Thursday, April 25, 2013

Osborne defends sovereignty of banks not UK citizens

The Treasury is trying to frighten Scots out of voting “Yes” in the 2014 referendum on independence over the question of what a currency union based on the pound would mean. But George Osborne is hardly in any position to lecture others.

Osborne and his crypto-Tory pal Danny Alexander, still nominally a LibDem, are promoting the virtues of a report written by civil servants and academics. The report claims that the “current currency and monetary policy arrangements within the UK serve Scotland well”.

In fact, it is described as “one of the most successful monetary, fiscal and political unions in history”. Leaving aside this sensational claim to a unique place in world history, the sting is in the tail.

The report claims the SNP's preferred option of continuing to use the pound sterling might be rejected by the rest of the UK because it could expose the larger neighbour to risk if Scotland ran into fiscal and financial difficulties.

It concludes that even if a deal could be reached, it would have to include arrangements for Scottish ministers to hand their annual budgets over to Westminster for approval even before they had been voted on at Holyrood.

And it admits that would run both ways, with Scotland wanting some say over British fiscal policy. Bu Con/Dem chancellor Osborne is having none of that. He told an audience of Scottish business people:

"The fundamental political question this analysis provokes is this - why would 58 million citizens give away some of their sovereignty over monetary and potentially other economic policy to five million people in another state?

“Before the rest of the UK could ever agree to enter a formal currency union, any future UK chancellor of the exchequer tied to independence would have to provide the British people with a clear and compelling answer to this question.”

Well maybe the compelling question he should actually answer is, what control do the citizens of any country have over their currency? The answer is, absolutely none. It is outrageous for Osborne of all people to masquerade as the defender of the sovereignty of the citizens of the UK.

The financial sector he serves has created a level of debt that is so uncontrollable that even the global corporations are terrified about the future. The 50% collapse in Tesco pre-tax profits, and bankruptcies in retail are the front end of a collapse in manufacturing that will bring even more downward pressure on wages and working conditions.

And what do governments of nation states, like Britain, mired in an eternal and deepening global crisis do to defend their citizens? Well we know the answer to that. They have so little real control over the economy that they are basically reduced to just two possible actions.

One is to slash public spending in order to try to reduce the deficit. And the other is to print money, introducing liquidity into the economy but at the same time undermining the long-term value of the currency overall.

The real attack on the pound has come from Treasury-authorised quantitative easing in a desperate attempt to shore up the banks. The result is that the majority of us exist every day within a hostile economic and fiscal environment that offers us no security and no control whatsoever.

The real sovereignty question is why do 90% of the people hand control over currency, their public services and their social, political and environmental future to governments who operate on behalf of the minority who stand to gain from the current arrangements? What kind of independence and self-determination do we really have, north or south of the border? To ask the question is to answer it.

This whole independence debate is, not surprisingly, bringing to the fore burning political and economic questions. Neither Osborne nor Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond have any answers outside of the failed policies they are already pursuing.

Penny Cole

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