Adversarial politics is annoying, and people are bastards, but there is something particularly stupid about a debate that produces people gloating about how shite things would be in an independent Scotland. We might normally expect some critical analysis about stories coming from vested interests, but not if there is a line to maintain. Today’s example comes from the Daily Mail (which specialises in bile and breasts) and Financial Times (which, today, is held up as a provider of the truth carved in stone): supermarket prices will go up in an independent Scotland. Fuel and production costs will push up food costs (kept artificially low, and spread across the UK, by supermarkets just now) and Scottish Government public health policy will keep or push up the cost of tobacco and alcohol. So what might a more critical analysis of this news produce?
- In almost any other case, the story would be about multinational companies protecting their profits at the expense of the consumer. As with energy prices, this would normally feed into the debate about the cost of living. Yet, in this case, one side of the independence debate is forming a coalition of convenience with those companies.
- We should not necessarily see the food/ booze & fags argument as separate. The supermarkets have form here, signalling to the consumer that they don’t like restrictions on their trade because they would otherwise make decent profits on cigarettes and alcohol (Sainsbury has even produced a leaflet blaming the Scottish Government for a restriction in sales), and prepared to fight the Scottish Government to protect it. In this case, we should not be surprised that some of it spills over to the independence debate.
- Prices differ in different parts of the country anyway. It is felt particularly in rural stores which effectively keep price differences by offering only a selected range of (more expensive) products in smaller stores. Your shopping will likely be more expensive in the smaller store in Montrose than in the megasupermarket in Dundee.
- There is a big difference between some senior staff in supermarkets giving non-quoted scoops in the papers, or named people giving vague comments, and named chief executives actually speaking out in public with substance and subjecting these arguments to critical analysis.
Of course, this is grist to the mill for people who claim that the Yes campaign is ridiculously positive, with no room for anything going wrong. But it usually ends up with people appearing to gloat that everything would be that bit shiter in an independent Scotland.
Update 1: by the end of the day, this (oh dear) might be the story instead
compare with the more sensible:
Update 2: other coverage is available (I’ve just clicked on any ‘related content’ on my wordpress thing)
Update 3: one of the big bones of contention for supermarkets has been resolved, which is presumably enough for them to stop intervening in the #indyref http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-25676222
- Food prices in an independent Scotland (bbc.co.uk)
- Independent Scotland could pay more for food, supermarkets warn (telegraph.co.uk)
- Food price rise alert for Scotland (bbc.co.uk)
- Independent scots to pay more for food (economicvoice.com)