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Monday, February 24, 2014 

Aberdeen is full of crushing bores.

You have to feel for the people of Aberdeen.  It's bad enough one group of politicians taking it upon themselves to pay a visit to your city, predicated on the strange belief that doing so will suggest that the metropolitan based elite aren't just concerned with the bright lights of London and the south east but also them there yokels; when two turn up, it's enough to make you reach for the digitalis.  About the only such jaunts that gain anything approaching a hubbub are royal ones, for goodness knows which atavistic reason.  Even more bizarre is the Tory insistence on both Dave n' George being seen to visit businesses that demand they don the necessary gear, generally white or blue overalls, hi-vis jackets and hard hats.  Whether this is meant to conjure up the impression of the pair caring deeply about our manufacturing and construction base, or that had they followed a different path they could have been working in such an environment, all it does is make them look like prize twats, successors to the mantle of Hugh Abbott, although as yet neither have been accosted by a woman asking if they know what it's like to clean up their own mother's piss.

To be fair, the real reason both the UK and Scottish cabinets made a stop off in places close to Aberdeen today is due to the city being the country's oil and gas capital.  It would be a bit off to make major announcements about investment in the North Sea sector without at least referring to the damn place, not that it's much consolation to those who had to suffer Salmond, Cameron and the media apparatus descending for a few hours.

Quite why Cameron and pals felt they had to go so big with the report by Sir Ian Wood is something else entirely.  The big questions about an independent Scotland are those that have been discussed over the past few weeks, which currency would it use, would it be able to join the EU, is the SNP promising dick pills to those who vote yes and the Better Together clan suggesting the four horsemen will descend on the 19th of September should the result be yes an unsustainable strategy, and so on.  When it comes to oil, there are a few facts that are difficult to argue against.  That Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole didn't benefit as they should have done from the oil rush, with successive governments preferring to spend at the time rather than save for later making it the SNP and Alex Salmond's trump card, the party promising to right the wrong.  It might turn out that it's too late to set up a sovereign wealth fund now, even if an independent Scotland implemented the recommendations of Sir Ian Wood, but at least it's an attempt to do something.

Which makes it all the more head scratching why Cameron insisted it was only under Westminster tutelage that such funding and investment would be possible.  Take the worst case scenario in the event of independence, that Osborne and the other parties carry through their threats not to agree to a currency union, Scotland as a result refuses to accept its share of the national debt and so is penalised by the markets when it wants to borrow.  Even in such circumstances it's difficult to see why investors wouldn't want to grab a share of the £200bn it's suggested could still be underground, difficulties in extracting it or not.  As overblown as the SNP's vision of Scotland as the new Norway is, you can't help but think it might just put the windfall to better use than the UK has up till now.  Cameron's rhetoric comes as close to the bluster we've heard about recently as anything, his supposed "positive case" laughably inept.

Despite all the carping from Salmond on the basis of a single opinion poll that support for independence had gone up in the wake of the Better Together currency union gambit, a broader view suggests it's done relatively little to alter the standings.  This is hardly surprising when many are yet to make up their minds and almost certainly won't until the last minute.  The polls will narrow as we approach the 18th of September, it's whether Yes Scotland can continue to make a case that convinces the head as much as the heart.  The way the three unionist parties handled the currency union argument was botched yet the right idea, focusing on the uncertainties the SNP have brushed over.  Paul Krugman's intervention shows the SNP doesn't have all the Nobel laureates on its side.  They might also have a few less of those who have a vote, so long as Cameron and friends can be persuaded to keep a low profile from now on.

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