The ‘Squabble’ Over Sterling and the Scottish Independence Referendum

By Dr Alexandra Kelso, Senior Lecturer in Politics

Yesterday, I appeared on the BBC Radio Solent Drivetime show (at around 5.35pm for those who’d like to listen to the replay) to comment on the debate which occurred over the weekend concerning whether Scotland would retain the pound in a sterling zone in the event of becoming independent. This is just the most recent example of how the imminence of the independence referendum is now fuelling highly specific discussions about the nuts-and-bolts of how things would actually work in practice should Scotland become independent. The SNP are being increasingly tested on their ideas and proposals, and are now forced to go far beyond appeals to some sense of Scottish nationhood, and to deal instead with the greasy mechanics of governance and what a post-independence political and institutional landscape would look like.

However, it was only later when I reflected on the interview that I considered the way in which the debate had been introduced by the interviewer, who described it in terms of ‘squabbling’. In the interview, I attempted to recast the issue as less about ‘squabbling’ and more about the inherent difficulties associated with drilling down to the complexities of detail and addressing opposing viewpoints. What strikes me is how this genuine disagreement amongst competing actors in the referendum debate was casually described as ‘squabbling’, as if to suggest a playground spat, when what is actually at stake are fundamental questions about the future of the UK state. It is only natural that such questions will prompt passionate, as well as pragmatic, disagreement. When the media belittle such debates by referring to them as mere ‘squabbling’, even if it is simply for provocative effect, they contribute to our collective disappointment in democracy and its functioning. We may be cynical about our politicians, and often for good reason, but when they stand up and debate the issues surrounding something as important and complex as the future of sterling in an independent Scotland, we disempower both them and us when we chalk it up to silly  ‘squabbling’.

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