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Bean counting on a political scale

Brian Taylor | 12:53 UK time, Friday, 10 October 2008

So where are we on political fall-out from the financial crisis?

I know, I know, it doesn't add up to a hill of beans compared to the impact of the crisis on the economy, jobs, wealth and taxation. But indulge me.

For one thing, we're unlikely to hear over-much from Alex Salmond in future about the "arc of prosperity".

You know, Norway, Ireland.......and Iceland. These were to be the lodestones for Scotland's future financial direction.

Ireland and Norway have their troubles. However, it is the crisis in the Icelandic banking structure which has drawn most attention.

While remaining, of course, deeply consensual at this time of trial, Mr Salmond's rivals at Holyrood can scarcely conceal their schadenfreudic glee at his potential discomfiture.

Indeed, I suspect they will have to slap themselves to stop muttering "Iceland" every time the First Minister mentions small nation independent status in future. There is a further intriguing sidebar to this.

Labour MSPs in particular are beginning, intuitively, to revisit the assertion that Scotland is too wee and poor to be independent.

They don't quite put it that way. Rather, they stress the advantages of the UK financial rescue package.

However, it may add up to much the same pitch to the voters.

In the short, even the medium, term, it may well be effective. Keep tight hold of nurse - and that sort of thing. Again, it will be expressed rather differently. The argument will be that the Union guarantee has worked.

This is a parallel - and still somewhat subterranean - equivalent to the feeling at Westminster that Gordon Brown's position has been strengthened in contradistinction to that of the Conservatives.

Certainly, the PM has regained a sense of governance, a sense of being in control. I would dispute the claim in some quarters that he is "enjoying" the crisis.

There is nothing remotely entertaining about a potential threat to jobs and the economy. These things matter to Gordon Brown - and not just because they could challenge his Premiership. He cares.

However, it might be said that his leadership is thriving on the challenge posed by the economic problems.

He is arguably at his best dealing with a hugely complex intellectual and logistical challenge, drawing together diverse aspects.

Longer term, though, that sense may not last.

If and when the impression of panic in the markets dissipates, politics will return to adversarial conflict.

At which point, voters may base their verdicts on future prospects rather than instant action.

They may, for example, consider the likely impact upon public spending (constrained) and taxation (increased.) They may be less than delighted.

Remember. Churchill won the war. Attlee won the election.

In Scotland, however, the dialogue is rather different. Sundry parties of a Unionist persuasion will, severally and collectively, suggest that Mr Salmond's fundamental economic case has been undermined.

The Nationalists have an answer. They will say that what matters is not, intrinsically, the size of the state but the state of the economic and fiscal policies pursued by the government, together, of course, with global conditions.

However, again in the short and medium term, Mr Salmond may require to devise a new narrative to describe his case.


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