by Douglas Lindsay, with Dr Ian Shackleton, senior lecturer at the Glasgow School of Politics and Football
Better Together Laugh In The Face of Oil Fund Fiasco
As the storm begins to grow over the UK's lack of an oil fund, making it the only oil-producing country besides Iraq not to have one, the Better Together campaign finally stepped into the row this weekend and took the argument to the opposition.
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'People compare us to Iraq like it's a bad thing,' said one Better Together insider. 'Yes, Norway have invested in the future. Yes, they have this £500 billion oil fund. But what if tomorrow they get knocked down by a bus? Nobody's thought about that, have they? They can't take it with them.'
The oil fund smoking gun exploded in the face of the No campaign on Sunday with revelations that former government economist, Professor Gavin McGavin of the Glasgow Institute of Special Things, advised the Labour government of the 1970s that Britain should 'do everything exactly the same as Norway or else they'd turn into a bottom-dwelling, failed state, feeding off the rancid, leftover scrapings of American hegemony.'
As a result, the SNP have published a 10-point plan, outlining their vision for the future of oil revenue management in Scotland, including:
• establish and grow an oil fund
• use the money to retake northern England
• build a wall and close it up with the English dead
Crack political analyst Dr Ian Shackleton is unsurprised that the oil fund issue has finally burst to the surface.
'Like most things, it's easy to lay the blame squarely at the door of the Thatcher government,' he told me this morning, as he sipped a contemplative moccachino in his sumptuous 98th floor office in Burj Khalifa II in the heart of Glasgow's glittering financial sector.
'Professor McGavin may have given his advice to the Labour government, but they had nothing to spare. In the late 70s, Britain couldn't afford to buy the biscuits. The 80s were a different matter, however. We were awash with cash, yet the Tories chose to spend the money on the carpet bombing of mining communities in Fife.'
No campaigners, however, say that it's too simplistic to say that Scotland could just magically turn into Norway overnight.
'For a kick-off,' said one friend of a No campaign insider, 'they speak Norwegian. No one understands anything they're saying. Somebody says something, and you're like… what?'
It's crushing arguments such as this that are keeping the Yes campaign trailing in the polls.
While the nationalist campaign will push for the oil fund discussion to continue to play a major part in the ongoing referendum debate, Dr Shackleton thinks that ultimately it will have limited effect.
'Yes, perhaps the Thatcher government should have set up an oil fund. But in a way, it's old news. Let's not forget, Mrs Thatcher will always be known as the Prime Minister who walked to work on a carpet of dismembered, screaming children. The fact that she didn't enact some esoteric piece of economic policy will make little difference to voters.'
'When the whole of Western Europe is overrun by Putin's army and we're all the slaves of Russian oligarchy,' said one anonymous No campaigner, 'what then for this so-called Norwegian oil fund?'
Insiders believe that the character Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis in the hit movie Armageddon, was based on Professor McGavin.
Other Referendum News From The Past Week
Friday May 9:
Labour leader Ed Miliband once again found his way north today, to make a speech in Dundee in which he promised that Scotland would 'never have had it so good' if they vote No to independence in September, and then elect a Labour government to Westminster next May.
Ignoring the fact that virtually no one in the entire kingdom can imagine him leading anything, never mind a country of 63 million people, Mr Miliband pressed ahead for all the world like there wasn't going to be a majority Conservative government in the UK next year.
Clutching a teddy bear and speaking without notes, Mr Miliband outlined a five-point plan for the future of Scotland within the UK.
In the event of a No vote/Labour government combination, he promised Holyrood would have a new contract with the rest of the UK that would guarantee:
• Scotland full ownership of Andy Murray, year round, bar the two weeks of Wimbledon
• the right to dispose of Trident, as Scotland sees fit, to the highest bidder
• Scottish women the right to sleep with a Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy or Gerard Butler of their choice
• a new public holiday on April 8, The Witch Is Dead Day, when every man, woman and child in Scotland will have the right to beat a Tory with a heavy wooden truncheon
• free stuff, every day, in perpetuity
In response, the friend of a spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said that the people of Scotland would be unimpressed.
'No Labour politician can come up here making completely unrealistic, bold statements about how wonderful and perfect everything's going to be after this vote. That's our job.'
Dr Ian Shackleton is unsure whether Mr Miliband's approach will work. 'For sure, technically when you're leader of one of the UK's two biggest parties, it increases your chances of becoming Prime Minister. But seriously? Ed Miliband? Prime Minister? No one wants that. No one.'
There was further uncertain news for supporters of the Union, when it was revealed that Big Gordon Brown was due to head north for the summer to front up the No campaign.
Big Gordon is scheduled to appear in a series of events across the nation, culminating in a one-man Chippendales act at the King's Theatre in Glasgow in September.
Wednesday May 7:
Excitement swept through Scotland today like a virulent syphilitic infection, when news leaked that Prime Minister David Cameron is to take a more active part in the referendum campaign once the Conservative Party Euro election disaster has been dealt with.
With the UK's economy bounding ahead, the housing market exploding back to pre-credit crunch levels, optimism raging for England's forthcoming World Cup triumph and the banks experiencing an incredible boom time (albeit, no one's told him that it's food banks), the PM is on a roll, and feels confident in heading north to embrace the campaign.
'This is what the No campaign have been waiting for,' said Dr Shackleton. 'Better Together has been an unmitigated disaster. Directionless, feckless, clueless and leaderless. They need a great political mind to step into the breach. In the absence of one, the Prime Minister will have to do.'
News broke in The Herald this morning that a friend of an insider on the staff of a senior assistant to a source in Labour had referred to the PM as being 'toxic' in Scotland.
Nevertheless, while acknowledging that the quote was genuine, senior aides to the PM argued that it had not been meant in the pejorative.
'People in Scotland love David Cameron,' said an unidentified Tory spokesperson, 'they just don't know it yet.' He confirmed that the PM will undertake a series of major events in Scotland in the lead-up to the referendum, putting him in touch with ordinary people, and spreading his appeal across a wide spectrum of the voting public, including:
• breakfast with the Queen at Balmoral
• an audience with Billy Connolly
• a pub crawl in Glasgow finishing at the Tolbooth at 7.30 am
• making a speech to a cheering audience of thousands at the Commonwealth Games
• wrestling a stag bare-chested
Insiders believe that Mr Cameron and his family will rent a one-up, one-down in Cumbernauld for the duration of the summer so that he can be closer to the action.
I asked Dr Shackleton if he thought the Prime Minister would resign if it turned out that Scotland was lost to the Union on his watch.
'Resign?' said Shackleton. 'No. Invade maybe. But not resign.'