Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Pig in a Poke with added Devo-Max

I remember many years ago on holiday in Torquay my friend asked a shopkeeper to put a purchase "in a poke" to take away. The shopkeeper was baffled. She had no idea what a "poke" might be.

In Scotland of course, we have no problem. Everyone knows that a poke is a small bag. The derivation is from the French "poque", and it still in use for that purpose in Scotland (just like French "asciette" is used in Scotland as in "ashett pie") as a hangover of Scotland's historically close links with France.

So what does the saying "a pig in a poke" actually mean?

As defined here it's "an offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first". In other words the pig might be in the poke, as advertised, or it might not. Or it might not be exactly as described, scrawny, unhealthy, might not be a pig at all. The poke might even be empty.

"Look missus, there's a nice fat pig in this poke. That'll be fifty quid".

"But I can't tell if there is or there isn't".

"There is all right. It's a nice juicy pig. Fat. Feed the family for a whole winter.

"Sounds nice. Are you really really sure?" 

"Trust me, I'm a snake-oil sorry fat pig salesman".

"Oh all right then I'll buy that".

Isn't that exactly what we are being offered by the Nationalists?
"Independence" is offered but never clearly defined and/or the definition changes depending on circumstances.

 Buy this independent pig and we'll throw 
in some added devolution at no extra cost

If you are a long time SNP member and/or activist you might think that "independence" means, well, "independence", i.e. Scotland is a completely seperate country with a different system of government, different citizenship, a different head of state (perhaps a republic), different currency (pound/euro), fiscal rules, diplomatic systems, military readiness and alliances, borders, immigration laws and so on aand so on. After all that's what you have been campaigning for all your adult life.

But if you listen to senior Nationalist politicians, none of these things is "in" or "out". The Queen could/maybe not be head of state. Sterling might/might not be the continued currency as might the Euro. Fiscal autonomy might be ceded to the Bank of England or the European Central Bank (but it will be ceded). The SNP has been reported as considering NATO membership....

As for "devo max", don't get me started. If you wanted to create a model of lack of clarity you couldn't do better than throw in this fuzzy, ill-defined, deliberately created political red herring. 

"Maybes aye maybes naw" would seem to be the new "Scotland free in '83" (or was that '93...? can't remember now...).   

As for the effects of "independence": these are never explained, or questions are dismissed with spurious flannel. In cases where the questions get too near the bone the questioner is accused of beng "anti-Scottish".

So the underlying message of the pro-"independence" lobby, that everything will improve, is never justified.

There are huge questions about the costs of "independence", the economy, existing commitments and debts, the organisation of the state, diplomacy, culture,and a myriad practical consideratons. But there has been no explanation, and very little discussion of, and no consensus on, how these matters are to be resolved, and if they are resolved, in what way will anyone be "better off"?

The pig stays very firmly in its poke. Why should we buy it?


  1. Go and watch their latest ppb. Utopia awaits.......

  2. Utopia in a poke.....

    Honest missus...

  3. How can anyone specify exactly what Scotland will look like if independent? That will be decided by the parties that win the first election. All the SNP can do is suggest examples

  4. I'm more concerned with the reasons why anyone would want "independence" in the first place.

    If I wanted to persuade anyone to vote for "independence", I would try to define what it would look like.

    Not "exactly" (as you suggest), but more generally: what would be the advantages, would the people of Scotland be better off in any way - economically, democratically, constitutionally, culturally, spiritually?

    And what would it costs? Is the "prize" worth the effort?

    I've been asking these questions for 20 years and I have to say that I have been getting sparse to no explanation.

    It would be to get some, before we are asked to vote on the issue...