This was originally published on Medium.
If you had to use one word to describe the pubic relations battle surrounding the Scottish Referendum, it would be this: bloody. Finally realising that Alex Salmond and his SNP pose a credible threat to the United Kingdom as we know it, the three main parties have banded together to try and prove that the UK would be Better Together.
If you are fed up with the effing Tories, give them a kick
Given that David Cameron has resorted to saying things like “if you are fed up with the effing Tories, give them a kick and then maybe we will think again” to try and stop Scottish people voting yes, it’s pretty clear the Better Together campaign has failed. Unfortunately for the SNP, and anyone supporting the Yes campaign, the UK Government had an ace in the hole: one that it played yesterday.
The day started out with Lloyds Banking Group announcing that it would move their head office out of Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, and re-register the company as an English one. Next, BP and Shell announced that, contrary to the claims of Alex Salmond earlier this week, North Sea oil would be all but drained by 2050. In a final blow, RBS followed the lead of Lloyds by announcing that it, too, had a contingency to pull out of Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. It all made for some very interesting front pages:
In the midst of this panic, there is one small thing that Yes supporters appear to have forgotten. Both Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group suffered heavily during the financial crisis of 2008, and were very quickly bought out by a limited company called UK Financial Investments — or UKFI for short — to keep them afloat. Six years on, and both Lloyds and RBS are still owned by UKFI. Why does this matter, you ask? Because UKFI is 100% owned by the UK Government.
These announcements appear to have been expertly timed in order to deal the most damage to the Yes campaign. It’s less a stroke of bad luck and more a stroke of good planning: personally, I find it hard to believe that both banks would just so happen to announce that they have plans to exit Scotland (incurring significant job losses for a newly independent Scotland) on the same day as BP/Shell essentially called Alex Salmond a barefaced liar.
It’s messy. It’s twisted. And, unfortunately, it’s the level that this debate has devolved to. The main issue I have here, however, isn’t the PR. It’s that the UK Government are using the livelihoods of thousands of Scottish families as a bargaining chip. Somewhere, a few thousand people went to bed a little more insecure about what their future might hold. Despite what the media might tell you, bankers aren’t evil. The vast majority don’t earn these vast sums often spotlighted by the press. These are people who’ve managed to struggle through the worst six years their industry has had in recent memory, with all the stress and worry that comes with job insecurity. It’s ridiculous that Government-backed entities are adding more stress on top of that, just to try and swing a political point.
Better together? I’m starting to wonder if the Scots would be better apart.
Full disclosure: whilst I support the No campaign in principle, I have never contributed to Better Together, or any political cause for that matter (aside from the Open Rights Group).