep promising us.
“The last Labour government halved the number of children in poverty”
The actual number was closer to a quarter, not a half
Labour did do a lot to reduce child poverty, but a quarter is a long way from their target of a half – and, as with their health spending, much of this was borrowed money, which contributed to the £1.3 trillion debt.
“”Labour have not said they will continue the current austerity changes”
No less than Ed Miliband himself has said Labour will not alter the current Austerity plan.
“Scots will spend £80 billion on the Trident replacement”
I’ve seen somewhat different figures
Given how much Trident’s costs skyrocketed, I sincerely doubt it’ll remain at that whatever level it’s stated to be now.
“We will devolve the work program…”
Not if your own party has anything to do with it
This doesn’t seem in tune with your party’s desire for One Nation Britain…
“… get more people off of benefits and back into work…”
Not if you’re following the Coalition’s model
That sounds horrifically familiar…
“Scots will have more powers on welfare.”
Again, they cannot under any electable UK government
How can a nation have Universal Benefits that are not universal?
“The SNP’s corporation cuts will only be good for Amazon & Starbucks”
Amazon & Starbucks currently pay a pittance of tax in the UK far below the SNP’s proposals, but corporation tax is not just intended for international juggernauts. And, as ever, it’s a great galloping cheek to criticise the SNP for policy which your party did twice before.
“There will be around 8,000 jobs reliant on Trident and Faslane”
But only a handful will be Scots
There are indeed at present 6,000 Trident-reliant jobs at Faslane… but only a small proportion (520) of those jobs are for Scottish civilians. Even if all 2,000 of those future jobs were given exclusively to Scots, that would still mean that only 32% of employees at Faslane would be Scottish.
“If Scotland goes independent, the future submarine jobs from Westminster would be lost”
The Ministry of Defense says the orders for Type-26 Frigates will be completed on the Clyde irrespective of independence: why wouldn’t this be the same for conventional submarines?
“Towing Trident down the coast isn’t getting rid of it”
The entire point is that Scots don’t want this abomination in their waters, and I’m pretty sure the English share that sentiment – ergo, Westminster will not be able to keep it. And not before time, even former Prime Ministers talk about how useless it is.
“8,000 jobs for a Scottish Defence Force is “Fanciful””
Wow, listen to Mr Darling talk up his country’s capabilities! I don’t exactly see how a Scottish defence force of 8,000 is fanciful given the current government’s proposals are in line with many nations of a similar size.
“NATO is a nuclear alliance”
“As long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.” The key thing there is “as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world” – if there were no nuclear weapons, why should it follow NATO would not continue? The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is about security, not weapons of mass destruction. In any case, as the First Minister said, 25 of the 28 NATO members are non-nuclear, the current president is from a non-nuclear country, and in fact from the same country that hosted an anti-nuclear convention in recent years.
“The Royal Navy doesn’t build warships in foreign countries”
And, again, the MoD have confirmed that the Type-26 frigates would still be built on the Clyde in the event of Scottish independence.
“The White Paper has no coherent vision for a Scottish Defense Force”
“Oil is the foundation of what we’ve got!”
SCOTLAND HAS BEEN A NATION FOR OVER NINE HUNDRED YEARS! HOW COULD OIL POSSIBLY BE THE FOUNDATION OF “WHAT WE’VE GOT”!?!
“We’ll have to accept the outcome”
This one’s more a matter of personal disagreement, since I believe that if you truly believe something, you wouldn’t – you couldn’t – just “accept” the outcome, and would continue to fight for what you viewed to be the right outcome. But that’s probably just me.
“Scotland gave us the Enlightenment”
Good grief, even when he’s trying to talk Scotland up he messes it up…
“We don’t need to divide these islands”
Erm, these islands are already divided, Mr Darling – the Republic of Ireland being one of two sovereign states, but also including the three Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man) which are not technically part of the United Kingdom. But even accounting for that, we’re already different countries, delineated by borders which have remained unchanged since the foundation of the United Kingdom itself.
“We have no other option”
Aside from being, well untrue, this is the scariest thing he said all night, because it reminded me of something someone else said…
*I may have miscounted, because I’m terrible at numbers. Please correct me in that event.