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Labour a willing sacrifice in Osborne campaign of terror

So:

how are we this morning? Numerous politicians would like to know. What is the state of that odd construct, the national mood? Fretful or furious? A lot hangs on self-diagnosis this February. Think of it as a kind of collective personality test.

Chancellor George Osborne appears to hope you are in what doctors call a right old state. He has threatened to deny you the pounds in your pocket. Danny Alexander, dutiful Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the son the Tory Party never had, has been quick to agree. Curiously, the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, has completed the harmonising trio.

Among them, these men mean to cause alarm. Their bet is that by "ruling out" a currency union between an independent Scotland and a rump United Kingdom they can push you towards a No vote this September. It's a big wager. It depends on a kind of selective amnesia towards certain facts. It presumes that Scots are easily manipulated.

Take a key fact neglected by Mr Osborne in his speech in Edinburgh this week. When Mark Carney, governor of the Bank Of England, addressed the Scottish Council For Development And Industry at the end of last month, he said a lot of interesting things about the economic theory underpinning currency unions. Contrary to any impression given by Mr Osborne, what the technocrat did not say - specifically did not say - is that such an arrangement between Scotland and a residual UK would be impossible.

In fact, Mr Carney said, blandly: "The Bank Of England would implement whatever monetary arrangements were put in place". In other words, "If you want it, we make it happen". The rest is politics, a matter of choices, a process of negotiation over common interests. We know now what Mr Osborne thinks of that. But the notion that the governor made a definitive case against such an arrangement is among the bigger whoppers in a vintage crop.

Another of those has to do with debt, specifically public-sector net debt. Mr Osborne was exercised by alleged threats from Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party's National Convenor, to default, renege, or otherwise "walk away" from an independent Scotland's still undetermined share of UK liabilities if a currency union is refused. What the Chancellor forgot to mention was the fact acknowledged by his own department: debt issued by the UK is the legal responsibility of the UK. And no one else.

Mr Osborne overlooked several things about debt. One was his handling of this extraordinary item on the UK's balance sheet. The Chancellor has not had much luck with that. Thanks to his stewardship, it persists in growing, day by day, minute by minute. The interest charges alone cost the peoples of these islands more than the defence budget. Last March, the Office For Budget Responsibility said the debt would be 79.2% of GDP in 2013/14. By 2017/18, it will have risen to 84.8%. Barge poles are advised.

It would be a calamity for the remnant UK if Scots "walked away" from their share of that burden on the moment of independence. It would be a bigger calamity, however, if Scots declined to stick around to shoulder their share of that burden indefinitely in the hope that one day a Tory Chancellor might get his sums right. Mr Osborne needs us, and our pounds, to foot his ever-increasing bills. But that confession did not feature in his speech.

Of itself, that was an odd affair. On the one hand, the Chancellor stressed Scotland has a successful economy. He noted, in fact, that for half a century this too-poor and too-small country has outperformed the UK's GDP average. But then Mr Osborne asserted that a currency union with such a place would be far too risky, too horribly risky, to earn the consent of a responsible finance minister. In essence, he declined to invest in success, ensure his balance of payments, or deal with his debt mountain. George is a smart boy.

But politics, like the little emperor, is naked now. Mr Osborne, with an unearned reputation as a master strategist - if blowing the last UK General Election counts as mastery - has no interest in being subtle. He even ignores the reviews earned by other Tory princelings from Scottish audiences. He intends to bludgeon us into timidity. All the declarations of affection offered by Prime Minister David Cameron just a few days back have been replaced by sour, miserly and insulting calculation. Expletives hang in the air.

It is childish stuff. It is also a measure of how the intelligence of Scots is regarded in London anterooms. There are loan sharks with better manners and a better regard for the self-respect of voters in a democracy. What really troubles London? The debt, the oil, and the Trident toys. We have it in our gift to make life difficult indeed for the Westminster parties, and they know it. So they begin to play rough.

I am not fussed if Mr Salmond gets his formal sterling union or not. A currency board will serve just as well for the fabled Plan B, if such a thing is needed, and it will require no permission from the Treasury. Denmark and Hong Kong manage that trick well enough. What we are witnessing now is the reflexive response of the British state towards an unruly province. This might explain why the Yes insurgency has become the most remarkable phenomenon in western politics.

Our front page main article yesterday was a fascinating illustration of how fiat money expresses itself as fiat governance. The person "close" to the Prime Minister who asserts that the status quo will be imposed if Scots make a fuss is not too familiar, it seems, with what is really going on in a democracy. Clearly, they no longer bother with theories of self-determination in the modern Philosophy, Politics and Economics syllabus. But I count that as a useful oversight.

Scottish Labour voters need to take note only of the eagerness of Ed Balls to join the Osborne raiding party. It makes for a sad but historic moment in the life of a nation. Mr Balls is not just preferring the British state to a democratic choice - threats, menaces and all - but is accepting the Osborne view of economic governance for these islands. The idea that we should be forever a satellite of the City Of London is fine, it seems, by the shadow chancellor.

For Scottish Labour, this is catastrophic. What remains of the party should have at least insisted that Mr Balls did not just parrot the Osborne script. Have they forgotten everything, and learned nothing, in 50 years? Tory threats to Scotland: the plan that never goes wrong. Yet the shadow chancellor signs up to Mr Osborne's scheme? Voters are liable to wonder where real loyalties lie.

That's fine. I was never one of those who thought the referendum would be an after-dinner chat. Mr Osborne has done us a service, in fact, by describing where we stand. There can no longer be uncertainty. It's just a shame, for the sentimental among us, that Labour in Scotland has become the first willing casualty in a Tory scorched earth campaign.

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